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The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

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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.

280 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 2, 2013

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About the author

Laird Barron

167 books2,395 followers
Laird Barron, an expat Alaskan, is the author of several books, including The Imago Sequence and Other Stories; Swift to Chase; and Blood Standard. Currently, Barron lives in the Rondout Valley of New York State and is at work on tales about the evil that men do.

Photo credit belongs to Ardi Alspach

Agent: Janet Reid of New Leaf Literary & Media

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 457 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 30, 2018
hooray for world fantasy award nominations!!!!!


friday night, i killed a bug.

now, i don't like to kill things, even bugs, but i have a code: if you are a spider, or a moth, or a housefly, or one of these teeny tiny black beetles we seem to get every summer, you get to go out the window. i will spend a very long time, in some cases, chasing you and containing you in a juice glass, and setting you free. where you will probably be eaten by a bird, but that's out of my hands. however, if you are a roach, you gotta go, man, i'm sorry. i don't cotton to roaches living in my cupboards. this... i have no clue what this was. it was flying around my lightbulbs, and it was so big, its wings were audible, like "bzzzzzzzzz"

but deep.

and i couldn't reach it with the paper towels i was trying to swat it with, because the ceiling is too high. and my cat was all crouching huntress style, looking up at it with huge golden eyes.

finally, i just had to do it. in my defense, i really wanted to watch project runway, and this bug was just too disruptive, making all that noise, and blocking the light. (seriously, it was BIG) i got this can of raid and i started squirting it up at the bug. probably not the best idea because it was one of those cans that doesn't give off the nice fan of spray, but a highly-concentrated stream of it, like a hose. so i was just spraying this poison everywhere. but i hit the bug on the third go, and it collapsed onto a book. and i smooshed it. and blood came out of it. red blood.

i do not know what kind of bug it was. it was about quarter-sized, and it had wings like a moth, but also a fucking stinger. and it was filled with blood. presumably my blood.

so, and here we get to the point of this story.

my cat.

she was freaked out. i don't know if it was the smell of the poison or what, but she would not go into that room for the rest of the night. i say this as though there are many rooms. mine is a studio apartment, and she basically hid in the hallway-to-the-outside or, once i tried to carry her back in with me, the hallway-to-the-bathroom. and even that would have been fine, except for her eyes. they were crazy. she stayed in battle-ready position for the whole night - crouched down low, muscles tensed, and staring STARING up at the ceiling where the bug had been flying. my cat is not a dope - she knew the bug was long gone. but it is a really haunting thing to see a cat hunkered down and staring with bigger-than-normal eyes at... nothing. for hours.

and i was reading this book over on the bed, and all i could see were her giant golden eyes in the darkness, staring at nothing. and it made me very uncomfortable, and i just felt off for the rest of the night, which also might have been poison-fumes, but i was very on edge, and feeling like there was a vengeful ghost or something, angry that i had murdered its friend.

which is kind of a perfect setting to read this book.

this is my first laird barron book. i have been meaning to read him for a while because loads of people i respect love him.

but i didn't love it as much as i had expected, even though the last story was absolute perfection.

apparently, laird barron writes in that style of horror that i have run into before with algernon blackwood and lovecraft that just leaves me cold: all things slithery and ritual sacrifice and the ineffable. and if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy those authors, i beseech you to pick this up, because you are going to love it.

because even though the payoffs in these stories don't work for me on a horror level, just because of my inability to respond to the great paralyzing ineffable, his writing is fantastic. most of these stories interlock in some way, mostly by location, and he writes beautiful atmosphere and tension, and his characters are well-written.i loved the blending of noir-tough-guy stories with "that which goes bump in the night". i loved the creeping sense of dread that permeated these stories. i just wasn't really a fan of the big bad, when it was unveiled. or wasn't.

again, the flaw in this equation is me and my particular tastes. i am still trying to figure out what kind of horror works best for me. slashery-bloody types don't do it, and the unexplained dark powers don't do it, and yet i long to read horror that affects me. i am going to keep trying.

and those of you who haven't tried laird barron should try this one.

just watch out for bugs.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,004 reviews10.6k followers
October 12, 2017
The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All is a collection of short stories by Laird Barron.

Laird Barron is my latest literary obsession so I was glad to have this on my kindle when I finished Swift to Chase.

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All covers a lot of ground, from noir to supernatural horror to cosmic horror to the horror of a puppet show about the end of the world performed by Thomas Ligotti. However, the tales are linked, albeit more loosely than Swift to Chase. Ransom Hollow gets mentions in several stories, the same character appears in two stories and I believe is mentioned in another, and there are some stories that appear to be referencing The Croning. And the life of the party, the followers of Old Leech, show up to say hi.

The stories have Barron's stamp on them, be they ghost stories, were-creatures, cosmic horror, or the aforementioned puppet show. There's a sense of inevitability throughout and Laird's prose makes reading about apocalyptic horrors beyond our understanding pretty enjoyable. Some moments were as gritty as Cormac McCarthy, only with the proper punctuation.

I've said it before but I really like the way Laird Barron has put his own spin on cosmic horror, wedding the isolation and loneliness of the wilderness with abominations from beyond. I'm not ordinarily a fan of short stories but I'll read a thousand more if Laird Barron keeps writing them. Four out of five stars.
October 17, 2019
“When I was six, I discovered a terrible truth: I was the only human being on the planet. I was the seed and the sower and I made myself several seconds from the event horizon at the end of time—at the x before time began.”

I have mixed feelings about this book. My initial reaction was of extremely positive, and when I finished the first couple of stories, I was almost sure this was going to be one of my favourite books of 2019. Unfortunately, as I went on reading I gradually lost interest and I actually skipped the last two stories. I liked the themes and the originality of the first stories ("Blackwood's Baby", "Hand of Glory" and "The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven" in particular), and really, it is almost impossible to find a short stories collection in which every single story ends up being a favourite. On the other hand, something was definitely putting me off; because I realized I was dragging this for almost a week without making any significant progress; so I decided to close it. I will probably go back to it and read the last two stories, I just wanted to avoid going into a slump because I wasn't enjoying this as much as I expected. The author definitely has talent, and I like his writing style and characters. The plots are well-built, and there is that certain lovecraftian vibe that is always a plus.
I don't know, maybe I just wasn't in the right mood.
Profile Image for Char.
1,679 reviews1,549 followers
February 17, 2015
This awesome collection is only $1.99 today at Amazon U.S. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0SBF1Y?t...

Quote: "There are cracks in the world. These cracks are inhabited by...marvels undreamt of in our philosophies." From the short story, "The Siphon."

I've heard a lot about Laird Barron in various book groups to which I belong. Most especially I hear from fans of Lovecraft that Barron is even better. I have to agree. Ever since I read "The Light is the Darkness" I knew that I would be reading more of Barron's work. Last week I finally got the opportunity to do so, and I jumped on it. I couldn't be more pleased with that decision.

I submit this quote: "The canopy of the trees across the street shushed in the breeze, and fields littered with pockets of light swept into the deeper gloom like the crown of a moonlit sea. The starry night was vast and chill, and Lancaster imagined entities concealed within its folds gazing hungrily upon the lights of the city, the warmth of its inhabitants."

I won't go into a long winded soliloquy about each story, but I will briefly speak about the theme of this collection-cosmic horror- (see the quote above). Robert Chambers (The King in Yellow), Lovecraft and other authors created and loved this theme. I think it's exciting to see how Laird Barron makes it his own. The idea of ancient, alien invader Gods that live under the earth, under the sea, or somewhere in outer space is spooky by itself. To think that there are humans that live to serve them makes the whole idea even scarier. The cracks in the world mentioned above often serve as gateways...but for what is the question?

I loved the ancient, evil magician Phil Wary, who appears in a few of the stories. I loved Phil's answer to the question, do you serve the devil? "The Lord of Flies is only one. There are others, greater and more powerful than he. Presences that command his own obedience. You've seen them. I showed you." I loved the hidden village deep in the forest, (and what was in that tree??!!), in the story The Men From Porlock. I loved the mysterious, reclusive author Tom. L. in the last story. In short (too late!), I loved every story in this collection, but most especially The Siphon and The Jaws of Saturn. Outstanding!

I could go on for quite a while, but I am going to leave it off here.
The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All is worthy of my highest recommendation. If these themes are even remotely attractive to you, get this book now. You won't regret it.

Profile Image for Panagiotis.
297 reviews112 followers
March 12, 2019
Όποιος ψάχνει βρίσκει και όποιος έχει υπομονή ανταμείβεται. Ίσως είναι τετριμμένες απόψεις, γενικεύσεις στα όρια της ταυτολογίας. Αν κάτι, όμως, λένε είναι πως όταν επαναλαμβάνεις μια διαδικασία κάτι καλό θα βγει απ’ αυτό και όταν διαβάζεις σαν να αναπνέεις, κάποια στιγμή θα πέσεις πάνω σε ένα εξαιρετικό συγγραφέα.

Ο Laird Barron γράφει ένα κράμα κοσμικού, Λαβκραφτ-ικού τρόμου μ’ έναν λογοτεχνίζον τρόμο (literary horror) και πινελιές noir. Αποφεύγει τα κλισέ, τις προκάτ ατάκες, τις πολυφορεμένες φράσεις και του δεύτερου χεριού συλλογισμούς. Είναι πρώτα συγγραφέας και μετά μυθοπλάστης (μια ιεραρχία την οποία θεωρώ ως την πάγια μορφή προσέγγισης της μυθιστοριογραφίας). Οι ιστορίες του είναι τόσο καλογραμμένες και τόσο απολαυστικές την ίδια στιγμή, που αναρωτιέσαι πως επιτρέπουν σ’ άλλους ανθρώπους να εκδίδονται. Για παράδειγμα, η πρώτη ιστορία, Blackwood Baby, σε μεταφέρει σ’ έναν τόπου που άλλοι αναβιώνουν μέσα από τις ταινίες που είδαν και τα βιβλία που διάβασαν. Ο Barron νιώθεις πως ήταν εκεί, στην πολιτεία της Ουάσιγκτον των αρχών του 20ου αιώνα και τα ξεχασμένα λαγκάδια της υπαίθρου της. Μια δεύτερη αρετή του είναι πως ενώ έχει ένα αναγνωρίσιμο ύφος, δεν γράφει ποτέ την ίδια ιστορία. Είναι ανήσυχος και αυτό μπορεί να μεταφραστεί ως σεβασμός στην τέχνη του και στους αναγνώστες του.

Υπάρχει κάτι γλυκόπικρο στην ανακάλυψη ενός εξαιρετικού συγγραφέα: είναι μια συνταρακτική στιγμή για κάθε πεπειραμένο αναγνώστη, ανείπωτης χαράς. Την ίδια στιγμή έρχεται η συνειδητοποίηση πως μειώνονται οι πιθανότητες να ανακαλύψεις έναν ακόμα αγαπημένο συγγραφέα. Είναι θέμα στατιστικής, πως θα έρχεσαι ολοένα πιο κοντά στο τέλος αυτής της διαδρομής. Και αυτό μοιάζει μ΄ έναν θάνατο.

Τα ωραία πράγματα – ακόμα και τα κακά και τα μέτρια – αποτελούν ευκαιρία για ενδοσκόπηση, μια νοερή αναδιάταξη αξιών και εκτιμήσεων. Αυτοί που κάνουν καλά κάτι είναι αυτού που το αγαπάνε. Αυτοί που ξεχωρίζουν, όμως, είναι γεννημένοι γι’ αυτό που κάνουν. Ο Barron είναι γεννημένος συγγραφέας. Αυτή τη στιγμή διαβάζω το X’s for Eyes. Και νιώθω πως για πολύ καιρό ακόμα θα διαβάζω μόνο τα βιβλία του.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books348 followers
December 30, 2014
Inevitably, when you want to praise a new horror writer and make him sound like the Next Big Thing, you compare him to Stephen King. Or maybe H.P. Lovecraft. Or maybe even Edgar Allan Poe.

Laird Barron isn't any of those guys. Oh, sure, you can see the influences - especially Lovecraftian. And he claims the Pacific Northwest as his territory in which unspeakable cults, and monsters walking as men who make bootleggers, loggers, and gangsters piss their pants, and hidden enclaves of villagers in thrall to squirming elder Things, all lurk in the backwoods and in the back alleys of cities, in much the same way as King has made Maine the stomping grounds for most of his stories.

But Laird Barron (who as Norman Partridge says in the intro sounds like "A man alone. In a castle… or perhaps a manor house. A solitary gent with a few years on him; a man who's carved his place in the world" - but who is in fact the survivor of a hard-scrabble upbringing in Alaska) has his own particular style and mode of storytelling, very much fitting into the classical horror genre, but his own. He's influenced by many, but not imitating anyone. You can see shades of Bierce and Byron and Poe and Lovecraft and maybe Conrad and a few others, but these stories are dark and spooky and just right for Halloween reading. Like good King when he's really up to snuff, but again, most definitely not King.

There are nine stories in this collection. I like some more than others, but none are duds. Almost all take place in Oregon/Washington, and most take place in the early 20th century, though a few are contemporary. All are violent, generous with viscera and guts, and even more disturbing images than mere bloodshed, fit to make you squirm.

Below, a summary and the first paragraph from each story.

Blackwood's Baby

Big game hunters try to bag a legendary buck, known as "Blackwood's Baby." The hunters become the hunted. Dark things dwell in the woods.

Late afternoon sun baked the clay and plaster buildings of the town. Its dirt streets lay empty, packed as hard as iron. The boarding house sweltered. Luke Honey sat in a chair in the shadows across from the window. Nothing stirred except flies buzzing on the window ledge. The window was a gap bracketed by warped shutters and it opened into a portal view of the blazing white stone wall of the cantina across the alley. Since the fistfight, he wasn't welcome in the cantina although he'd seen the other three men he'd fought there each afternoon, drunk and laughing. The scabs on his knuckles were nearly healed. Every two days, one of the stock boys brought him a bottle.

The Redfield Girls

A group of women take an annual trip to a lake. Tragedies past cause tragedies present. A ghost story of sorts, one of the least bloody of the tales.

Every autumn for a decade, several of the Redfield Girls, a close-knit sorority of veteran teachers from Redfield Memorial Middle School in Olympia, gathered for a minor road trip along the hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest. Traditionally, they rented a house in a rural, picturesque locale, such as the San Juan Islands or Cannon Beach, or Astoria, and settled in for a last long weekend of cribbage, books, and wine before their students came rushing into the halls, flushed and wild from summer vacation. Bernice Barber; Karla Gott; Dixie Thiess; and Li-Hua Ming comprised the core of the Redfield Girls. Li-Hua served as the school psychiatrist, and Karla and Dixie taught English—Karla was a staunch, card-bearing member of the Dead White Guys Club, while Dixie preferred Neruda and Borges. Their frequent arguments were excruciating or exquisite depending on how many glasses of merlot they'd downed. Both of them considered Bernice, the lone science teacher and devourer of clearance sale textbooks, a borderline stick in the mud. They meant this with great affection.

Hand of Glory

A hit man finds out his old man had bigger enemies than rival gangsters. Tangles with wizards and worse.

From the pages of a partially burned manuscript discovered in the charred ruins of a mansion in Ransom Hollow, Washington:
That buffalo charges across the eternal prairie, mad black eye rolling at the photographer. The photographer is Old Scratch's left hand man. Every few seconds the buffalo rumbles past the same tussock, the same tumbleweed, the same bleached skull of its brother or sister. That poor buffalo is Sisyphus without the stone, without the hill, without a larger sense of futility. The beast's hooves are worn to bone. Blood foams at its muzzle. The dumb brute doesn't understand where we are.
But I do.
CP, Nov. 1925

This is the house my father built stone by stone in Anno Domini 1898. I was seven. Mother died of consumption that winter, and my baby brothers Earl and William followed her through the Pearly Gates directly. Hell of a housewarming.

The Carrion Gods in their Heaven

Woman flees her abusive husband. Hooks up with another woman, who decides to take care of things.

The leaves were turning.

Lorna fueled the car at a mom and pop gas station in the town of Poger Rock, population 190. Poger Rock comprised a forgotten, moribund collection of buildings tucked into the base of a wooded valley a stone's throw south of Olympia. The station's marquee was badly peeled and she couldn't decipher its title. A tavern called Mooney's occupied a gravel island half a block down and across the two-lane street from the post office and the grange. Next to a dumpster, a pair of mongrel dogs were locked in coitus, patiently facing opposite directions, Dr. Doolittle's pushmi-pullyu for the twenty-first century. Other than vacant lots overrun by bushes and alder trees, and a lone antiquated traffic light at the intersection that led out of town, either toward Olympia, or deeper into cow country, there wasn't much else to look at. She hobbled in to pay and ended up grabbing a few extra supplies—canned peaches and fruit cocktail, as there wasn't any refrigeration at the cabin. She snagged three bottles of bourbon gathering dust on a low shelf.

The Siphon

An amoral salesman, recruited as a spook for an intelligence agency, crosses agents of much darker powers. Much sanity loss ensues.

Lancaster graduated from college in 1973 and landed a position in the sales department of a well-known Wichita company that manufactured camping gear. He hated the outdoors but was naturally manipulative, an expert at affecting sincerity and bright-eyed chumminess of variable intensity. Despite this charm that wowed the socks off clients, he never made much headway with management or co-workers, two species immunized against snake oil and artifice.

Jaws of Saturn

Another tale of a gangster running into the terrible truth that makes mobsters and drug dealers seem like chump change in the table games of hell.

"The other night I dreamt about this lowlife I used to screw," Carol said. She and Franco were sitting in the lounge of The Broadsword Hotel, a monument to the Roaring Twenties situated on the west side of Olympia. Most of its tenants were economically strapped or on the downhill slide toward decrepitude, not unlike the once grand dame herself. Carol lived on the sixth floor in a single bedroom flat with cracks running through the plaster and a rusty radiator that groaned and ticked like it might explode and turn the apartment into a flaming wreck. "I mean, yeah, I hooked up with plenty of losers before I met you. Marvin was scary. And ugly as three kinds of sin. He busted kneecaps for a living. Some living."


A rambling narration by a mad egomaniac who is either completely batshit insane or the anti-Christ heralding the end of the world. Or both.

When I was six, I discovered a terrible truth: I was the only human being on the planet. I was the seed and the sower and I made myself several seconds from the event horizon at the end of time—at the x before time began. Indeed, there were six billion other carbon-based sapient life forms moiling in the earth, but none of them were the real McCoy. I'm the real McCoy. The rest? Cardboard props, marionettes, grist for the mill. After I made me, I crushed the mold under my heel.

The Men from Porlock

Loggers go into the woods, discover horrors. If this doesn't make you afraid of the woods, horror just isn't your thing.

September 1923

Darkness lay stone heavy as men roused, drawn from inner night by the tidal pull of blood, the weight of bones sagging outward through their flesh. Floorboards groaned beneath the men who shuffled and stamped like dray horses in the gloom of the bunkhouse. Star glow came through chinks in slat siding. Someone had lighted the stove and smoke drifted among the bunks, up to the rafters. It had rained during the night and the air was ghastly damp. Expelled breath gathered on the beams and dripped steadily; condensation oozing as from stalactites of a limestone cave. The hall reeked with the stench of a bunker: creosote and sweat, flatulence and rotten teeth and the bitter tang of ashes and singed tobacco.

More Dark

Possibly the weakest story in the collection - it appears to be a semi-fictionalized (?) autobiographical narration of the author meeting with a bunch of other horror authors (in-jokes abound), told in the context of suicidal ideation and horror intruding into real life.

On the afternoon train from Poughkeepsie to New York City for a thing at the Kremlin Bar—John and me and an empty seat that should've been Jack's, except Jack was dead going on three years, body or no body. Hudson out the right-hand window, shining like a scale. Winter light fading fast, blending the ice and snow and water into a steely red. More heavy weather coming, they said. A blizzard; the fifth in as many weeks. One body blow after another for the Northeast and no end in sight.

This book is GOOD HORROR. Laird Barron has got the stuff. 5 big stars.
Profile Image for Elena Cvetkovska.
6 reviews9 followers
July 15, 2013
This is definitely the furthest plunge into darkness Barron has taken. The events take place in the well known settings of the Olympian peninsula, Blackwood Lodge, and the Broadsword Hotel, the universe he has created in his previous works. If you expect explanations, straight to the point storytelling and great revelations you will get none, and you will be left guessing. The prospects are bleak for the actors and actresses in the great cosmic drama, there are no winners, the departed are those who get the better part of the deal. Drunkards and knuckleheads, run down, violent, shady characters are Barron’s favorite canvas on which he paints the effects of the ineffable horrors “lurking in the cracks of Earth” as he puts it. In places abstract and atmospheric, in places visceral and gory as all of his previous books it leaves a bitter aftertaste of things unsaid, edges of something vaster discernible under the hide of the world-monster that he so well crafted. And before taking a dive in the land of Barron leave out your desires for all things cliché at the door, there are none.
My favorite of the bunch must be “More Dark”. I have waited for someone to call out Ligotti’s particular brand of overly conceited; super nihilistic, kill-yourselves-while-you’re at hype for a while. Under the guise of horror it is actually quite comical if you catch the drift. Anyway I believe great literature is a meal most people can’t stomach and Barron is the great living writer of contemporary horror fiction, of course there are others but he has staying power and I believe a lot more people will discover him in future.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,098 followers
October 28, 2020
Just when I was wondering if I would ever come across some true, genuine, scary-ass cosmic (or otherwise) fiction in my gullet before Halloween, I finally come across something beautiful. It was awaiting me all this time... within my gullet.

It crawled out, said a few pithy lines, and then proceeded to claw my eyes out.

What did I do?

I thanked it, of course. What else could I do? *It had my eyes*

My favorite stories were:
Hand of Glory - totally immersive Noir that got dark and stayed there the entire time.
Vastation - I'm a sucker for grand gestures.
More Dark - It felt almost autobiographical, full of great in-jokes, and it was just far-out enough to be REAL.

The rest were all pretty much perfect, too. Not a bad one in the bunch.
Ones that almost made my top list:
The Redfield Girls - truly delightful ghost story within a story
Jaws of Saturn - more noir!

The rest were top-notch writing. If you like horror, I'm certain you'll get a kick out of everything Barron does. He seems to have been around the block a few times. :)
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,015 reviews1,177 followers
October 13, 2018
October spooky read #4!

I love the weird world that exists in Laird Barron’s head: I’m not sure I’d want to live there, but visiting it from time to time is hard to resist. Ever since I read “The Croning” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I have been drawn back again and again to his stories, to his elegant, uber-creepy prose, isolated settings and gloomy characters. I enjoyed two of his previous short story collections earlier this summer, and decided to save this one for my October reading list. I cracked open “The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All” ready for Barron to bring on the weird. And boy, did he bring it!

Barron’s M.O. is to take the sort of hard-boiled characters you’d expect to find in a noir novel (or a Cormac McCarthy novel), drop them in a setting where unthinkable cosmic horrors crawl and slither all around them, and let them run around a bit until everyone is either dead or insane. If you’ve read my reviews before, you might have noticed that I’ll take “things that go bump in the night” over other kinds of horror stories any day, and no one makes them quite as delectable as Barron. His stuff is disturbing, haunting but also sensual, in a really weird way - and that blend is a highly addictive one!

The stories often visit the sets Barron knows best: the beautiful but eerie desolation of the American North West. I had never thought of Washington State or Oregon as scary places until I started reading his work, and now they give me the shivers. He plays with the landscapes whether they are wide cornfields or dense woods, and brings out everything about them that could make one feel uneasy: the isolation, the possibility that there is something there watching you and that you’ll never know… He describes that feeling of being out in an remote patch of wilderness and feeling surrounded by hostility and wrongness that seems to simply permeate the landscape but originate from no particular source: I experienced that feeling once and just being reminded of it sends a chill down my spine.

I loved that the stories in this book feel closely connected, with a few recurring characters and settings known from his other collections, such as the terrifying Broadsword Hotel and the spooky Mima Mounds. The Children of Old Leech, which absolutely fascinated me in “The Corning”, establish their presence in Barron’s universe more firmly here. And his magicians and occultists are easily the creepiest ones I have encountered in fiction in a really long time!

“The Carrion Gods in their Heaven” and it’s tale of transformation, the awesomely bloody “The Siphon”, the village plucked from another time in “The Men from Porlock” and the charmingly meta "More Dark" (stock-full of references to Thomas Ligotti I would not have understood a month ago) are particular standouts. But as I experienced with his previous work, I flipped the last page desperate for more. More Children of Old Leech, more cynical company men who get caught in weird and deadly traps, more criminals who discover some things are scarier than having a gun pointed at you! More everything!

Delicious, richly textured, creepy as Hell stories from one of the best horror writers I have ever read. 4 and a half stars!
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,937 reviews748 followers
September 11, 2013
As always, because I can't resist being a chatterbox, I have a longer review of this book here; read on for the bare minimum.

John Langan notes on the back cover of this book that he "can't sum up Laird Barron in a single, pithy sentence," and neither can I. If you've read his work, you already know that he is one of the best horror/weird fiction writers out there; if you haven't, then you seriously don't know what you're missing. I don't actually remember how I got started reading his stuff, but now I'm hooked. He's an author I prefer to read late at night, when all is quiet, and if I'm really lucky, when there's a raging thunderstorm outside. I've also come to realize that when horror/weird fiction/the supernatural is done right, it is just as good as any work of "literary" fiction out there -- and Laird Barron definitely does it right. If you're considering this author's work, go find his story "Strappado." I guarantee you'll come back for more.

Here is a list of the stories in this book:
“Blackwood’s Baby” -- previously read in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four (Ellen Datlow, ed.)earlier this year, just as creepy this time around.
“The Redfield Girls” -- For the past ten years, a group of friends, all teachers from the same school, have all come together for a road trip "along the hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest" for a girls' weekend away. The venue this year: the shores of a legendary lake. Excellent story -- worth it just for the atmosphere alone!

“Hand of Glory” -- The narrator of this story, Johnny Cope, tells his tale in hardboiled mode, which is not strange since he has become a hitman for a local tough-guy gangster. The hardboiled tone in this story blends perfectly with eerie black magic, some freakishly strange sisters, and a maker of bizarre films to create a flawless, frightening tale.
"The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven” takes place in Poger Rock, pop. 190, in a remote cabin in the woods. The remoteness of the location is by choice, perfect for a woman hiding out with her lover until her abuser husband goes to jail. The combination of local lore about the cabin and its original owner, a chance discovery, and growing paranoia all bleed together to ratchet up the uneasiness in this tale.
“The Siphon” -- The NSA sets the proverbial "honey trap" for a man named Lancaster, a normally coolly-detached sociopath, and forces him into service spying for them. He is assigned to provide intelligence about a certain Dr. Christou, who is hosting a foreign national who just happens to have business with Lancaster's company. Things start getting out of hand when the good doctor becomes the focus of a strange couple.
“The Jaws of Saturn” -- The Broadsword Hotel, which I first came across in Barron's collection Occultation, is the venue once again for yet another hitman story, one with a surreal, horrific twist. A hypnotist is helping the hitman's girlfriend Carol to quit smoking. That part works, but now she suffers from terrible dreams.
“Vastation” is quite different than Barron's usual fare, but takes as its subject the "only human being on the planet", a kind of superbeing who has mastered a third of the layers of space and time, with the power to make and remake his own existence, only to discover that he's bored with himself and his life. The title "Vastation" is appropriate not just in terms of this story, but in terms of the number of ideas contained within these few pages, with the futility of it all as a centerpiece.
“The Men From Porlock”-- Back in the past once again (1923), back deep in the woods of Washington State, an ex-Marine named Miller now works at the Slango Logging Camp. The superintendent's foreman tags Miller and other men to go into the woods and snag a couple of good-sized bucks for the upcoming visit of a photographer. All is well until "at the very edge of perception," Miller begins to hear some very strange music...
Last, but definitely not least comes “More Dark” -- within which is the source of the novel's title, where an author with a suicide bent attends an event where the main attraction is a reclusive horror writer who, on stage, shows up like death dressed in red and lets a puppet do his speaking for him. There are a wide variety of horror writers mentioned in this little meta piece, but I'm not sure if this one is written for horror fans or for other writers of the genre. Either way, it's quite good and it's also a little funny.
As a whole, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All managed to bring on a stomach-knotting sense of unease in nearly every story. It is a nice mix of weird, Lovecraft-style cosmic horror and more supernatural type fright, both of which work blended well in my mind and kept me at a high tension level throughout the book. There is a lot going thematically and psychologically here, and there is also a lot of interweaving of past stories into this collection as well -- for example, the map of Mystery Mountain in "The Men From Porlock" came into play in Barron's "Mysterium Tremendum," the Broadsword Hotel has also made previous appearances, and The Black Ram Lodge has appeared more than once I love how he does this -- it's like being back on familiar ground, yet different. Once again, Laird Barron has woven his magic, making me a very happy reader.
Profile Image for Adam Nevill.
Author 70 books3,812 followers
November 18, 2013
Continuing my catch-up of the new wave in North American horror (as a metal fan that's a handy classification for my own shelves), I thought the new anthology from Laird Barron (just finished reading it) - THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT AWAITS US ALL AND OTHER STORIES - was tremendous. 'Blackwood's Baby', 'Hand of Glory', 'The Siphon', and 'The Men from Porlock' being my personal favourites from stories that are nearly all epic in their range. As well as the writer's own vision, many of the same qualities I enjoy in Cormac McCarthy's westerns, in Blackwood's mysticism and terror in the wilderness, and in Lovecraft's cosmic horrors, I thoroughly enjoyed in this collection. Particularly affecting and effective is the constant sense of an occult force that swells behind the action of the stories (not an easy thing to conjure).
Profile Image for Katy.
1,293 reviews281 followers
May 13, 2014
Congratulations to Laird Barron, who won a Bram Stoker award for this book! It is a well-earned award for an awesome book.

Book Info: Genre: Short story anthology, dark/Lovecraftian fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Lovecraft, dark fiction, the author
Book Available: August 13, 2013 in Hardcover (click link to preorder)
Trigger Warnings: violence, cannibalism (implied), murder, fighting, terrors from beyond

My Thoughts: This is a short-story anthology, so there isn't a lot I can tell you without creating spoilers. Generally speaking, Laird Barron has created a number of eerie tales worthy of the master of eeriness, H.P. Lovecraft, and mostly along the same lines. Stories of odd events, creeping horror, and eldritch terrors from beyond the outer Dark. If you like Lovecraft's fiction, or have read and enjoyed Laird Barron's other books, or simply like your horror dark and your mysterious unsolvable, don't miss this one.

Blackwoods Baby”: A very strange hunt for a very strange creature where the hunters become the hunted. I read this before in The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 4 (review linked here).
The Redfield Girls”: Teachers on an annual holiday prior to the start of school have an eerie experience. Three years later things are even stranger.
Hand of Glory”: The life and times of Johnny Cope, gangster. Irish mob and black magicians. Also read in The Book of Cthulhu II (review linked here).
The Carrion Gods in their Heaven”: The first of the stories sent in modern time rather than the early 1900s. A woman flees her abusive husband after falling in love with another woman. A chance find of an animal-skin cloak causes her lover to start to change...
The Siphon”: A charming sociopath starts to work part-time for the NSA. A strange dinner party and eerie conversation stirs strange feelings and strange events around him. The first story not set in Washington State, one of only a couple.
Jaws of Saturn”: People have strange dreams and then start to change after meeting an odd, old magician.
Vastation”: A odd and recursive story; the musings of a madman, or an immortal?
The Men from Porluck”: Lumberjacks hunting deer for a special dinner run across a mysterious, hidden village deep in the forest.
More Dark”: A mysterious, reclusive writer (and I noticed the metafiction!) does a reading (of sorts) that deeply affects a suicidal horror writer.

Disclosure: I received an e-galley from Night Shade Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: 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.
Profile Image for Scott.
525 reviews
February 8, 2016
This is my second collection read from this very overrated author and I have decided that he is not for me. His stories are distinctly unsatisfying, usually with a long and irrelevant biographical portion followed by "something weird" which leaves you only wondering WTF did you just read. The only story here I liked (hence the extra star) was "The Redfield Girls," which had characters I cared about and a haunting quality. "Vastation," on the other end of the spectrum, was sheer nonsense.

Also, can people stop describing everything as "Lovecraftian"? The work isn't Lovecraftian just because the monster has tentacles, or because H.P. is mentioned by name.
Profile Image for R.G. Evans.
Author 3 books15 followers
September 15, 2013
H.P. Lovecraft, the undisputed Grand Master of early 20th century weird fiction, died in 1937. Why can’t we just let him lie rather than endlessly rehash his Cthulhu Mythos themes lo these seventy six years later? Especially since my own first fiction publication was in Weird Tales, where Lovecraft himself once reigned supreme, I realize that to suggest this is heresy, that even now Yog-Sothoth may be speeding across the cosmos (his path to me illuminated by the burning rage of scores of Lovecraft faithful), determined to yank me out of the relative safety of Arkham and hurl me into the Colour Out of Space.
Nevertheless, as I finished Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and Other Stories, I found myself cursing the Old Ones and how they seem to have infected so many talented horror writers with a kind of unshakeable pastiche virus.

Don’t get me wrong: Barron is a master storyteller: his stories which appeared in recent editions of Ellen Datlow’s Best Of anthologies proved just that and whetted my appetite for more of his fiction. There is greatness and originality in The Beautiful Thing, as evidenced by “The Redfield Girls” and “The Men from Porlock.” But I confess to real disappointment with stories such as “Jaws of Saturn” and “Vastation”—and even “More Dark,” with its wickedly amusing dropping of names of luminaries from the world of contemporary horror fiction slips into the Lovecraftian faster than a tentacle sliding into the Miskatonic.

I loved Barron’s language, the authenticity of dialogue in the period pieces “Hand of Glory” and “The Men from Purlock”--he’s actually a better writer than Lovecraft himself. I just wish he’d let the old boy lie in his grave along with the Old Ones. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there seems to be something slithering at my door.
Profile Image for Justin J.
7 reviews2 followers
August 31, 2013
I have never been to the Pacific Northwest, and thanks to Laird Barron, I'm far too afraid of the place to ever make a trip.
Profile Image for Heidi Ward.
349 reviews76 followers
September 11, 2016
I waited for The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All to be released for what seemed like years, and began devouring it immediately. Because Laird Barron is about the best thing going in the horror branch of the weird, it's no surprise that it gets my five glowing stars. Barron's prose just gets richer and his cthonic mythology more resonant with each publication.

I did find some surprises in this collection, but I want to do this book justice, so I'm starting my second read through now. Stay tuned. But if you can't wait . . . no fan of Barron, cosmic horror or the new weird will be disappointed by The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.

Okay . . . one surprise? The gracefully and ominously and oh-so-Laird-Barron-y titled title story doesn't exist in its own collection, except as a throw-away reference to another, much maligned, quasi-fictional author's work in the book's satirical closer "More Dark." Yep. Barron's gone more than a bit postmodern here. I am officially weak in the knees.

Profile Image for Paul Roberts.
Author 6 books25 followers
September 1, 2015
Featuring two of the finest hunting stories I’ve read, Barron’s third collection is best consumed near a healthy fire, and filtered through a decent scotch. I’m convinced there is a tsunami of readers that have yet to discover Barron. “More Dark” could be the most misunderstood story of 2013. With teeth, it plants Laird’s flag at the summit, and in deft contrasting brush strokes, succeeds in paying tribute whilst offering challenge to writers and readers alike. It doesn’t get better than this.
Profile Image for Sheila.
971 reviews86 followers
June 1, 2018
4 stars--I really liked it. There were a couple stories here that didn't work for me, but this volume also contains two of my Barron favorites: "Blackwood's Baby" and "The Men from Porlock."

If you like Lovecraft-influenced cosmic horror about cults, squiggly monster-things, and gazing into the void, pick up one of Barron's books. You'll love it!
Profile Image for Bill.
1,590 reviews112 followers
June 5, 2020
Another solid collection from one of my favorites. A couple of these were less Barron-ey than I anticipated but I enjoyed them all.
Profile Image for Daniel.
722 reviews51 followers
January 17, 2017
A short take:

A few stories really drew me in, and I finally enjoyed Barron's work to the degree that I expected (based on both critical opinion and the flashes of awesome that I experienced in other stories). My favorites, by far, were "Men from Porlock" and "Hand of Glory," both of which cast their characters in the early 20th century, which is a ripe period for a supernatural plot and gritty, earthy protagonists. "Men from Porlock" was one of the creepier entries, and I loved the ending.

More thoughts:

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and Barron absolutely nails the description of that setting, which really can be eerie, especially when the sun goes down and the trees blur together as a massive, dark mass that seems to watch, and wait for an opportunity...
Profile Image for Crowinator.
810 reviews361 followers
January 26, 2018
Wow, what a collection. That last story gave me the same feeling of perfect unease that his novel The Croning did.

I'm working on short descriptors of each story, but in the meantime, my favorites were:
The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven
The Siphon
More Dark

Others read:
Blackwood's Baby
The Redfield Girls
Hand of Glory
Jaws of Saturn
The Men from Porlock
Profile Image for Michael Erickson.
114 reviews19 followers
February 19, 2023
*Disclaimer*: This book has been on my radar for a while, but I decided to finally get a copy when the author began having medical problems late last year and a lot of my favorite authors asked the horror literature community to step up and help him out.

It's been a while since I've read a single-author short story collection. I always find it fun trying to find similarities or trends between different stories, and this was no exception. Save for one or two of them, all of the stories in this book took place around the same geographical location (PNW/rural Oregon), but over such different time periods that none of the character or events really had a chance of overlapping. I don't know if that was the intention from the start or if these stories were written over the course of a few years and it just kind of shook out that way, but I found it to be an interesting concept for a collection.

And while I understand that a "short story" is kind of an ambiguous term, some of these were quite long. I did some rough math, and the longest of them was almost three times longer than the shortest one, so at least there was some variety to keep things fresh. Beyond the setting, the only other throughline I noticed were surprisingly big casts of named characters and a repeated character archetype of just a really broad-chested, muscular man showing up in a few iterations (which I'm not complaining about, but I was just amused that it kept happening).

This was certainly a very creative collection, or at least that's the word that kept coming to mind. Some of the entries felt like proof of concepts to see what limits a horror story could be told within. A group of Victorian-era big game hunters try tracking down their most dangerous target yet, and find themselves being turned prey themselves. A group of school teachers have their annual end-of-summer get together at a haunted lake. A Prohibition-era mobster seeks revenge on someone who put a hit out on him and finds an occult turf war instead. A woman hides out in the woods from her abusive ex-husband and ends up in one of the most unique spins on a werewolf mythos I've ever read. An NSA agent is tasked with getting intel on a reclusive professor and experiences a night that defies description. I routinely found myself thinking, "I would've never even thought of that concept."

Not all of the entries landed for me, but the ones that did were fantastic. And there's also the issue you run into reviewing any short story collection that has a wide variance in quality (sometimes I found the prose very plain and straightforward, other times the literary devices were beautifully leaking out of the pages), but overall this should be one to pick up if you're tired of the same old horror tropes you've read a hundred times before and want a fresh breath of creativity.
Profile Image for Bogdan.
908 reviews1 follower
December 6, 2019
Excellent volume! A lot better than any horror anthology that I`ve read in the last years. Maybe I didn`t like all of the stories, but the ones that I did were quite impressive on all their levels and ideas.

5 stars!
Profile Image for Simon.
566 reviews231 followers
July 4, 2014
I went through this collection wondering what the significance of the title was given that there was no story with this title in the collection but it became clear in the final story "More Dark". That was a strange story that seems to feature himself as the protagonist going to a rare public appearance of Thomas Ligotti with a couple of friends whilst contemplating suicide. Barron gives a fairly balanced critique of Ligotti's work but the story was marred for me by a bizarre and unnecessary attack on the work of Mark Samuels (whom he describes as a hack).

But besides this story the rest of the collection is very strong with some superb stories, many touching on the mythos that he has built up in his previous works. There's also some really fascinating, damaged and gritty characters who all seem to consume copious amounts of whisky. "The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven" and "The Men from Porlock" were probably my favourites. On the other hand I found "The Hand of Glory" quite weak and the experimental style of "Vastation" didn't really work for me.

But overall I really enjoyed this collection and was, as usual, a pleasure to read. But for a couple of weaker stories than usual and that odd final story this would have been another five star effort.
Profile Image for DaViD´82.
743 reviews75 followers
Currently reading
March 4, 2019
Dobrý horrorový autor musí dle mého být silný v kramflecích alespoň ve třech ze čtyřech klíčových disciplínách; atmosféře, postavách, zápletce a psaní. U Lairda Barrona platí, že je silný ve dvou a ve dvou je přinejlepším průměrný. Jenže v těch dvou, ve kterých je silný, je natolik dobrý a jedinečný, že se vlastně vůbec nelze divit hlasům o „nové ústřední hvězdě povídkového horroru“.

Atmosféru totiž umí navodit jako málokdo druhý. Dokáže dostat prvek podmanivě hutné znepokojivé atmosféry zcela všude. Pokud bych měl jeho tvorbu definovat jedním slovem, tak to zcela nepochybně bude právě atmosféra. Ta přebijí vše ostatní. Dále je i výtečný spisovatel, který si umí hrát se slovy. Ani v tomto ohledu není žádný nazdárek.

Naopak co se zápletek týče, tak se o žádnou slávu nejedná. Vesměs variuje staré dobré osvědčené přístupy. To by až takový problém nebyl. Ovšem jeho postavy, to je kámen úrazu. A veliký. Jsou schématické. Co hůře, nepůsobí vůbec zajímavě až na hranu toho, kdy vám budou ukradené. To je problém sám o sobě; tuplem však pak v žánrové literatuře. V tomto ohledu je tedy cejch „následovník Lovecrafta“ přesný; pojí ho s ním veškeré klady i zápory.
Profile Image for Matthew.
381 reviews138 followers
June 28, 2016
A truly stunning collection of stories.

Read it. NOW.

5 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Doug Bolden.
373 reviews27 followers
September 2, 2013
Barron is one of the best writers in the field for exploring how the truly weird touches the earnest human element [1]. Barron by-and-large makes interesting characters that feel unique enough that you either want them to fail or succeed based on their various strengths or weaknesses, and I guarantee that different readers will feel differently about which characters deserve what, which is a good sign that a character is not a mere caricature.

Barron's chief weakness as a writer is that he walks too fine a line near over-indulgence with his prose and sometimes plots. He describes by the paragraph, and emotes by the page. It's a natural weakness of the genre whose chief public spokesperson is H.P. "Never Met an Adverb He Couldn't Modify with another Hyphenated Adverb" Lovecraft. Arthur Machen's best story—The White People—has a lot of indefinite things definitely happen, and here are some made-up words spoken so plainly that you are not sure if they are made up, and it is ostensibly all a philosophical question about the nature of Good and Evil (capital-G and E). Weird and Indulgence go hand in hand.

Barron's indulgence can be bittersweet because many of his stories embrace the men (and women) who are broken by life and turned into hunters, killers, outcasts, artists, and destroyers. The women (and men) of few words but deep thoughts, thinking man thugs or drained-by-life survivors, who act boldly and brazenly. A leaner prose would likely suit the characters that walk his tales.

With that being said, let's trip through the stories in The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. The human element is strongest in two of my favorite works from it: "The Redfield Girls" and "The Carrion Gods in Their Heavens". "Hand of Glory", a fine and largely balanced tale, is the darling of the collection based on most of the buzz that I have seen, and embraces this human element, but it suffers a bit in that it has multiple excursions into disparate weird: here are some old crones, here is a weird "Pan" cult, here are some weird old movies, here is s an old magician with old artifacts. On the other hand, "The Redfield Girls" keeps the weird more focused, even if it does set the mood with story-after-story[2], but while you wonder what an emotional journey with a group of elderly women has to do with anything and then you realize and you feel sad and lonely in this large universe, it ingeniously sneaks in one of Barron's most neo-Lovecraftian backdrops: a bad-place lake with horrors in the deep and old native legends about why the avoid it and what moves nearby it. "Carrion Gods" is not as good, but is briefer and punchier and sharper, also stranger, and again deals with those of us who come to a bad-place, literally and figuratively, in our life.

On the side of the indulgent we have "Vastation" and "Jaws of Saturn". The former is weakened by being dialed up to 11, a horror story turned hallucinogenic power trip drowning in language. There are times and places for it, but it would fit more in with the style of The Imago Sequence than the other stories in this collection. "Jaws of Saturn", on the other hand, is more in line with Beautiful's stories, but rehashes the general flow, though not the vibe, of "Hand of Glory" without the same quality pay-off. Where "Hand" zigs, "Jaw" zags, and that path most traveled makes all the difference. A sequel to "Hand", of sorts, it feels lesser for the connection, though I am sure there are those who will find it more worthy than I.

The rest fit [pun-incoming] beautifully in between. "More Dark", a indie/small-press in-joke with real people, including Barron-himself as the main character [presumably], has a chance to be the most divisive work in the collection, with its many quick references and a bordering-on-bathos plot dealing with some pretty serious issues. I liked it. It's a story that not only slags off Ligotti for slagging off Aickman, but then also turns Ligotti into a larger-than-life cult-leader thing complete with terrifying puppet. Also in this class of stories, you get stuff like "Blackwood's Baby" [a spiritual cousin to "Hand of Glory"] and "The Siphon" [which is willing to play with ideas and earns its moments of of indulgence in some nice ways].

Sadly, the story that suffered most for me as "The Men from Porlock", not because it is a lacking story (it is quite good) but because it very definitely fits into the "prequel to The Croning" camp and having read that novel, the story felt more like a missing scene. Ah well. I'm sure I would have loved had I read it first [and would recommend everyone else do the "Porlock"/Croning in the correct order].

So that's the list. Mostly a solid collection with enough meat to inspire debate about what does and doesn't work, and what is meant here or there, with only a few missteps [and really, only "Jaws" left me truly in a state of "Meh"]. My primary as-a-fan wish, now, is that Barron steps back from the core "Croning" mythos swirling around these stories—"Blackwood's Baby", "Hand of Glory", "Jaws of Saturn", "The Men from Porlock", an maybe "More Dark" all take place in the same mythic cycle—and branches out a bit as evidenced possibly by "The Siphon" and "The Redfield Girls" (both could be part of The Croning Cycle but more obliquely so). "Frontier Death Song", not included here, shows evidence of this, so it might be a good time to be a Barron fan and see what comes next.


1: While I consider Ramsey Campbell to be the most important living participant in the genre, Campbell's stories are often about the events upon the person, rather than the person within the events. Campbell's characters—even when they are the victims or killers—engage the reader primarily as witnesses to horror. You do not always care about what happens to them, but you are interested to read on and see how weird it gets. This is not an steadfast rule, but one relevant to a lot of Campbellian prose.

2: I think it is an element of Modern "bad place" prose, the many-tales approach. You see early stories of the subgenre, stuff like M.R. James' "A Neighbour's Landmark", focusing on single events and their echoes. Then, quickly, stories that likely were influenced by James, such as Lovecraft's ghost-written "The Mound", focus on the place-throughout-time and have many legends surrounding it.
Profile Image for Mike Wallace.
188 reviews15 followers
August 17, 2020
Wow! I guess I've been missing out on Laird Barron. Excellent short stories with a really grizzly vibe.
4 Stars****
Profile Image for S.P..
Author 45 books221 followers
February 8, 2014
The Redfield Girls have lived. During their annual fall road trip, we get to know Bernice, Karla, Dixie, and Li-Hua. We discover their strengths, their vulnerabilities and superstitions. They’re joined by Lourdes, Bernice’s seventeen-year-old niece. In the eerie night the women share with Lourdes the true crime stories and legends both modern and ancient surrounding Lake Crescent, where they’ve rented a cabin. One tale of murder is taken from Bernice’s family history.

Bernice is a woman going about her business, too practical to give in, every day, to grief. Her husband’s death doesn’t haunt her so much as it forms a cornerstone to the foundation on which the rest of her life will be constructed. She bristles at having to watch over her sister’s daughter during her last days of vacation before the new school term.

The author’s realistic depiction of the women serves as a sharp contrast to the lonesome and spooky setting. Bernice is plagued by nightmares and her uneasiness is fueled by contact with the lake:

“Bernice perched in the bow, soon mesmerized by the slap of the oar blades dipping into the glassy surface, their steady creak in the metal eye rings…. She was disquieted by the sensation of floating over a Hadal gulf, an insect prey to gargantuan forms lurking in the depths.”

The women attempt to control the element causing “disquiet,” with unfortunate but not tragic consequences. Tragedy occurs later, when they ignore the signs and warnings they’ve experienced.

The author expertly conveys the lurking danger of inevitable mortality and grief. His stories almost always offer settings of great texture, described not minutely but with perfect specificity and layered with historical scars. We’re lured into this complex world long before we meet the first intriguing implausibility. By then we’re committed to our strange journey.

In “The Redfield Girls” we must accompany Bernice from a state of emotional arrest in widowhood to the terrible awareness that nature can and will take everything, eventually. Our desires and our sense of purpose are always threatened with obliteration. Such epic themes are frequently tied, in fiction, to male action adventure. By weaving them into a story about four middle-aged female schoolteachers, Barron succeeds in making their power and significance ubiquitous. The cosmic forces at work here, if they have direction or will, are not bothered by anything human, be it man or woman.

This extraordinary story is part of Laird Barron's third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Highly recommended.
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