Mister B. Gone: Not what I was expecting

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Clive Barker Mister B. GoneMister B. Gone by Clive Barker

Thanks to the movies Hellraiser, Lord of Illusions, and Candyman, I was introduced to Clive Barker, but it was his writing that made me a hardcore fan. Imajica, Weaveworld, Books of Blood, The Great and Secret Show, Everville: all personal favorites of mine and great examples of Mr. Barker’s wild imagination and unique talents. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I last read a Clive Barker book, so when I heard about Mister B. Gone I couldn’t have been more excited, especially after reading the press release: “A propulsive frightfest layered with psychological nuances, textured characterizations, philosophical reflections and theological meditations, Mister B. Gone is the Clive Barker original his millions of fans worldwide have been awaiting, one packed with subtle scares and heart-stopping terrors from cover to cover.”

Let’s just say the description is not a hundered percent accurate…

First off, I’m not sure I would describe Mister B. Gone as a “frightfest.” Sure, the main character is a demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell, and there’s some evisceration, bathing in infants’ blood and a plethora of other ghastly moments. At the same time however, fantasy elements are prominently in play — yet another slant on the war between Heaven and Hell — and there’s also plenty of wry humor. In fact, Mister B. Gone doesn’t take itself too seriously, and its playfulness actually diminishes the book’s more gruesome moments.

Just to give you an example, demon Jakabok Botch, the book’s narrator, has a family ( his bastard father Pappy Gatmuss, his whore Momma, and his younger sister Charyat), goes to a school in the Ninth Circle to learn the Agonies, and is captured by humans in the World Above by a trap that uses “shanks of raw meat and cans of beer”’ as bait. Of course the most telling manner of the book’s more flippant nature is the way Jakabok, or Mister B. as he’s sometimes called, is written. In short, Jakabok is the Mister B. Gone book and throughout the entire novel he’s talking directly to you the reader, in hopes that you will be persuaded to burn the book. Along the way, he’ll try to Threaten you, Appeal to your compassionate side, Seduce you with gifts, regale you with such memories as The Bonfire, The Bait, Killing Pappy, My First Love (yes, apparently demons can love, What Happened on Joshua’s Field, Meeting Quitoon, How He Saved My Life; and even tell you the story of how he became the book in the first place, which takes place in Mainz, Germany in 1439 and involves goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, an invention that marks the End of the World, angels, demons and a shocking Secret. In essence, Jakabok is quite the amusing little demon, due mainly to a personality that is snarky and whimsical and he’s actually quite likeable. Being afraid of Mister B., though, is a whole different story.

I’ll be honest. Mister B. Gone wasn’t the book I was expecting. I was really hoping for a return to Clive Barker’s early days when he wrote some of the most creatively disturbing horror I’ve ever read, but instead we get a book that is much more humorous than it is scary. Just because it wasn’t what I was hoping for though doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book — it’s Clive Barker for goodness sake! So once I got over my initial disappointment, Mister B. Gone turned out to be a pretty fun little pick-me-up that features the author’s vintage prose, idiosyncrasies, and imagination which plays around with the concept of demons, Christianity, good vs. evil, love, and so on. The only real problem I had with the book is that because it’s so short (256 pages) some of the themes and secondary plots weren’t fleshed out that well — specifically the relationship between Jakabok and fellow demon Quitoon. Basically, the two end up traveling together for over a century and developing a special bond which comes into play in the later stages of the story. Since we don’t get to see that development, the subplot loses a lot of its impact. Personally, I think if Mr. Barker had spent more time recounting the two demons’ adventures together as they sought out new inventions and terrorized humanity, those moments would probably have been my favorite in the whole book.

As it stands, Mister B. Gone is not the Clive Barker original that I’ve been waiting for, and I think other readers will agree with me, but it is a pretty good diversion.

Mister B. Gone — (2007) Available from Audible. Publisher: Mister B. Gone marks the long-awaited return of Clive Barker, the great master of the macabre, to the classic horror story. This bone-chilling novel, in which a medieval devil speaks directly to his reader — his tone murderous one moment, seductive the next — is a never-before-published memoir allegedly penned in the year 1438. The demon has embedded himself in the very words of this tale of terror, turning the book itself into a dangerous object, laced with menace only too ready to break free and exert its power. A brilliant and truly unsettling tour de force of the supernatural, Mister B. Gone escorts the reader on an intimate and revelatory journey to uncover the shocking truth of the battle between Good and Evil.

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ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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