2014 Shirley Jackson Award finalist for best collection
2014 This Is Horror Award finalist for best collection
Mike Allen has put together a first class collection of horror and dark fantasy. UNSEAMING burns bright as hell among its peers.
—Laird Barron, author of THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT AWAITS US ALL
Allen’s stories deliver solid shivering terror tinged with melancholy sorrow over the fragility of humankind.
—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review
Everyone in the world awakens covered in blood-and no one knows where the blood came from. A childhood doll arrives to tear its owner's reality limb from limb. A portal to the spirit realm stretches wide on the Appalachian Trail, and something more than human crawls through on eight legs. Words of comfort change to terrifying sounds as a force from outside time speaks through them. The buttons in the bin will unseam your flesh to bare your nastiest secrets.
Opening with "The Button Bin," a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and culminating with its sequel, "The Quiltmaker," which Bram Stoker Award and Shirley Jackson Award winner Laird Barron has hailed as Mike Allen's masterpiece, this debut collection gathers fourteen horror tales that, in the words of Barron's introduction, "rival anything committed to paper by the likes of contemporary masters such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, or Caitlín Kiernan. This is raw, visceral, and sometimes bloody stuff. Primal stuff."
More praise for UNSEAMING:
Throughout UNSEAMING, reality is usually in bad shape right from the start-and from there things proceed to go downhill. Such is the general background and trajectory of life in Mike Allen's fictional world. More could be said, of course, but there's one thing that I feel especially urged to say: these stories are FUN. Not "good" fun, and certainly not "good clean" fun. They are too unnerving for those modifiers, too serious, like laughter in the dark-unnerving, serious laughter that leads you through Mr. Allen's funhouse. The reality in there is also in bad shape, deliberately so, just for the seriously unnerving fun of it. The prose is poetic, except it's nonsense poetry, the poetry of deteriorating realities, intermingling realities, realities without Reality. And all the while that unnerving, serious laughter keeps getting louder and louder. Are we having fun yet?
—Thomas Ligotti, author of TEATRO GROTTESCO and THE SPECTRAL LINK
Mike Allen’s ability as a poet is evident throughout this fever dream of a book. Brutal, elegant, and shocking, the stories in Unseaming are snapshots of a beautiful Hell.
—Nathan Ballingrud, author of NORTH AMERICAN LAKE MONSTERS: STORIES
Mike Allen blends a poet's attention to language with a crime reporter's instinct for the darker precincts of human behavior. Lush, phantasmagorical, his stories match the monsters outside with the monsters inside, B-movie tropes opening into psychological and spiritual desolation. These stories glow with demonic energy, and what they illuminate are the faces of our secret selves, screaming back at us from the mirror's depths.
—John Langan, author of THE WIDE, CARNIVOROUS SKY AND OTHER MONSTROUS GEOGRAPHIES
Allen's 14-story debut collection saturates alternate dimensions with literal horrific fleshiness. His unsettling Nebula-nominated "The Button Bin" is as disorienting as it is disturbing; it neatly sets the stage for the blood-soaked dreamscape vision of an overstuffed sin-eater in "The Blessed Days," as well as the more direct but no less chilling creature that crawls onto the Appalachian Trail in "The Hiker's Tale." In prose both lyrical and unvarnished, Allen depicts haunting regret in "Stone Flowers" and disembodied shrieking rage and grief in "Let There Be Darkness." When he combines both emotions in "The Quiltmaker," a continuation of "The Button Bin," he transforms that original tale in ways that resonate throughout the collection. Never obvious, sometimes impenetrable, Allen's stories deliver solid shivering terror tinged with melancholy sorrow over the fragility of humankind.