Minds are expanded while a few souls come to unfortunate ends in this grotesquely funny collection from Di Filippo (Fractal Paisleys, 1997, etc.). None of the 17 pieces really outstays its welcome, and a few could possibly have stuck around for a couple dozen more pages. The title story has an idea with potential—college prof writing a book on Victorian children’s fantasy literature comes across a strange tome he’s never heard of and little drawn doorways start popping up around campus—but not much comes of it; one can only imagine the fecund wonders that a John Crowley could have brought forth. Same with “Sleep is Where You Find It,” in which the legendary photographer Weegee scuttles about nocturnal New York dragging wraiths with him, the subjects of his past pictures, and ends up confronting a ridiculous villain of the comic-book–reject variety. The idea could intrigue if given the chance to breathe, but Di Filippo seems in a rush to get to the end. In some selections, like “Our House,” where the titular house holds a number of creepy residents who seduce new owners into their alien lives, Di Filippo takes his time and the reader is well rewarded. Similarly, in “Rare Firsts,” the author lets his handy if overused cockeyed sense of humor slip into the background in favor of an affecting, cynical little story about a failing rare-book dealer who stumbles across bibliophile’s heaven.
Somewhere south of the science fiction that Di Filippo is always accused of writing and a touch more elevated than your average horror collection: Little Doors doesn’t surprise but does open up a number of odd, new places.