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on May 30, 2015
Barron’s storytelling skills are in full bloom in this first collection. “Old Virginia,” “Hallucigenia” and “Bulldozer” are first-rate horror tales. Especially “Bulldozer.” Its air is thick with inevitability and the end just masterful in its deadly economy. For my money, this stands with later Barron classics like “Mysterium Tremendum” (from Occultation) and “The Siphon” (from Beautiful Thing).

And then there’s “Proboscis.” I didn’t quite get it at first; the epiphany and the terrifying scene that follows seem at first to come out of nowhere. (Notwithstanding, it threw a good scare into me.) Now I’m thinking that not quite getting it may be the point and I’m liking the story better and better for it. I’m still not sure whether I should be piecing together the insect lore or piecing together signs of incipient burnout in the narrator.

Some close calls. I like those, too. (Even when Barron is slightly off, he’s on.)

Endings can be an issue here. “Shiva -- Open Your Eye” is wonderful for as long as it stays on point. But having reached its summit, Barron goes on four more pages and, expanding the scope, diminishes the effect.

Similarly, I liked the title story quite a bit, including the ending, but the lead-in to the ending felt expedient. (A stranger in a strange land shouldn’t wind up in exactly the right spot.)

And I think I know what Barron was after in “Procession of the Black Sloth” -- something akin to the slithery cross-cultural dread that powered the better of the “Grudge” films. Alas, he doesn’t quite get there -- someone has to spell it all out for us at the end -- and I’m tempted to interpret the story’s drawn-out quality and relative tameness as signals of tentativeness.

“The Royal Zoo Is Closed” and the closer “Hour of the Cyclops” are minor fare I’ve already visited with other guides -- though well-written and for better or worse Barron does innovate a bit in the latter with a lightly funny tone.

Finally, while “Parallax” seems a frequent favorite among other readers, I couldn't make a connection. Not even close. There’s just something inauthentic in its bloodstream that holds me at bay. The sense of intimacy -- both mine with the protagonist and the protagonist's with his wife -- pulled up short of the mark.

A first for me with Barron's work -- and thus a not-uninformative experience in itself.
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on August 6, 2016
I am not going to detail every story (it's been done here already), just give an idea of why I think these stories might give you a good scare, Constant Reader. I bought this late last night and have only read the first three stories and rate it a five already, how have I not heard of this writer before!? I was digging around and following links when I found him on the interwebs.
I have been a devoted fan of horror since about the third grade when I found Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery in my school's library and have been on the hunt for new ways to shake things up (mentally) ever since. Unfortunately, much current horror is slasher- and torture-porn, which honestly, I think anyone with even minor writing skills can pull off. It simply isn't scary to me. I don't mind blood and guts if it contributes to a story line, just not so it's the whole point of the story. I prefer my horror more subtle; a creeping, unsettling feeling that things are just not right and maybe haven't been all along and then it all goes down the s*itter from there. I particularly liked William Hope Hodges' House on the Borderlands, very strange and creepy. It can be read for free on G ute nb e rg . c o m. Crouch End and "N" by S.K. were also quite good, so if you've read those and liked them, I think this might do ya.
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on November 27, 2017
Long ago, back about a decade ago, I worked at a big box book store. There I saw this book on the shelf which stood out from all of the others. The image on the front was intriguing and I had to have it.

The stories did not disappoint. As a fan of Lovecraft, I absolutely enjoyed the cosmic horror. But these had a more modern taste and, unlike Lovecraft, the characters are more realistic.

This man is at the head of modern horror and, since coming across this book years ago, I've voraciously sought out every title Mr. Barron puts out.

If you want to experience quality modern horror be sure to start here.
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on August 7, 2016
If you like dark, weird stuff, Laird Barron's collections will be some of the most enjoyable reading you'll find. His characters are complex, his prose is top-notch, and the pictures he paints with his words will stay in your head for a long time.

All of the stories in Imago are enjoyable but the standouts for me were probably "Shiva, Open Your Eye" and "Procession of the Black Sloth". Both took me on a crazy journey, sent my mind whirling and left me anxious to go back and re-read them after finishing.

If you're the type of reader who requires everything to be wrapped up in a nice bow and explained to you, Barron's stories might not be your cup of tea. If you like to finish something, put it down, stare blankly at the wall and mutter "Whoa...", then wonder if there's time to go back and read it again, Laird's stuff will be right up your alley.

Enjoy the ride and also check out Occultation and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All if you haven't. All are solid and worth the read.
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on April 18, 2014
It is key to the phenomenological method of investigation that one examine said phenomenon from as many perspectives as possible. This seems to be Laird Barron 's approach in this superbly well written collection of stories. The collection is called, "The Imago Sequence," and the final story bears the same title. This is fitting, as this title tale re-presents the preceding stories as a sort of triptych, if you will. Mr. Barron has one essential theme in this book and the one other of his books that I have read, his novel, "The Darkness is the Light." This theme, or phenomenon, is that of the primordial, oozing under-belly of an ever expanding, ever-repeating reality in which we all participate with a greater or lesser degree of conscious awareness.
He writes brilliantly and is able to capture the reader with ease. I don't speak here of the reader who expects to be grabbed by the throat in the first paragraph with compelling action and blood-dripping imagery. I speak of the reader who reads a first paragraph and lets out a quiet, "hmmmm....." and finds s/he must read on. The repeated focus upon the search for those who may have lost their way on their own search for ultimate knowledge, or who may have unintentionally stumbled upon those seeking such wisdom can, at times, slow the tale, but LB's skill as a story-teller always win out; one must keep reading.
After two books by LB, I find I hunger for more. His writing style and skills alone compel me to keep reading.
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on March 4, 2015
I am a new comer to the stories of Mr. Barron, and I have to say that I am a happy man for it because it has left me with a host of stories for the reading. I am a HUGE horror fan both in fiction and in cinema, be it theatrical or Television. I am also a big fan of Lovecraftian Horror. Barron just has a knack for writing. He is lucid, and his characters are interesting, and raw. I like the fact that unlike most Lovecraftian inspired horror, his protagonists just don't go down with the ship in some sort of insane stupor. Granted they go down, but they go down kicking and screaming, I really enjoy the raw toughness of humanity which he injects his characters with.
I bought this anthology and his Occultation at the same time, and I have to say I enjoyed the bulk of his stories much more in Occultation, but there are many gems in this collection as well. His story "Shiva, Open your eye" in particular.
If you are a fan of horror fiction, especially of Lovecraftian Horror, I would find it hard to believe that you will not at least find a handful of Barron’s stories absolutely engrossing and morbidly enjoyable!
Keep it coming Mr. Barron!
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on March 5, 2017
Most writers who try and mimic a Lovecraftian style just don't get it (for an example you can read the absolutely awful "new Lovecraft Circle" books). Laird Barron, he gets it. Insidious, mysterious, frightening, alien and cruel. Elder gods of unimaginable design lurking underneath all that we hold dear.

Perhaps the only downside to the writing is that the main character in all of these stories is basically the same guy with different names. Our protagonist is blackout drunk from page 1 through page 250, across nine different stories. I fear for the liver of Mr. Barron.
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on March 30, 2018
What a great writer, what a imagination. Mr. Barron never ceases to amaze me, he’s like a demented surgeon, stabs a hole into the body of rashional thinking and keeps digging and digging and digging until he finally reaches the tender stuff underneath; then he slices into the marrow more and more until it touches your soul and he won’t let go like a leech, superb. I first listen to one of Barron’s macabre works with Blackwood’s Baby and then to other works like the disturbing —30— and Hallucagina.
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on August 19, 2017
Literally fantastic collection of short stories with varied themes and textures. Award-winning for good reason and compulsively readable. Laird Barron has a distinct voice and vision with a naturalistic style vying with an expansive vocabulary. His universe is dismal, hopeless, existentially cruel, populated with madmen and jaded adventurers. Cannot recommend highly enough.
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It was an interesting read, but instead of feeling really stimulated during and after the read, I did feel a little depressed. It's very nihilistic. I wouldn't say I was entertained exactly. These are well-written tales tied together in one very grim story... like a really ugly collage you can't look away from easily. The more "historic" tale involving the Pinkerton agent was a gem, however. It's grotesqueness was mitigated by some real humor and terrific imagery.
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