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X's for Eyes

Narrated by: David Stifel
Length: 3 hrs and 9 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

Brothers Macbeth and Drederick Tooms should have it made as fair-haired scions of an impossibly rich and powerful family of industrialists. Alas, life is complicated in mid-1950s USA when you're child heirs to the throne of Sword Enterprises, a corporation that has enshrined Machiavelli's The Prince as its operating manual and whose patriarch believes, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds", would be a swell company logo. Consider also those long, cruel winters at the Mountain Leopard Boarding School for Assassins in the Himalayas, or that Dad may be a supervillain, while an uncle occasionally slaughters his nephews and nieces for sport; and the space flight research division of Sword Enterprises "accidentally" sent a probe through a wormhole into outer darkness and contacted an alien god. Now a bloodthirsty cult and an equally vicious rival firm suspect the Tooms boys know something and will spare no expense, nor innocent life, to get their claws on them. Between the machinations of the disciples of black gods and good old corporate skullduggery, it's winding up to be a hell of a summer vacation for the lads.

©2015 Journalstone Publishing (P)2016 Journalstone Publishing

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b-movie / Pulp / Grindhouse / Cosmic horror

Here's the thing... I'm a big Laird Barron fan. I find his collections of short-form work (which I read before 'The Croning' - best in that order) to be at once chilling, humorous, breath taking and "gorge rising" (not sure whether that works). Bottom line, they're splendid.

X's for eyes isn't. It's not bad. 'Fun' is the word that springs to mind when I think of it.

There are some memorable moments and characters here but it still feels as if Laird wrote a tribute novella whilst under the influence. One scene involving a supposedly reformed Nazi SS Commando and a Doc Savage lookalike sees a man having his eyeballs pushed to the back of his head aller blade runner. There are cameo appearances by boar-spear wielding Spetznatz and a under age lads indulging in the comforts of ladies of the night.

There are big nods to Lovecraft (as expected), John Carpenter, Algernon Blackwood and even the Batman, Hardy boys, Venture Brothers and X-files franchises. Indeed the title of the book is a reference to death in cartoons and the sewing of eyelids shut in ancient times to avoid unfortunate corpse-viewing occurrences.

There are some hilariously named characters; Macbeth Tooms, Cassius Labrador, Dr. Bravery, Telemachus Crabbe.

The story is in turn horrific, disturbing, ridiculous and comical... with a sprinkling of cosmic horror. What I did not get from this novella, at all, was the creeping sense of foreboding and surmounting terror that Barron has done so well elsewhere. What I do get is the feeling one experiences when watching a decent action movie; that of being hurtled along at locomotive pace knowing the ending may be familiar yet all the while not knowing quite what to expect. The novella also works as a nice addition to Barron's previous world building and lore.

David Stifel puts in a shift as narrator. His unique, "quirky" (curse that word!) delivery lends itself all to well to the b-movie, "so bad it's good" feel of the story. Excellent work by him.

Full marks for performance, 3/5 for story.

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  • Bill
  • 21-09-16

Signature dark crazy nastiness plus fun

Along with Laird’s usual heavy cosmic horror tones, there is also a bit of a lighter side in this one as well. A dark and wee more playful Lovecraftian tale from one of the masters of the genre. Fun isn’t typically a word I relate to Laird Barron, but dude pulls it off with this one. Very nicely done.

Btw, there is plenty of signature dark and crazy nastiness in this one as well, so don’t get me wrong. This ain’t no comedy.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • oftenevil
  • 06-08-19

Laird Barron + Jeremy Robert Johnson + LSD

A very Barronian narrative that involves morally & ethically objectionable covert scientific research, corrupt government (aka government) agencies attempting to kill our protagonist(s), Elder Gods from other dimensions of time & space, classic noir developments, and no less than a baker’s dozen double-crosses as well as a body count that would make a Quentin Tarantino blush. Laird Barron goes full Jeremy Robert Johnson in this novelette & I am SO HERE FOR IT!