X’s for Eyes

April 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

eyesX’s for Eyes by Laird Barron

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I’m a bit late to the Laird Barron party. I’d heard plenty about him from various sources, but kept putting him off. I saw that most of his output is short stories, and I’m more interested in novels than short stories at this time. I also saw that he was being compared to Thomas Ligotti, a writer I can respect, but don’t enjoy all that much. Still, when I saw this novella on sale for $2.00, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what all the talk was about.

It’s difficult to place this story. It’s about two brothers who are poised to inherit a tremendous, successful aerospace company, and live the lavish lifestyle that comes to the young rich. They’re much younger than one would expect, which is in itself a little strange, but their adventure in this story begins when a satellite crashes near them during a meteor shower. Investigation reveals that this is a satellite their company will be launching next week, and it shows signs of having been in space for hundreds of years.

I had a more difficult time than usual to get into the story. Barron’s style feels a little unnatural, a little stilted, but it’s something I grew accustomed to fairly quickly, and once I had a handle on his style, the story flew by. By the same token, Barron’s story is unnatural and a little stilted, so the narrative fits the story. Despite the story being set in the 1950s, and falling solidly into the Eldritch style of fiction that sometimes demands a more archaic narrative style, the language feels modern. It helps that the technology of this 1950s Earth is much more advanced than what we have now in the 2010s, but neither does the story feel like it’s happening right now. It’s a skillful balance of story, language, and setting.

I’ve read that this story is a bit different from Barron’s other stories — most people describe it as “fun” (and I would agree with that), which is apparently not Barron’s usual style — but it’s very well written and engaging. It captures an atmosphere that’s reminiscent of weird fiction, without it being a strictly weird story. I mean, don’t get me wrong — this is a weird story, but it’s not quite on the level of Machen or Lovecraft. It has a style all its own.

I’m glad I read this novella, since it encourages me to read more by this author. I’ll be interested in seeing what he can do with a full-blown weird fiction story, but if X’s for Eyes is any indication, it should be good.

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