Title: The Puppet King and Other Atonements
Justin A. Burnett
Trepidatio Publishing
Year of publication:


The Puppet King and Other Atonements

The Puppet King and Other Atonements by Justin A. Burnett

I wanted to like this book more than I did. To be honest, getting through this was a chore at times. There is great potential here, but the stories are too obscure, too verbose. At times, it was a challenge to discern if anything actually happened. The book claims to contain ”Borgesian” tales, but whoever wrote this must not have read – much less understood – Borges at all. This does not have to mean the tales are bad, they’re just not Borgesian, neither in style nor in content. What they are are meditations on the human condition, the infinite cosmos, the insignificance of mankind, puppets, the whole Ligottian spiel. The last story – ”The Puppet King: A Monologue” – takes this to the extreme, treating the reader to a dissertation on the abovementioned themes, but cluttered in academic prose so dense as to be nearly unreadable. Yeah, I know it’s intentional, but it’s still a bitch to get through and not very enjoyable.

Still, there are glimpses of greatness here. I liked ”The Golden Thread”, and ”Our Endeavor” had a great premise but sadly petered out at the end. ”ABDN-1” gave me Event Horizon vibes (check out the movie if you haven’t already), but I probably need to re-read it to get everything.

All in all a frustrating read. Granted, I am a slow reader, but the time it took me to finish this probably says something about the contents. I’d still recommend it to people who like Ligotti, Padgett and the whole cosmic horror thing, but you have to be patient. This is dark, dense and challenging stuff. I only wish it didn’t make me feel so dense.