In the age-old tradition of masterful story telling guaranteed to make your skin crawl, author Laird Barron offers us THE IMAGO SEQUENCE AND OTHER STORIES, ten heart numbing tales of terror that will leave you glancing furtively in the mirror, ever fearful something altogether unwholesome will glance back in recognition. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories comes to us courtesy of Night Shade Books, an independent book publisher with an impressive reputation for publishing outstanding authors. And should you acquire the limited hardcover edition of The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, signed by the author himself, you will have in your hands the edition that includes "Hour of the Cyclops", an energetic tribute to H. P. Lovecraft which first appeared in the online e-zine, The Three-Lobed Burning Eye. You will not want to miss this one. Appearing in both editions for the first time is the novella "Procession of the Black Sloth", an original tale Mr. Barron penned exclusively for the collection, in homage to Asian horror. I had to read this novella several times over because it had me running hither and yon in my head trying to identify the numerous allusions embedded therein, which included big and little screen classics; classic tales of horror; literary and genre novels; authors; music, so on and so forth. The novella is a veritable puzzle, deftly crafted, at once horrifying and irreverently entertaining. Even Santa Claus takes a hit in this lurid tale of skewed reality, where the game played in Hong Kong is the game of retribution. And should you find yourself unfamiliar with some of the allusions, you will nonetheless enjoy this dark and oft-times grisly tale, in which the author pulls out all the stops, not pausing once to spare the reader nightmares. If you enjoy conundrums, you will enjoy reading "Procession of the Black Sloth". I love all the tales in The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, but my favorite is "Hallucigenia", a novella as layered as the earth is ancient, offering to the reader an indirect and eerie glimpse at the Cambrian Period as it spills forth into present time, utterly annihilating everything in its path. Laird Barron performs here a deft and spine-tingling integration of H. P. Lovecraft's chthonic and inimical Old Ones with the contemporary science of paleontology -- the allusions are subtle, however, and require a discerning eye. I first read "Hallucigenia" in the June 2006 Issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and instantly recognized an award winning tale. In May of last year I wrote as much in a review I did on F&SF at Amazon, mentioning Laird Barron's outstanding novella. I've read the story three times since, and with each reading I experience something new, noteworthy, and ultimately chilling to the bone. "Hallucigenia" is a remarkable piece of writing, and will be recorded in literary history as a true classic among all the other great tales penned by master story-tellers past, present, and future. "Hallucigenia" was a finalist for the IHG Award in the long fiction category. The story was also nominated for a HWA Stoker Award. It is no exaggeration to say Laird Barron has indeed joined ranks with the reigning masters of eldritch horror. His award-nominated work has appeared and continues to appear in several of the "Best of ..." anthologies -- though what a pleasure it is to read his tales in this single, elegantly bound volume.
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories table of contents: Proboscis (8500 words): "Alien horrors pursue a failed actor during a nightmarish road trip with a pair of amateur bounty hunters..." F&SF 2005; reprinted in YBF&H 19; Best New Horror 2005; and Best New Fantasy 2005. Nominated for International Horror Guild Award. Bulldozer (10,600 words): "Jaded Pinkerton detective Jonah Koenig tracks a serial killer from Boston to an 1890s California mining town and encounters malevolence that dwarfs his grimmest imaginings..." SciFiction 2004; nominated for IHG award; reprinted in YBF&H 18 and a forthcoming Czech anthology. The Imago Sequence (20,000 words): "One tough guy investigator explores the origin of a series of macabre photographs and discovers secrets not meant for the eyes of Man..." F&SF 2005; reprinted in Hartwell & Cramer's Year's Best Fantasy 6; nominated for International Horror Guild Award; Nominated for World Fantasy Award. The Royal Zoo Is Closed (4500 words): "A vignette about life, angst and the end of the world..." Phantom # 0 World Fantasy Convention 2006. Old Virginia (8000 words): "A domestic CIA operation to conduct psychological experiments on an elderly woman goes terribly awry and one man will encounter the very incarnation of evil..." F&SF 2003; reprinted in YBF&H 17; nominated for IHG award. Parallax (9800 words): "Life unravels for a flamboyant modern artist following the mysterious disappearance of his wife..." SciFiction 2005. Hallucigenia (25000 words): "Cosmic terrors descend upon a hapless tycoon after a tragic accident..." F&SF 2006; Reprinted in Polish magazine Fantastyka (10/2006); nominated for the HWA Bram Stoker Award; nominated for the IHG Award. Shiva, Open Your Eye (5800 words): "A creature as old as the stars contemplates its origins and its destiny..." F&SF September 2001. Hour of the Cyclops (4500 words): "A humble hero saves mankind from chthonic destruction in this retro-pulp tribute to H. P. Lovecraft..." The Three-Lobed Burning Eye #6 2000. Procession of the Black Sloth (24,000 words): "A lurid tale of skewed reality, where the game played in Hong Kong is the game of retribution..." A tribute to Asian horror; original to the collection.
Reading Laird Barron's work is comparable to watching a star nebula being born. Highly recommended.