The funny weird glitch with my copy of Laird Barron's "The Light is the Darkness"

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Summary: I sometime back pre-ordered Laird Barron's 'The Light is the Darkness', and excitedly received it recently. But there was a glitch. A strangely perfect coincidental glitch.

BLOT: (15 Oct 2011 - 03:28:23 PM)

The funny weird glitch with my copy of Laird Barron's "The Light is the Darkness"

Back sometime ago, not sure when exactly because the past is a great big bit ephemeral stew to me at this moment in time, I pre-ordered Laird Barron's The Light is the Darkness. That link goes to Bloodletting Press's entry talking about the then near-to-ship book. It also includes some pictures of the absolutely gorgeous volume, of which I will include this one:

And when I say "absolutely gorgeous volume" I mean it is a humdinger of a book. Nice soft leather cover with a raised gladiator helmet imprint (and ribbon, naturally), that fits inside of a high quality box custom built to hold it. If you are interested in seeing some more about it, Wilum H. Pugmire recently talked about it on his vlog, and includes some shots of him holding it up and opening it and such. That starts about the 1:31 mark if you are impatient and skip straight to the "sweet spot".

A couple of weeks ago, I guess about three or four, now, I got my copy in the mail and got all excited (and man, it is pretty) and thumbed through it to see the end papers and the illustrations. And then I got to the end, what was the very end of my edition, and I noticed that it was about page 16. The final page, about page 16. And that made no sense. I cautiously—avoiding spoilers—went back a page or two at the time until I got to the proper end, and found out that my copy had a somewhat unique glitch that an extra packet1 had ended up sewed into the end. What made this more unique, since wayward packets are relatively common all things considered, is the fact that packet was the first few pages of the book, and the fact that the last words—and I'll avoid spoilers as much as possible—are "Shall we begin?" Which meant that I was, at first, a little unsure that it was a glitch, and had this been written by Danielewski, I might not have even blinked at it besides to wryly chuckle [which, well, I did anyhow.]

I no longer have that copy. Slightly alas because I think if I had known that I was not actually losing any content I might have hushed up and bragged about it being physically in my possession, but there you go and all things being equal, I would rather a copy that brags about the quality of craftsmanship than the glitches thereof. I wrote to Larry Roberts and he was a saint of booksellers in the speed and care that he took care of me. I thought I might be screwed at first, seeing how this a limited edition, but I can say that I will never worry about any book I buy from him, again. Seriously. Go and spend some money at his store. If you have no idea what to spend money on, you can always buy me a copy of The Ghost of Fear and Others.

As for the book itself, I really doubt any of you have failed to pick up that I am a huge Laird Barron fan, and this book is no exception. I loved it. Enjoyed it. Maybe, even, in a moment of weakness, made love to it (it is soft goat leather, after sensous).

A dangerous man, Conrad, who dresses up as a Roman gladiator and participates in modern day fights to the death for the pleasure of much richer, even more dangerous men, is obsessed with finding his sister Imogene, who, herself, has disappeared on a quest to find someone: Dr. Ambrose Drake. The good Dr. Drake did some cutting edge medical research, at least that was the gist of his cover, and treated terminally ill children. Yet years after Imogene and Conrad's older brother dies from cancer, she is convinced that Drake—along with others—was responsible and plans to hold him, and them, accountable. While searching for her, Conrad plays her cat-and-mouse game by find, and using on himself, various caches of "clues" she has left behind: artifacts of military mind experiments and bits of darker lore. Of course, this is a Barron story, so "the more you know" is spoken like a threat, and we get intimations of primitive biology2 mixed up with darker, more primal energy, and the things beneath stir the overhead in ways not often seen, but always dreaded. It effectively slow paces its own mood throughout, leading one to a place where you know what is coming, and you still dread it.

I get the feeling reading this that we are going to see something of a grand Barron paradigm out in the open, soon. This book/story sets it up and maybe the forthcoming The Croning will help to cement it.3 Well, it has already been present in a number of his stories but I have a feeling that he is starting to sort out a few threads that will now intertwine back on themselves. Not only does The Light directly reference several stories from The Imago Sequence—including, most strongly, the eponymous story—but it later throws open the doors on several hinted whispers and gets a fair amount of explanation in. His writing style sometimes elicits groans for how vague he can keep things even in the midst of keeping them taut and fearful, and I was somewhat shocked when one some "X is happening" moments happened later on in the book. Don't worry, though, he still manages to end the story, effectively, mid-climax in a way that I love, and hopefully you enjoy.

If for nothing else, Barron deserves accolades for dealing with a cult-ish hidden-in-plain-sight mythos in a way that Lovecraft is now famous for, but unlike vast swaths of other current weird fiction writers, does not feel the need to continuously name drop Derlethian things with great big wallops of sauce. While his stuff is more organic than the somewhat systemic issues other writers tackle, it still makes for a treat. He is a proper Post-Lovecraftian, and that is a delightful thing to read.

How could I end a review without a shout out to the artwork of David Ho? If that man releases a collection via some big coffee table style book, I am there. Maybe he has...hmm, I need to check up on that. I also need to convince someone to put out a buyable print of the picture on the left of the trio above, which is one of my favorite pieces of art from the past few years. A framed bit of that on my wall would make me smile. I guess I could rip it out...but then I would cry. Great big salty tears. If you want to see it a bit fuller, then go to the link above, click on "Gallery", and then "Commercial", and then it is [currently] the last bit in the gallery. Or go and look at them all. Have fun.

1: For those who do not know, the pages of books are printed on big sheets of paper with several pages, front and back, per sheet and then the sheet is folded and cut, in packets. This is why the number of pages, by which I mean the front and back side, in a book tends to be a multiple of 8. If you ever wondered why books often have a few blank pages in the back, there you go.

2: As of yet, I am unsure if Barron refers to the hominid state of pre-civilized man as a stand in to our darker, more primitive side—a time when we were more surely animals—or if there is an indication of an event that interacted with us then, and this Event set the balls in motion that allows us to glimpse behind the curtain.

3: Barron identifies, in his blog, The Croning as a follow-up to the duology of "The Broadsword" and "Mysterium Tremendum" with a "prequel of sorts" in the recently published "The Men from Porlock"—I have not read the latter but I will rectify this weekend. Which means that we may have an "Imago" cycle, and a "Croning" cycle, which are not an overarching mythos so much as twin reflection of things.

Laird Barron, Weird Fiction


Written by Doug Bolden

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