by Christopher O’Halloran (@BurgleInfernal)
Gone are the days of the chonky novel. The thousand-page tome is losing its appeal among readers. People want a nice, quick, story. All action, right now.
The Final Reconciliation pulls that off with no wasted space.
BEHIND THE PEN
TODD KEISLING was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel with Devil’s Creek, but has received other accolades as well. Early work received the Oswald Research & Creativity Prize for Creative Writing (2002 and 2005) from the University of Kentucky and his second novel, The Liminal Man, was a finalist for the Indie Book Award in Horror & Suspense (2013).
Like most artists, Keisling is not content to play in only one medium; as sole member of Dullington Design Co., he has created artwork for the covers of titles published by Silver Shamrock Publishing, Flame Tree Press, Third Crow Press, Crystal Lake Publishing, Precipice Books, and Nightscape Publishing.
Not to mention the gorgeous cover for The Final Reconciliation.
A NO-SPOILER SUMMARY
Inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow mythos (which we read as a group prior to Keisling’s novella), The Final Reconciliation is told by Aidan Cross, an aging rock musician, in an interview given thirty years after a devastating event left him as the sole survivor of a concert performed by his band, The Yellow Kings.
VOICES FROM WITHIN
On Monday, we came together to discuss Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow—a collection of short stories. Todd Keisling, coming early into the Discord and interacting as naturally as any other member, informed us that “The Repairer of Reputations” and “The Yellow Sign” were the basis from which he wrote The Final Reconciliation, but some of us decided to read further. Imagine our surprise when the cosmic horror of the first 3-5 stories were followed by a good amount of romances involving artists in wartime!
“I’m not gonna lie,” says @Mantis Shrimp, “I kind of love the fact that Chambers put weird horror and basic romance together in the same book. Like, I laugh at your expectations for clean genre divisions, I write what I wanna write.”
HOWLers seemed generally enamoured with The King in Yellow, embracing the ambiguity of the supernatural. This collection (or the non-romance section, anyway) is plagued by unreliable narrators, leaving the reader to often rely only on their own interpretation as to whether the story was as told, or if some elements were the product of an unstable mind. What seemed to tie in with Keisling’s The Final Reconciliation was the sense of something larger lurking behind the scenes—a cosmic menace drawing characters towards inescapable doom. The King in Yellow refers to a manuscript that drives the reader insane—a trope often played with in cosmic horror, but far from cliche in Chambers’ time.
Keisling took inspiration from it, but managed to draw the cosmic into the world of Heavy Metal.
@Lord Mordi was the first to make the comparison between this novel and Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand (a previous HOWLS read), though he noted that “[Wylding Hall] leans more toward folk horror with a darker tone; so far this one feels closer to a cheesy 80s paperback horror with equal doses of humor and horror.”
@Mantis Shrimp: “What’s with these rock bands and the supernatural?”
@SemaphoreRaven: “It’s almost like they’ve been linked to Satanism and corrupting the youth.”
The Final Reconciliation goes down smooth. HOWLers loved the pacing and enjoyed the tone. While many characters are definitely supporting and have little development (looking at you, Hank and Bobby), Keisling fleshed out the main characters in strong ways—whether that strength is pointed in the right direction. “The narrator is a bit of a dodo,” said @bunttriple, “but…he should be?” They all have strong objectives, often at odds with each other as the Yoko Ono/Courtney Love dynamic begins to take hold.
@Lord Mordi had gripes about the accuracy of the musical aspect, saying his experience “in professional music, especially in the metal scene,” made him not “the best audience for this book”. The story ended up featuring tropes that irked certain readers such as the “evil seductress”, and many craved seeing more of the featured band in their good days, but most HOWLers enjoyed the ride of The Final Reconciliation. It all culminates in an ending that will stick with all readers, whether or not they wished the book was a little chunkier.
Even @Lord Mordi, by his own admission not the biggest fan, had praise for the pacing—he read it in one sitting! “The one aspect that propelled me through the story was the dialogue, especially when the bandmates were arguing among themselves. A lot of that felt authentic, and there were some great jokes that had me in stitches.” @Probable Hag was another HOWLer hooked by the book, for other reasons. “I love Eldritch excess,” she said, eagerly anticipating an end that delivers on all the doomsaying dropped throughout the story.
WELCOME TO THE BLURBS: HOWL SOCIETY MEMBERS’ REVIEWS IN THEIR OWN WORDS
- A fresh, fun, and gruesome take on the King in Yellow mythos – highly recommend!
- Fun enough to read, but man was it was uncomfortable to read a story with a full cast where the single female character is an evil friendship-wrecking monster.
- Creepy and immersive. A worthy addition to the Yellow King mythos. Especially enjoyable as an audiobook.
- A fun but corny cosmic horror about a metal band that would’ve benefited from being a bit longer and more fleshed out. Reallyyyyy leans on the “Yoko Ono/Seductress Who Breaks Up The Band” trope; however, a great climactic payoff scene makes the so-so journey worth it.
- Page-turning and fun metal band/eldritch horror mashup. At some points the constant hinting at a fated night tired me out – I wanted to get there quicker! But eventually it did, with plenty of splashy gore along the way.
- The Final Reconciliation totally rocks. A fun take on Chambers’ The King in Yellow mythos. Perfect for fans of Hand’s Wylding Hall or Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls.
- Cleverer in conceit than in execution, The Final Reconciliation is an enjoyable though forgettable quick read full of promise it never quite reaches.
While not without flaws, HOWLers had an overwhelming amount of good things to say about The Final Reconciliation. From the imagery to the pacing, it provides the perfect amount of entertainment for the form. Easily read in one sitting and possessing an expertly narrated audiobook that works incredibly well with the interview style of the story, there’s no wrong way to experience this book. It’s enhanced by the utter coolness of Todd Keisling who took part in an extensive Q+A session where he answers such important questions as, “Hank and Bobby. You often reference them together, and one can’t help but make the connection to father and son duo Hank and Bobby Hill. Was this a deliberate King of the Hill reference, or just a giant coincidence?”
His answer shocked HOWLers. If you want to be able to take part in sessions with such awesome authors as Todd, there’s never a better time to join the Society.