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.