Review: The Light Is The Darkness by Laird Barron (Arcane Wisdom; 2012)

22 Oct


Hurling middle-aged weaponry to shatter bamboo. A lost sister, preparing for the search.

Deja vu in the backseat of the parents’ car with a hallucinated old man in a space suit claiming that “time is a ring.” Eating people in occult rituals. Chainsmoking in front of a sink towering with dirty dishes and broken wine glasses: images of Imogene. Faded postcards. Dialogue from hardened, cold-war dime novels. Tough guy brief. Tears that always dry to fast… ever to see.

There is a manly lushness to Barron’s writing that sometimes reminded me Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales (the boar feast in this book comes to mind).

Vicious, testicle-grabbing Finn gladiators throwing local toughs through windows.

Ghostly figures in the backgrounds of photos. Messages from unseen forces needing to be unscrambled. Surreal images (like red infants, squealing hogs, and crocodiles spinning underwater while chewing deer) as Conrad(a gladiator) gets beaten by the aforementioned, testicle-grabbing Finn.

Men with antlers staring out of glossy photos found in a crawlspace.

Phantasmal woman shapes hover above a bed after the trigger word is uttered and all the meaning in the world begins to truncate and collapse.

Sundews crying and cloying for nourishment in a hive-like apartment as the room wobbles and shrinks. Fiendish cults. Rumors that split apart and burn clandestine images, drowning the surface while marbling the emulsion.

Car-door chewers, gun-shot wound absorbers. This novel has some horror and some post-apocalyptic sci. fi elements as well. DNA mutation/optimization?

Inhuman faces hidden at the dark epicenter’s vanishing point beneath the cowls. Battling brutes with ghoulish superpowers in a dank and abandoned family home.

Barron is a strange and original writer indeed. At times I found myself wondering to what sort of genre this book should belong. Sci. fi? Horror? It became increasingly unclear and ceased to matter. Barron has an obvious love for the pulps but is a far more accomplished, Cormac McCarthian wordsmith than most other horror writers.

I haven’t read Barron’ short story collections (though I hope to do so soon), but I would place him in the ranks of writers like that to genre-bend pulpy tropes into unique/original fiction like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, China Mieville, David Mitchell, and Haruki Murakami.

Devilish hallucinations (or visitations) for our genetically mutated superhero Conrad by his immortal (or dead) bat-like sister’s beyond-the-grave or beyond-human-shape form.

The title takes on a definite irony by the novel’s end. Barron’s style is quite unique, conjuring superhero comics with gothic and surreal painterly effects. I look forward to reading his short story collection trilogy.

Check out The Light Is The Darkness here.

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