The Croning | Laird Baron | Rougeski Review

The Croning by Laird Barron is a brilliant example of cosmic horror.  However, it is much more than just an exciting, masterfully written, and unique novel.  It could be said that it is an insightful metaphor for the human experience under a cosmic sky.  A cautionary tale.  As stated in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men: “You can’t stop what’s coming.”  After reading The Croning, readers may begin looking behind their backs, trying desperately to see what’s coming and wondering what omens they had failed to notice.

When a text is born to the public, it takes on a life of its own and offers many avenues of entrance and understanding.  The reader becomes the co-author.  This is especially true of The Croning.

Barron’s writing style is pristine, high end, and intelligent with no hint of egocentricity.  It’s all about the story, and it is a pleasure to read such a skilled, unpretentious application of language—the perfect meeting of style and substance.  Readers will be transported into the world of cosmic horror in every sense by the clarity of the author’s voice.  Evocative descriptions carry readers to varied locations across the United States and Mexico.

The plot is reinforced by an extensive array of characters with varied personalities.  Their often suspicious actions leave a trail of breadcrumbs that astute readers might employ in order to deconstruct the plot and to understand the dangers faced by the protagonist.  Every character is an important cog in the gears of the universe.  Most notable would be the protagonist’s wife whose prophetic last name is Mock.

The plot of this novel is a highly complex, nonlinear collection of episodes from the life of Don Miller, the protagonist.  Casual readers may become confused after reading the first few chapters, wondering where the story is going, but perseverance will be richly rewarded.  The first chapter is an augmented version of the Rumpelstiltskin story.  It could be said that this chapter is a unique example of post-modern reading instructions that set the stage for what is to come.  It is an integral element of the text that ultimately serves to complete the circle of life at the end.  Perceptive readers will notice a disturbing pattern of mysterious experiences that affect the protagonist’s life.  He goes on stumbling through life never following the thread of clues that the universe has left for him.  Will he be able to reconstruct his fragmented memories?  Only the most astute reader will guess what is coming.

The stunning double-conclusion comes full circle and ties up all the loose ends, positing the question that perhaps nobody can stop what is coming, not even the brother of a queen.

After completing this epic work, readers may be given to look back upon their own lives in fear that they may have missed warning signs that could have helped them come to the realization that they may simply be cog in a larger game they may never win because they had been sleepwalking through life like a slaughter animal that wanders through its short life, totally unaware of the evil that his masters have plotted for him

The Croning comes highly recommended and should be considered a brilliant cautionary tale, a wakeup call.  The knowing is half the battle.


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Book Title: The Croning


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