When I first read Barron's work it was through Imago Sequence and Other Stories, and reading that collection was mindblowing. A collection of horror stories that mashed a ton of genres, cosmic horror and philosophical ideas through a highly literary filter. When you read the stories in Imago, you didn't get the feeling that you were reading pastiches, or genre self-realization irony, no this was the real thing. There a labor of love and wanting to scary the shit out of the reader. Barron believed in what he was doing and brought a real life experience of primordial horror to his stories and characters. After Imago, I read The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and was again blown away by the level of high quality and consistency that Barron brought to the stories."The world had descended into a primeval well while she'd been partying in their motel room; it had slipped backward and now the desert truly was an ancient and haunted place." - Occultation
Both collections mostly dealt with lone men who were rugged and mean and highly capable with their hands and mind. But then those high capability men were utterly destroyed by the tide of cosmic, biological, and genetic horror that washed over them. A horror that brought some of humankind's best men and grinded them into nothing. It showed us--the normal folk--that we had no chance in hell of surviving. Each story was carefully crafted and fully realized, done through a tapestry of horror in which we sometimes got to see the whole picture; but mostly the whole picture is often never seen and never will be. I thought these books were some of the best horror and Barron stories I've read.
And then I read Occultation; and it was a revelation. Occultation collects some of the best horror stories ever written. Not only the best horror stories but each story is Barron at the height of his storytelling power.
While Imago and Beautiful dealt with hard men, Occultation is different. Occultation deals with a diverse crowd of ordinary people surrounded by a horrific tide waiting to swallow. Each of these characters are multidimensional and textured with their own thoughts and feelings. Most of them have a feeling or small idea of what they're up against or walking into, but such knowledge doesn't help them. These characters are doomed from the first word and Barron does a beautiful job making us care for them and sadly, making us read their impeding doom.
The sad thing about their doom is that it is brought forth from the people they love, from their relationship to them. Couples doomed because of their love for each other and lone men and women doomed through their past or present relationships; this is a big change from Imago and Beautiful. No longer are there lone hardy men but just ordinary people trying to eke a living in a harsh world, but they're unable t.
Barron's cosmic and biological horror is further hidden than Imago and Beautiful. They seep through the cracks of our world but only reveal themselves to those who are emotionally unstable or extreme. These horrors too, are seek out by the doomed, as if they were made specially for them. Just like the horrors in Imago and Beautiful, they transform the person into something more, something higher. These transformations are the new evolution in the human genome and that the current human designed is flawed and unstable. This theme is followed in all of Barron's work and it is absolutely terrifying to think about.
Occultation is a gut-wrenching collection that shows Barron is more than lone men. That he is a highly diverse storyteller and can write any type of story or character he sets his mind to.