Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron

I've been long overdue for reading this one. For one thing, Laird and I have several mutual friends, but mostly because he keeps being nominated for awards for his short stories, and has won some: Shirley Jackson award for best collection, World Fantasy award for the novella The Imago Sequence, The International Horror Guild award for Proboscis. By now, I'm sure he has likely been nominated for some other awards as well.

This is an amazing collection. These works will invite comparisons to the most respected authors in the genre, ranging form Lovecraft and Liggoti, to Straub. Those are fair comparisons, but in stories like the horror western, Bulldozer,

Barron shows the gonzo nature that reminds me of authors like Jeremy Robert Johnson, John Shirley and Cody Goodfellow. These three authors write great genre works which are both literature and gonzo. I mean, the first sentence of Bulldozer is "Then he bites off my shooting hand."

The Imago Sequence has nine stories that fit perfectly in the middle. Between literature and insane. Of course, Barron shows strength in creating bizarre and far-out concepts. It's his characters and strength of setting (mostly in the Pacific Northwest) which make the book so powerful.

My favorite pieces include Bulldozer, Proboscis, and the novella The Hallucigenia. The latter is a serious mind fuck - a strange family drama that twists through the lens of an horrific injury and hallucinogenic episodes. I might have been biased, having witnessed several works-in-progress of visual artist JD Bush, who is adapting this novella into a graphic novel. It's the most powerful of stories in a collection filled with powerful stories. Many of the stories even connect with one-another, and hint to an even larger story.

Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Like many, I discovered Dexter from the amazing Showtime television series. If you are a fan of the show, but haven't yet read the novels, then I suggest you check them out. They are different from the show for sure, but no so different that the show was unfaithful to the material. In fact, I think that, at least with the first season, the show stays very faithful to the novel.

The biggest difference between the two for me provides a strength for both. The television series focuses more closely on the B-characters, the supporting story lines. When pondering the story arcs with characters like Bautista, Deb and Rita, one cannot imagine the show without these. I love several of the characters on Dexter who reflect excellent casting and writing.

At the same time, the novel has to be more focused on Dexter as a character because it's a first-person narrative, told from Dexter's point of view. In the novel, our hero doesn't consider himself to be human, or anything like the humans around him. This provides excellent and humorous misanthropic dialogue. This is a highlight of the novel.

While the plot of the novel follows a shorter, more basic take on the season one story line, I was impressed by the breezy style. It is a well written narrative, which made me forget about my dislike for the first person. It's also a page turner; you'll fly right through it.