X’s FOR EYES by Laird Barron (Bizarro Pulp Press)
This short novella is filled to the brim with Old Gods, a Himalayan Assassin School, a Murderous Cult, Corporate Espionage, and in the midst of it are the Tooms brothers. Like a twisted, sociopathic version of Hardy Boys, Johnny Quest and Haji, or the Venture Brothers; the Tooms brothers frantically stumble through this 1950’s cosmic sci-fi, pulp-adventure story. It’s hallucinatory, weird, and full of snappy, pulp-ridden dialogue.
I’m a pretty massive Laird Barron fan, with THE CRONING being one of my favorite books of the past decade, but this doesn’t quite scratch the itch I thought it would. But it does do something very different, something I’ve not seen from him. He’s in new territory here. He’s played with all the pieces presented in X’s FOR EYES, but never assembled them together, or in this sequence. Honestly, I found it a little difficult to follow and it’s not my favorite of his works, but it’s got its own charm and isn’t lacking in the weird category. It’s a difficult book to talk about because it’s packed full of so much cool shit, but is written in such a feverish way that the events in the story feel like a dream. And while it isn’t my favorite thing he’s ever written, it’s still pretty awesome, albeit a bit of a challenge.
The story takes some…ok a lot of twists and turns, ultimately revealing an awesome cosmic element that was the highlight of the book, for me. If you’re looking for a book that really has no peers, a book so singularly strange and bizarrely executed that I can think of no other that combines the these elements, I suggest you check it out. It has a density to the way that it’s written, which is a nice contrast against the ease of reading most weird literature that it’s actually refreshing. Not my favorite Barron, but something wholly unique and interesting that I can’t help but love it. Additionally, the cover art by Matthew Revert is incredibly sharp and captures a bit of the madness within. Get at it, you won’t be the same after you read it. (Sam Richard)