I bought this purely on the strength of Old Virginia, which I read in one of the Fantasy Year’s Best and which I really enjoyed, even if my memory was a bit dim on the details till my reread. After reading this collection I realize again that I’m probably not the best audience for horror. I prefer plain and clear writing, not stylistic attempts that make the whole thing overly opaque, even when the main plot is actually quite simplistic. I really do like explanations somewhere along the way, not a tapestry of hints and guesswork. All the stylistic tics by Barron that tried to evoke a nightmarish and drugged state (most of the stories are told from a first person viewpoint) got really on my nerve.
All that said, I haven’t read much horror writing, so it might be that people who regularly read horror appreciate this stuff especially because of the things that annoyed me. And most of the stories had elements I really enjoyed, both on the writing and on the content level. Together with Old Virginia I liked Procession of the Black Sloth (even if I don’t get the ending completely) and the final story The Imago Sequence. In the end I didn’t get what I wanted from the collection, but it was still a fascinating and compelling read.
06/2011: These are the kind of stories that linger on longer than you expect them too, that leave a bigger impression than what you first thought. Part of their appeal is a weird mix of repulsiveness and attraction that is hard to pin down, especially if you think you don’t like this kind of stories and yet are still drawn to them. Like a virus I can’t get them out of my mind. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.