I believed that Laird Barron was the greatest new horror writer around after reading his first batch, so it was slightly nervously that I approached Occultation. I had already read two of the stories - The Forest, which is an extremely good science fictional mad scientist not-quite horror depending on how you look at it story, and The Lagerstatte, which is a good ghost story. Not much of a fan of ghost stories in general, either. Could he keep it up?
I need not have worried. Occultation is every bit as outstanding as The Imago Sequence, and even a little better (3.94 as opposed to 3.89). There's nothing to match the novella Hallucigenia, but there's nothing as weak as The Royal Zoo is Closed, either. Only problem is that there are only 9 stories to be found here. Unfortunately, Barron is no speed demon.
The collection starts with its strongest story (4.5), and branches out from there. There are two 'nameless couple' terrors in Occultation (4) and Six Six Six (3.5), another Asian mundane horror story is found in Strappado (3.5), and this time in India, and another similarly in the Pacific Northwest.
This is a setting that more normally has his Mythos horrors lurking, but here a pair of investigators are alone with a past relationship on the site that used to house a cult of serial killers. So goes --30-- (4).
Catch Hell gets outside of Seattle and all pentagram and devil summoning on us, and is also a very good scary vacation tale (4).
Mysterium Tremendum (4) and The Broadsword (4.5) return to supernatural Mythos Washington State and surrounds, the former a camping and drinking tour to the site of an ancient dolmen, and the latter, despite its title, a horror hotel-now-apartments experience. These two tales demonstrate that he has established a baseline output at a very high level, and continues to build on that. As the number of tales increases, the interconnectedness between his story cycles grows, which is sure to delight his fans. On his livejournal he wrote that an upcoming story 'Blackwoods Baby' is loosely connected to Catch Hell. There you will also find his notes on what he is working on every so often, as well as announcements of new work.
The only real horror is having to wait so long for more.
So check out Occultation and his previous collection the Imago Sequence.
There is a master at work, here.
Occultation : The Forest - Laird Barron
Occultation : Occultation - Laird Barron
Occultation : The Lagerstatte - Laird Barron
Occultation : Mysterium Tremendum - Laird Barron
Occultation : Catch Hell - Laird Barron
Occultation : Strappado - Laird Barron
Occultation : The Broadsword - Laird Barron
Occultation : --30-- - Laird Barron
Occultation : Six Six Six - Laird Barron