Over the course of two award-winning collections and a critically acclaimed novel, The Croning, Laird Barron has arisen as one of the strongest and most original literary voices in modern horror and the dark fantastic. Melding supernatural horror with hardboiled noir, espionage, and a scientific backbone, Barron’s stories have garnered critical acclaim and have 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.
Barron returns with his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Collecting interlinking tales of sublime cosmic horror, including “Blackwood’s Baby,” “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven,” and “The Men from Porlock,” The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All delivers enough spine-chilling horror to satisfy even the most jaded reader.
Most of the masterfully told Lovecraftian weird tales in this collection were originally published as standalone pieces, but the seven very different core stories that take place near Olympia, Wash., have reappearing features howling winds, an altar in the woods, nightmares that dance between dread premonitions and glimpses into the abyss that work together to form a persistent image of cosmic horror and evil. The two stories outside the Olympia cycle are much weaker: the solipsistic, egomaniacally insane fugue of Vastation creates confusion rather than shivers, and More Dark is an obscure tribute to author Thomas Ligotti and horror fan conventions. Barron (The Croning) employs well-spoken and introspective narrators, torn between bravery and fear and between disbelief and terrified realization, and his richly evoked settings carry the reader relentlessly along without an irrelevant word or image, with an effect that manages a certain sort of grace within raw brutality.