Tuesday, February 13, 2018

[Laird Barron] The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

Laird Barron is probably my favorite contemporary horror author. I love his style, I love his themes. I devour his works with my gaping maw, or something to that effect. I keep re-reading his collections and novels, hunt down anthologies with his work.

Unfortunately, despite (or due to) my unruly appetite, sometimes I forget which story is in which collection, or mix up titles... Talk about short attention span (although the taste & aftertaste of his stories lingers for long).

Thus, I've decided to go through some of his books and write up my thoughts. Maybe the information will stick better this way.

My first exposure to Barron's work was his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, but let's do this in order of appearance instead.

Warning: some spoilers, but I'll try to hide them.


Old Virginia -- For some reason, I'm not too keen on stories featuring military protagonists. Give me a private detective or a mafia hitman anytime, but spare me the officers. This story is covert military ops meets MK ULTRA meets Baba Yaga. A solid story, but not one of my favorites.

Shiva, Open Your Eye -- Told from the viewpoint of an eldritch abomination wearing human flesh. Tons of evocative cosmic horror passages. I read this story as a set up Barron's main recurring entity, the Old Leech... Also, the part when the narrator shows what's in his barn: I envision it as an episode from the Hannibal TV series.

Procession of the Black Sloth -- Oooh, I love this one. A meandering, hallucinatory slow-burner set in Hong Kong. Ennui, decadence, terror. Your mileage may vary, but I love this combination.

Bulldozer -- I didn't care much about this one at first, but it grew on me! The story is based on Barron's favorite theme: hard-boiled hard-knuckled antihero going up against something with terrible consequences. Pulp western horror.

Proboscis -- Meh... Some good details, but this story just doesn't come together. More hard-knuckled dudes (this time in a modern setting), menaced by an unknown (and unknowable) force.

Hallucigenia -- This is the most terrifying story in the collection. There is supernatural horror all right, but the worst part that really gets to you is the simple human terror of looking after a paralyzed loved one. Not for the fainthearted.

Parallax -- I've seen this story get lots of praise. It is intricately woven and masterfully disjointed. But I can't get into it.

The Royal Zoo is Closed -- This is a story I read, then instantly forget.

The Imago Sequence --  Another one of Barron's "tough guy vs. cosmic horror" stories, this time done extremely well. The narrative structure is more traditional, but creepy and hard-hitting nonetheless.

See also the write-ups by oddlyweirdfiction.com for a different take!

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