cover image The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

Laird Barron, . . Night Shade, $24.95 (239pp) ISBN 978-1-59780-088-4

Horrors that defy description and challenge reader expectations charge the electrifying stories in this powerful debut collection. Barron synthesizes influences ranging from H.P. Lovecraft to hard-boiled crime fiction in nine ingeniously plotted tales whose many layers peel away to reveal highly original and viscerally unsettling premises. “Old Virginia” is narrated by a Cold War–era CIA agent, unaware that the chaos around him is due not to Communists but to occult forces escaping the control of the scientists he's guarding. In the period western “Bulldozer,” a Pinkerton agent discovers that serial killings are part of an elaborate occult ritual for placating a supernatural entity. The title story concerns a triptych of photographs used by a malign cult to snare acquisitive art collectors. Barron intensifies the emotional impact of his fiction by providing protagonists who ultimately realize that their doom is inevitable and drag the reader down with them. These vividly imagined and eerily credible stories herald a potent new voice in horror fiction. (Sept.)