this was the first book by Clive Barker I read. I picked it up by a friends suggestion after complaining that nothing I've read lately was any good. So I sat down after she gave me Books of Blood Vol. 1
To be honest I'm not a short story kind of person and growing up on Stephen King and Poe and Lovecraft I was wondering how Barker would measure up. Boy was I in for a surprise! From page 1 I was obsessed with this book, I couldn't book down, I took it to work and would sneak off to the bathroom just to read a page or two when I couldn't stand my own impatience to find out what happened.
The stories are original, creepy in a it gets under your skin kind of way, makes you wonder about people who seem harmless (esp. after the Midnight Meat Train). I read well into the night then laid awake thinking about the stories like Pig Blood Blues and Sex Death and Starshine.
Another good one. Stories in this volume include some of Barker's more interesting and well-known works. Rides into darkness and absurdity, with his signature touch for adding sexuality and gritty human nature seamlessly in fantastic horror. A good read if you like his previous works, not as tame as King, not as wordy as Koontz, a blend of visceral, graphic horror and chilling, though no one story will leave the lights on. Well told tales, sparks of violence, sex, dark comedy, and literary sense woven in a dark web.
The Book of Blood
After recently seeing the movie adaptation of this short story, which was dreary, sexualized and not too bad even with some cliches thrown in, I was impelled to revisit this novel to see how the film matched up. Much was changed, of course. This Book of Blood is actually the introduction to all of the stories that follow it. The movie stands alone and is quite a bit different.
The dead have highways and at one of these intersections sits the house at 65 Tollington Place. It looks like any other home but stay there too long and youre sure to leave much different than when you arrived. A trio of paranormal investigators are successfully documenting the goings-on of the place but more is going on than meets the eye. The young medium that secretly lusts for fame and fortune and will do whatever must be done to acquire it is keeping secrets. Secrets that are enraging the dead. His beatific smile easily wins over Mary Florescu whose lifes work has been documenting paranormal events. She should know better but is overcome with desire and is blind until its too late and the dead have their way with him. Now hes no longer beautiful and she must translate the stories the dead have written upon his skin. No one does dread and dank atmosphere like Clive Barker.
The Midnight Meat Train Kaufman once adored the idea of New York until he lived there and saw the ugliness up close. Now New York is just another city and has lost its allure. A brutal string of murders in the subway system further sickens him in this city whose streets are awash with fresh blood.
A man thinking himself a night-stalker and taking his job seriously preys the underground in search of a body whose flesh is worthy of his skill.
Kaufman will discover he knew little of the true atrocities carried out in the city until he rides the subway one dark, lonely night . . . This story is gory, gritty and gives you something to think about.
The Yattering and Jack This story was made into a super cheesy "Tales from the Darkside" episode. I watched it recently on the Chiller channel and am curious to see just how much they ruined the original story.
This is a surprisingly "lighter" and slightly humorous story from Barker. The Yattering is a lower devil demon ousted from Hell to torment a human named Jack Polo. He doesn't know why and is thoroughly frustrated with his inability to drive the boring human into a raving lunatic. No matter how desperately the Yattering tries to upset Polo he remains unmoved. When Polo's daughters come for a visit the Yattering ratchets up his fright-fest. There's a funny scene involving the Yattering and his genitals that I didn't see in the televised version, hmmm. . . Needless to say, in the end, Polo isn't as dense as Yattering assumes. This version, of course, was much better than the cheesy Tales from the Darkside episode.
Pig Blood Blues This one is dark and bloody and has the sexual undertones that color much of Barkers work. Redman, a former police officer, has been hired to teach wayward adolescents at a juvenile detention center. He quickly takes pity on a youth named Lacey who is continually the victim of bullying and offers him protection. As he gets to know the boy, he tells him a bizarre tale about the farm on the property involving suicide and a hungry pig. This one is strange and haunting.
Sex, Death and Starshine
Barker never pretties up his dead. Oh sure, they may have a facade of skin over their rotting corpses but you always know what they truly are the moment they enter the story and step out of the shadows. His dead are always putrefying, raw and terrifying but theyre quite often more classy than the living. I believe this is what has always drawn me to his work. This little story is about a theater's last production of Twelfth Night and the drama that ensues behind the scenes. While the temperamental theater folks are busy stabbing each other in the back over silly jealousy and pettiness some major drama is about to happen upon the scene in the form of a creepy stranger and his beautiful wife who wants the starring role.
This wasnt one of the best stories in the book but it highlights Barkers love for his dead and his knack for embodying them with a dark grace. The humans come off as vulgar and petty and lacking in morals while the dead are much more refined even though theyre decaying corpses.
In The Hills, The Cities
Mick doesnt discover that his lover is an obnoxious political bigot until hes stuck with him on a trip to Yugoslavia and nearly bored to death by his tedious opinions. While Judd thinks Mick is an airhead who is content to keep his head in the clouds. It was supposed to be their honeymoon but apparently they should have spent some together before embarking on their trip. The only thing they have going for them is attraction.
But in the hills hides the greatest wonder of the world. Within the hills its citizens are preparing an ancient ceremonial battle that pits city against city. Mick and Judd who are busy bickering and traversing these endless roads haplessly stumble upon something they were never meant to see. And of course they cant look away when they should . . .
This was a very original short story, unlike anything I've read before or since, but considering what happens Barker doesn't stay focused on the gore as he easily could have but more on the reactions of the two who witness this bizarre event.
Funny, I remember this book as being shocking and horrifying and terribly gory but I didn't think it was any of those things the second time around. Guess I'm just too jaded now.