A short while back John F.D. Taff wrote a very insightful guest essay on the effectiveness of the short form in horror fiction. Since then I have had the great fortune to read and enjoy some outstanding novellas in the field, ranging from Adam Howe’s collection DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET to Lisa Mannetti’s blisteringly gorgeous DEATHWATCH and, most recently, Laird Barron‘s newest book X’S FOR EYES.
Laird Barron is one of those authors whose work is difficult to write about. Everything he publishes is golden and I wonder what the hell I might say to do it justice. Like all of his work, X’S FOR EYES is an outstanding story, rife with quirky, often amoral characters and paced like a manic freight train on a downhill run straight to hell. It’s an action packed pulp-cosmic-noir adventure story that takes place in various locales, from an assassin’s school in the Himalayas to an excavation site in Alaska, and eventually an alternate universe where Macbeth and Drederick Tooms encounter horrors beyond imagining.
Every author has a major strength that makes their work stand out. Laird’s, in my opinion, is his mastery of setting. He uses a combination of what he imagines and what he knows to take you to the places he’s writing about. Whether it’s Alaska, The Olympic Peninsula, or a bizarre and twisted alternate universe peopled with old gods, you can feel the cold seeping through your shoes, hear the gravel crunching beneath your feet as you experience the story in a directly visceral fashion. This ability to transport you, coupled with powerful imagery and narrative prowess, makes for a captivating tale that sticks with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
For a book of only ninety or so pages, X’S FOR EYES is a huge addition to Laird Barron’s lexicon, a story that draws you in and pins you in place for the duration, reads way too fast and leaves you hoping beyond hope that we will see much more of the Tooms brothers and company. If you like your fiction, weird, fast moving, and filled with delightful pulpy goodness, X’S FOR EYES is right up your alley. Possibly my favorite Laird Barron book to date.
Check out the synopsis of the book below and go here to pre-order X’S FOR EYES.
X’S FOR EYES Synopsis:
Brothers Macbeth and Drederick Tooms should have it made as fair-haired scions of an impossibly rich and powerful family of industrialists. Alas, life is complicated in mid-1950s USA when you’re child heirs to the throne of Sword Enterprises, a corporation that has enshrined Machiavelli’s The Prince as its operating manual and whose patriarch believes, Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds, would be a swell company logo.
Consider also those long, cruel winters at the Mountain Leopard boarding school for assassins in the Himalayas, or that Dad may be a supervillain, while an uncle occasionally slaughters his nephews and nieces for sport; and the space flight research division of Sword Enterprises “accidentally” sent a probe through a wormhole into outer darkness and contacted an alien god. Now a bloodthirsty cult and an equally vicious rival firm suspect the Tooms boys know something and will spare no expense, nor innocent life, to get their claws on them.
Between the machinations of the disciples of black gods and good old corporate skullduggery, it’s winding up to be of a hell of a summer vacation for the lads.
About Laird Barron: Laird Barron spent his early years in Alaska, where he raced the Iditarod three times during the early 1990s and worked as fisherman on the Bering Sea. He is the author of several books, including The Croning, The Imago Sequence, Occultation, The Light Is the Darkness, and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. His work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies. An expatriate Alaskan, Barron currently resides in upstate New York.