Book Review: The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

For me, this Stoker award winning collection has a lot of merit, but simply doesn’t capture me on an individual level.

It’s hard for me to say where exactly the book doesn’t work me. In many of the stories, I simply spaced out and lost the plot. For example, I honestly couldn’t tell you what “The Siphon” or “Jaws of Saturn” are about. When trying to re-read them, I found myself spacing out again. About all I can say about those stories is that they bored me. It may not be fair to dismiss them like that, but if they can’t keep my attention for more than a couple pages it’s safe to say they aren’t worth my time.

One story I can say I enjoyed without reservation is “Vastation.” It’s difficult to describe what it’s about, mostly because the narrator is completely unreliable. If he’s to be at all believed, he’s a creature that transcends time and space and uses this ability to wreak havoc. Of course, it’s entirely possible he’s simply insane and the whole story is nothing but the ramblings of a psycho. Either way, I enjoyed this bad trip of a story.

“The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven” had me hooked from the beginning but ultimately disappointed me. A woman flees into a cabin in the woods with her lesbian lover to escape her abusive husband, then discovers some sort of cosmic evil hidden in the woods. The story had a set up that fascinated me and made me hope it wouldn’t go the supernatural horror route. But it did, and I think the story is worse off for it.

While I admire Laird Barron’s commitment to subtlety (besides “Vastation,” which works entirely because of its lack), many of his endings feel like anti-climaxes. I’m not really sure why Barron’s brand of subtle cosmic horror doesn’t really work for me in the way that the stories of someone like Thomas Ligotti does. It might just be that Barron’s choice of imagery just doesn’t have the effect on me that he intends. He’s too “rustic” for me. His recurring themes about horrors hidden in the backwoods feels too much like campfire story material. The stories feel quaint rather than unnerving.

Speaking of Ligotti, there’s actually a story about him in this collection that just feels out of place. By itself, it’s an okay piece of metafiction with some funny moments. The problem is it’s not a horror story, it’s a satire of the modern horror literature scene. The unifying themes in the previous stories were strong enough that a story this different sticks out in a bad way. The fact it takes a lot of pot shots at one of my favorite horror authors doesn’t do it any favors either.

Now, while I’ve done nothing but bash this collection, I still recommend that horror fans give it a shot. I really think my dislike of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All boils down to personal preference. If you’re fan of Lovecraft-esque cosmic horror, then chances are you’ll enjoy this collection. Or you could just skip it and pick up a Thomas Ligotti collection instead.

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4c4iIXqDBen Arzate lives in Des Moines, Iowa. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Ugly Babies, Bizarro Central, Spoilage, The Mustache Factor, Twenty Something Press, and Keep This Bag Away From Children. He blogs at http://dripdropdripdropdripdrop.blogspot.com/

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