New Treasures: Laird Barron’s The Croning

New Treasures: Laird Barron’s The Croning

croningHoward and I first met the talented Laird Barron at the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas in 2006. At the time he’d published only a handful of short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, SCI FICTION and a few other markets — but what great stories they were, including”Hallucigenia,” “The Imago Sequence,” and “Shiva, Open Your Eye.”

Laird turned out to be a fascinating and entertaining guy. Seriously, next time you’re at a convention, hang with this guy. He has a pure, unabashed love of Lovecraft, pulp and crime fiction, and westerns, and his fiction combines these elements in marvelous new ways. And if you get a chance, ask him to explain his famous comment that the Bible is “the greatest horror story ever told.”

Laird’s first collection was The Imago Sequence & Other Stories, released in trade paperback by Night Shade Books in 2007; it was followed by Occultation in 2010 (also from Night Shade). He won the 2007 and 2010 Shirley Jackson Award for his collections, and has been nominated for numerous other awards, including the Crawford, Sturgeon, International Horror Guild, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker and Locus Awards. These two books helped cement his reputation, and transform him from a rising young star to one of the most respected dark fantasy and horror writers working today.

His long-awaited first novel, The Croning, arrived in May, and true to form it combines cosmic horror and noir fiction in Barron’s signature style:

Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us. Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret…of The Croning.

The Croning is 245 pages; it is available in hardcover (for $24.99) and digital ($8.99) format from Night Shade Books.

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John R. Fultz

THE CRONING was the first book I read this summer. Here’s what I wrote about it on my blog a few weeks ago:

The first book I read this season was Laird Barron’s debut novel THE CRONING, a tale of cosmic horror that I’ve been waiting about three years for. Laird is hailed far and wide as one of the best horror writers working today—and with good reason—he’s one of the only people whose work actually frightens me. More than once his stories have had me sleeping with the light on, or given me creeptacular nightmares. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, because I keep coming back for more.
THE CRONING delivers the creeping cosmic horror that makes Laird’s work so widely acclaimed. It is the very definition of a “page-turner.” He steeps the reader in such realistic sensory detail and such fully-realized characterizations that when the horror lurking beneath mundane reality rears its grotesque head, it is all the more terrifying. Laird’s work is often described as “Lovecraftian”–some have even called him “the new H.P. Lovecraft”–because the philosophy that permeates his dark tales of fragile humanity on the verge of abysmal revelations derives from Lovecraft’s own body of work. But Laird takes that philosophy—”cosmic horror”—and makes it his own.
Vast beings from beyond space and time seek entry to our world through black magic and ancient cults; extraterrestrial beings lurk between the stars hungry for warm flesh to rend and devour; human consciousness is an illusion that hides the reality of celestial horrors the likes of which our minds cannot truly grasp; our consensual reality is a lie mean to be shattered by those Terrible Things that lay in wait beyond our nightmares. All of this merely scratches the surface of THE CRONING, and none of it would matter if Laird didn’t create such enjoyable (or terrifying) and realistic characters to inhabit his fiction.
The book culminates in a sanity-shattering climax, but along the way it builds gradually toward madness with tantalizing glimpses of the otherworldly horrors that drive certain elements of humanity to worship and grovel before their dark majesty. This book is also notable for how it plays with time, beginning somewhere in “Antiquity” and ending in the modern age, but skipping around in between—flashing backwards and forwards–to create a strange fugue of warped reality and deranged senses. The alien and inhuman forces that infest the world are not bound to the dictates of linear time as we are, and neither is the narrative Laird Barron weaves so skillfully about his reader. There is also a statement here about the inherent power and potential cruelty of the Female, but interpreting that is best left up to the individual.
Suffice to say that THE CRONING is a must-read for any serious horror fans, as well as anyone who simply loves a good scare.


A little late, but ‘Occultation’ was just the Kindle Daily Deal the other day. I grabbed it.

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