Book Review – X’s for Eyes by Laird Barron

xsforeyescoverart

Well, as they say; you can’t choose your family.

Mac and Dred Tooms are teenage brothers, set to inherit their family’s global empire in space and other worldly exploration. Sounds good, right? Yet when the brothers discover a satellite buried in a crash site, instead of landing them as favourites for the Nobel Prize, things take a strange turn for our heroes.

Sword Enterprises, the family ‘business’ has been able to send a rocket probe into space and pass through some kind of wormhole type thing into a crazy parallel dimension, or something. But what did that probe discover? Intelligent life? Aliens? Great Old Ones? Well, yeah.

What follows is a fast-paced horror action adventure where the Tooms brothers are thrust right into the centre of technological espionage. The satellite contains secrets that others would be very interested to learn of. Suddenly they are meeting with Sword Enterprises’ rivals, Zircon and being attacked by strange mercenaries who seek to destroy the brothers and their knowledge of these secrets from another universe.

Throughout the story you have to keep reminding yourself that the brothers are actually still children, ‘cuz they sure as hell don’t act like it. I suppose if there’s a set of circumstances to really make you grow up fast, though then these are sure to do just that.

At the beginning of the story I was kind of scratching my head, wondering if I actually knew what was going on, and whether I was even enjoying myself. But I stuck with it, and was duly rewarded.

Now I like my gore in a story, and there was plenty here to whet my sadistic appetite. There’s a few gruesome deaths and enough ‘icky’ moments that made me sneer away, yet never enough to tear my eyes from the page. I also love my splattering of dark humour, and was equally satisfied with the levels on display. The balance is just right; funny one moment, horrific and stomach-churning the next. Although it was never too ridiculously humorous, just verging on the edge of it. Like how Goldilocks finds the Wee Bear’s chair, porridge, and bed!

Apparently, Laird Barron is being spoken of as the next HP Lovecraft, or something like that. I’d sort of agree with that assessment. The cosmic horror is definitely on track; the dark perils from ‘the other side’ that are waiting to consume humanity are more than a nod in his direction, but I don’t remember old Howard writing such good dialogue. The Lovecraftian horror is delivered perfectly, though, even going as far as to suggest that the Great Old Ones were always aware that the great man had been writing about them all those years ago; a nice touch. Come to think of it I could quite easily imagine Shub-Niggurath settling down with some pulp horror in his tentacles, chuckling away as he sends some other innocent soul insane.

Anyway, back to the story. Before long Mac and Dred are transported to meet with monsters and beasts from other worlds, as well as being visited by old relatives through weird dream-like states. And it appears that their relatives are pretty no-nonsense badasses. Definitely best to keep on their good sides.

Maybe I’m not explaining things properly or coherently, but I think that’s the beauty of this story; you can’t describe it like ‘this happens, then this, then this…’ It was enjoyable to sit and immerse myself in the strange world where two brothers in over their heads try to survive and make sense of weird corporations, cults, and cosmic monsters.

Like I said, a few pages in and I was wondering whether I’d be in for the long haul. But after completing this short novella I’m so glad I ignored that voice in my head. The other voice in my head (the one I actually listened to) insisted I continue, though. Perhaps it was Black (a sentient onyx diamond, by the way- like I said, it’s a crazy tale) who spoke to me. I dunno. Maybe I could get a job with Sword Enterprises?

So yeah, I’m going to be recommending this book. It’s a four-starrer!

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3 replies

  1. I like the way you pour your heart into it. Gotta read some more of your personal stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll be honest, I gave up early with this one. It really didn’t work for me at all. I just couldn’t get into it at all 😕

    Liked by 1 person

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