Laird Barron has emerged as one of the strongest voices in modern horror and dark fantasy fiction, building on the eldritch tradition pioneered by writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti. His stories have garnered critical acclaim and been reprinted in numerous year's best anthologies and nominated for multiple awards, including the Crawford, International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards. His debut collection, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, was the inaugural winner of the Shirley Jackson Award. He returns with his second collection, Occultation. Pitting ordinary men and women against a carnivorous, chaotic cosmos, Occultation's eight tales of terror (two never before published) include the Theodore Sturgeon and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story "The Forest" and Shirley Jackson Award nominee "The Lagerstatte."
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Laird Barron is the future of horror
Each of Barron's stories is a wonderful microcosm populated by believable, complex characters with rich back-stories. The horror and suspense work so well because we actually care about the people, we feel that they have lives, and we watch with them in fascination and horror as their world slowly and inexorably unravels; revealing the dark secret at the heart of things..
It's hard to pick just one, but I really liked the protagonist of "The Lagerstatte". In a story that's essentially about grief, it's all too easy to write a character that comes off as self-pitying or whiny, so I was pleasantly surprised that despite the story's overall bleak tone, the main character (who is a grieving widow) comes off as both strong and quite funny in places. It is even more surprising when you consider Barron's penchant for writing stories populated by "Manley Men" that he writes sympathetic and believable female characters, and it really illustrates his versatility as a writer.
Mr. Drummond does an excellent job bringing the stories to life, he conveys the terror, confusion, anger, helplessness, and exasperation of the characters without becoming cartoonish or melodramatic. I did feel that some of the voices he does in "The Broadswords" were a little over the top, but overall I loved his narration and I hope he continues to narrate Barron's works.
Absolutely. In fact, I wanted to listen to the whole book again the moment it ended, something that I've not experienced in years.
If you've not heard of Barron, this collection is an excellent introduction to his brand of terror. That is, stories that manage to be both literary and visceral, stories that celebrates many of the horror genre's tropes and conventions while at the some time subverting them. There's really no one out there writing works like Barron and if you love horror (especially horror of the cosmic, psychological, and somewhat pessimistic variety) then you owe it to yourself to buy this collection ASAP!
- C. Bland