Abyss Gazes Also

Occultation and Other Stories by Laird Barron (2010) containing the following: “Introduction” by Michael Shea; “The Forest”, “Occultation”, “The Lagerstatte”, “Mysterium Tremendum”, “Catch Hell”, “Strappado”, “The Broadsword”, “-30-“, “Six Six Six.”: Barron really is a relatively new wonder in the horror world, an American writer who’s been greeted with the sort of astonished critical praise I last remember being attached to a young John Varley in science fiction in the 1970’s.

Barron works in the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, but he brings to the cosmic tradition of horror his own muscular, cloachal, sadomasochistic vision of evil. Many of his stories take place on an Earth much like ours, only behind the walls lurk the horrifying emissaries and representatives of the Children of Old Leech.

There’s much that’s Cthulhian about Old Leech, a world-ravaging god-monster whose followers have a pronounced fondness for torturing and eating children. But many of Barron’s stories center around the horror of metamorphosis — the Children want some humans to become them and share in their terrible ecstasies. There aren’t many heroes in Barron’s stories, but there are a lot of victims, and a lot of normal people doing the best they can when faced with evil of sublime and abyssal gravity.

Barron also makes some truly bizarre forays into more traditional supernatural tropes here, but they’re as distinctive as the tales set in the world of Old Leech. He’s got the fearlessness and the distinctiveness of a truly great writer, and his horrors aren’t quite like anything I’ve read before. And trust me, I’ve read a lot of horror. Highly recommended.

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