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Swift to Chase Paperback – October 7, 2016
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"This book will go down as one of the best horror story collections of the decade." Max Booth III for Litreactor
"...sets a direction for the whole of contemporary horror. If you have any serious interest whatsoever in the field, you have to read this book. " Paul StJohn Mackintosh for Teleread
"Swift to Chase is the best collection of short fiction that Barron has put together so far, and likely to be among the top such books to be produced in our current decade." Shane Douglas Keene for This Is Horror
"...Barron perfectly encapsulates today's literary landscape, because while terror is at the center of all of his works, he uses a variety of genres to pull it off. There are notes of cosmic horror, adventure, and noir. His stories have a wonderful sense of place, an oppressive atmosphere, great characters, original and compelling plots, and also beautiful language." Becky Spratford for RA for All
"This is the fourth story collection from the prolific and celebrated Barron. With "Swift to Chase," he concocts a potent blend of horror, noir and pulp." Michael Calia for The Wall Street Journal
From the Back Cover
"Laird Barron's Swift to Chase stories are an exhilarating ride on a rickety nightmare roller coaster, only two wheels on the track. Blue collar supernatural noir with yips inducing suspense and a touch of humor. Read this book!" Jeffrey Ford, author of A Natural History of Hell
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I have to admit upfront, I feel a little disappointed by this fourth collection of his short works. Although good, many of the tales in this collection I didn't find as consistently good as his previous works.
The biggest difference in this collection is that many of the stories, quite frankly, have the feeling in them that much more personal emotion from LB went into writing these particularly stories, as they majorly are all based in Alaska and as the introduction states, that this is something LB doesn't like talking about. As I read through the stories, there was a rawness to the content, pace and atmosphere that just felt like there was more translated emotional truth coming from the author.
There is a feverishness to the stories as well, in the way of like A nights sleep plagued by mini dreams constantly until one gets up. You slept 8 hours, but you just aren't mentally that rested. If that makes since. There a disjointed almost, fugue like feeling to many of the stories.
Overall, this isn't my favorite of his collections thus far, some of it could be that the stories veer away from what I have come to expect from LB. Which I think is just fine, just not what I'm used to.
In many ways, I just don't know yet, quite how I feel 100% about this collection. Do I recommend it, ABSOLUTELY! Anything by LB I think is worth recommending as he is a phenomenal writer.
I look forward to everything else he writes in the future, and I will definitely revisit this collection. But why I give it 4 stars rather then 5, at this point, the stories just didn't have the impact on me that his others have.
Though I have to say, Frontier Death Song, was a fun read. But then again, this story is much more similar in tone to his other writings.
Keep being great LB!
If you're new to Barron's material and are considering reading him, first off, get that done right away. Also, know that there are people who are envious that you're about to stumble on one of America's greatest authors of the macabre short form for the first time; swim in that and enjoy the feeling of knowing you're in the company of a giant.
Barron is FUN to read. His tales operate with the earned confidence of a scribe who has spent countless days practicing the form and can therefore pen a solid sentence, but they also keep you engaged with compelling characters and exciting locales. There is pulp, there's realism, there's gripping dialogue, and every main component of a phenomenal narrative is here in spades. A recurring character in SWIFT TO CHASE named Jessica Mace is so fun to read, I am saddened that there aren't five hundred more stories with her as the protagonist.
To compare him to any other writer (even the great ones) is not fair to him, because he has crafted a style so original that it does not fit into any familiar mould, although there are shadows of numerous masters here.
I have read everything he's done except the IMAGO anthology, and I am looking forward to that. Artists like Barron remind us that classifications of styles are inherently meant to be redefined, bent, and manipulated with creative integrity, and he continually does it, time and time again.
There is a bit of history behind this bias. I first came across Laird Barron about a decade ago. Up until that point I'd only been reading Tolkien style fantasy and the occasional science fiction. At that time I was working at a large chain bookstore and I came across an intriguing book with a beautiful cover. It was so different from all of the other books around it.
This book was The Imago Sequence by an author I'd never heard of and published by Night Shade Press. Every other book was ultra glossy and they all looked just like the others, while this one had a gorgeous dust jacket printed on a slightly textured matte paper that made the different shades of absinthe tinted green stand out like a beacon among the gleaming rows of spines. Also, throw in the vague and unsettling image on the front cover. I had to have this book. So I used my employee discount and bought the store's only copy.
Up until this point my only real exposure to horror literature was a little of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, some Lovecraft, and Frankenstein back in high school. So the use of this level of nightmare imagery was something almost shocking. I'd never experienced anything like it before. It was new, exciting, and completely different, and it changed my tastes in fiction forever.
After reading this enlightening collection I began to search out other similar reading experiences and each time a new Laird Barron work came out I made sure to find a copy to devour. And this brings me to his most recent collection of short stories: Swift to Chase
With this collection Barron is trying something new. The stories of his previous three short story collections all seemed to take place in a similar universe. These stories still seem to have a slight connection with his past work, but, at the same time, you can tell he is tackling new territory; and new styles as well.
Having said all of that, I'm not sure if this collection was as good for me as his previous work. But, this is not necessarily a bad thing. He has said in recent interviews that he is trying to branch out his writing styles to appeal to more than just the niche 'weird fiction' market, and this collection has some traces of that. There are some stories that verge on slasher thriller and there is one that is futuristic science fiction. If this means bringing more people to the wonderful worlds of Laird, I'm all for it.
I did absolutely love the story Frontier Death Song. This one was about a man who comes across the mythical Wild Hunt in progress while in the wilds of Alaska. (Wild Hunt – it is bad luck to see the Wild Hunt, click here to read more about it on Wikipedia) The Wild Hunt was also a major story component of another recent story I've read and enjoyed: The Brotherhood of the Wheel. I think I may have a thing for folklore based horror.
Do I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book?
Yes, very much so. Bit with a caveat: don't read it as a collection of short stories. Instead read it as a single story arc covering the plight of a group of people connected to a series of events in an Alaska town. Having finished the book I find much more value in the stories after the fact while thinking over who the all connect. I think this book would be a very enjoyable one to read a second time, and possibly more enjoyable than the first read.
If you are interested in reading some of Laird Barron's work I would suggest picking up a copy of his first collection The Imago Sequence as well as this one. You will not be disappointed.
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