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Posted May 27, 2012
The Croning follows Don Miller, a genial yet seemingly addle-minded older gent whose career in geology has trailed off, along with his mental acuity. Don's wife Michelle, though nearly the same age, continues jetting around the globe, exploring, conferencing, and occasionally vanishing in ways that seem both secretive and suspicious. The book begins with an altered and mood-shifted version of the Rumplestilskin fable, which takes place in some indeterminate distant past, and also connects to the later story of Don, Michelle and their families. From there, the story moves from the 1950s to the 1980s to the present day. Time is not merely linear and forward-moving, in fact the looping, repetitive and continuous nature of time is a matter of repeated focus here.
We encounter secret agents, corrupt police, weird rituals, and Barron's oft-present bored, wealthy decadents messing with things they oughtn't. The stories of Don, Michelle, their ancestors and the shadowy followers of Old Leach are full of dark mysteries, secrecy and possible betrayals.
As a critic, even an informal one, do I compare The Croning against Barron's masterful shorter works, or against contemporary novels of horror and weird fiction by other authors?
I'd say by any standard The Croning is a success. That's not to say The Croning eclipses such masterworks as "The Forest," "The Imago Sequence" or "Mysterium Tremendum" in craft, narrative impact or overall quality. Rather he equals the standard set by his own shorter works, and by doing so in the more widely accepted and commercially viable form of the novel, takes that necessary next step toward asserting a more general dominance over the horror/weird genre.
A few years ago, any mention of Laird Barron's work invariably mentioned the word "Lovecraftian," yet over time Barron's work removed any question that his brand of cosmic horror had more going on than emulation of Lovecraft. Barron is in the process of establishing his own mythos with its own geography, including complex legends and interlocking structures of cause and effect. Readers familiar with his previous stories such as "The Men From Porlock" and others, will spot elements in The Croning which echo, either explicitly or implicitly, names, locations or events from earlier stories.
With The Croning, Laird Barron steps outside the short fiction arena and proves his style, combining the brisk energy of pulp storytelling with the dense richness of literary prose, translates well to novel length. This broader canvas allows Barron time to accumulate disorientation, build up a painful tension, and gradually lower the reader into cosmic, abyssal darkness. After reading the last page, I felt the need to reorient myself, the way a diver must decompress after delving into deep waters.
This is a powerful, affecting work of fiction, and the fact that it's a first novel implies great things are ahead for Barron and his readers. This guy is doing work of the highest order, and any fan of weird fiction, horror or dark fantasy needs to check it out. If you've held off checking out Laird Barron because you don't like short fiction, start with The Croning.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 10, 2013
The Croning is another excellent tale from Laird Barron. I think the length of the novel was adequate and he manages to tell a lot of story without unnecessary padding or over descriptive paragraphs. This novel has so many clever twists and turns that all link in as the novel closes. It is well worth reading and it is a superb horror novel in my opinion. I would suggest that potential readers of this book read Laird's novelette called, 'The Men From Porlock' first. However, that isn't a must and either can be read first or not at all. Both stories are excellent but The Croning will learn you much more about 'Old Leech' and his love for you and yours...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 14, 2012
I love Barron's stuff, to find out that he recently published another book not too far from The Croning has me excited.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 1, 2013
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Posted September 4, 2013
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