The Light Is the Darkness by Laird Barron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Conrad Navarro, a modern day gladiator in an underground fighting league, has been searching for his missing sister Imogene for years. His search takes him all over the world and what he finds may devour humanity...
With this book, my quest to read all of the works of Laird Barron by the end of 2017 is complete. Honestly, it took me a little while to get into this one. I was puzzled over what it was supposed to be. At some point, things turned over and I was hooked.
Most of the descriptions I've read for The Light is the Darkness emphasize Conrad's job, that of a gladiator that fights to death or dismemberment in secret arenas all over the world. That part is secondary, I'd say. The Light is the Darkness is more about Conrad's search for his sister and all the secrets he uncovers along the way.
The Light is the Darkness actually feels more like a Roger Zelazny book than anything else, particularly This Immortal, albeit infused with the Barronoid mythos. Like the titular character whose first name he shares, Conrad is one of those capable, somewhat smart-mouthed protagonists that still manages to get way out of his depth.
Barron's prose is as delicious as always, with a poet's gift for phrasing. I caught a few more comic and pulp references than usual, like the one to the Shadow. One of the drawbacks of reading a physical book over an ebook is that you can't highlight things for later reference. There were a lot of sentences I would have highlighted in this one.
The cosmic horror lurks in the background for most of this book, although there are hints of the Children of Old Leech in the background and "time is a circle" was mention a couple times. As Conrad unearthed more secrets, I was pretty sure the book was heading toward a Jim Thompson sort of ending.
The Light is the Darkness is nasty, brutish, and short, quite a good way to spend a cold afternoon. Four out of five stars. Now that I've devoured the works of Laird Barron like an uncaring cosmic worm, I'm waiting patiently for Blood Standard.
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