Although I haven’t spent too much time on this mortal plane, I’ve spent most of it reading. Usually, I read horror, but I tend try to read a bit of everything. I just want the reader to keep in mind that I’ve read a great many books, and as such, I feel that I know what I am talking about. Having said that, I have just recently come to a conclusion that Laird Barron’s first novel, The Light is the Darkness, is a modern day classic. It’s up there with Frankenstein, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and The Road. Why, you ask? I have a simple answer: the book is perfect. The characters are perfect. The story is perfect. Everything is perfect. Its only flaw is that it ended! The Light is the Darkness can be considered a mix of Lovecraftian horror, philosophy, science, existentialism, gritty-action, and blunt prose, but I’ll just call the book art.
There is no easy way to provide a synopsis of the story, but here goes nothing. Conrad, a champion of a modern-day, underground blood-sport competition whose matches are held across the globe, is traveling around the world in search of his sister Imogene, an F.B.I. agent who goes searching after the mysterious Dr. Drake, who killed their brother Ezra in some foul experiment. Along the way, Conrad learns the meaning of life, and begins a transition into something much more than human, which is a theme present in a couple other stories from Laird Barron, but never on such a grand scale as in The Light is the Darkness.
The book’s prose is very blunt, elegantly simplistic, almost brutish, but the words themselves sing of a bleak, gritty world, with much bleaker, grittier themes. Barron makes you feel so small and insignificant, as if the cosmos and all the horrors within them are looking directly at you. The Light is the Darkness forces you to look right into the abyss, to jump in it, swim around, and come out realizing that what looked back at you may have been some mangled portrait of your own, alien self. There are scenes in this book that will haunt and scar the reader. There was one particular incident that gave me such chills, my eyes nearly watered. The book will not give you cheap thrills from the occasional gory episode. Instead, Laird Barron describes some of the most complex and primal actions in ways that scare the living daylights out of you, or make you recline in your chair and think for awhile.
The Light is the Darkness is as smart, scientific, and philosophical as it is eerie, horrifying, and downright disturbing. Think of it as a combination of Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernest Hemmingway, and H.P. Lovecraft, and mix that with the bold, blunt, and tough style Laird Barron is known for. I won’t be surprised if there will be a Penguin Classics edition in a strange aeon or two.
If you’re a fan of Laird Barron, you need this book. Barron fans will appreciate his references to his past tales, such as “The Imago Sequence”, “Six Six Six”, “Hallucigenia”, “Old Virginia”, and perhaps even “Shiva, Open your Eye”. I can also recommend this to honestly anyone interested in fine, complex, dark fiction. I cannot recommend this to lovers of a specific genre because it is a combination of so many genres. If you truly love literature, you will love this book. Not only is the books simply immaculate, but the design is impeccable. The book is published by Infernal House, which is run by one of the best publishers on this plane of existence, Larry Roberts. The book is bond in the most exquisite leather, and comes in a luxurious traycase. David Ho drew some fine illustrations for the book, my personal favorite being a mouth eating the universe. I could probably write an entire other review on the design of the book! Hopefully Larry Roberts and Laird Barron will work on another project in the future.
The Light is the Darkness shows how insanely godlike Laird Barron is as a writer. As noted above, this book ranks among some of the best books ever written, in my opinion. If you want a real treat for all of your senses, go pick up a copy of the Infernal House edition and immerse yourself. It is worth every single penny. For the design, the book is a ten out of ten, and for the actual story itself, I honestly cannot give it a number. It is that incredible. The Light is the Darkness will take you to the darkest corners of the earth, and when you come back from this adventure, you will go through a metamorphosis of your own.
The caterpillar enters the cocoon. Ouroboros bites its tail.