Occultation and Other Stories (2010)


Decay. Sex. Disgust. Desire. Horror has many components, often follows a very predictable formula, and yet, when it’s done well, it taps into a well of mixed emotions that are basic to human nature and hard to resist. If you’ve read Laird Barron’s previous short story collection, The Imago Sequence, then most of the themes will feel familiar, most of the stories just like more permutations of Barron’s own twist on the horror formula.

There’s a lot of Lovecraft in here, though Barron’s stories exhibit their own allure that is hard to resist. The usual formula, the introduction of the characters, the first signs of the supernatural, the slow descent into madness, the point of no return and then the embrace of whatever lurks in the darkness, in the corners of reality, ready to destroy, defile, remake the characters and reality, all of Barron’s stories follow the same pattern.

It’s rarely death that the characters have to fear, but the change into something so horrifying that death would be a release. And each time a new story begins I wonder just what new horror Barron has dreamed up, how the sequence will unfold. The mix of lust and repulsiveness, the path that most of his characters seem to follow, is the same allure that his stories have on the reader.