Why You Should Read… Clive Barker

So we come to our fourth week of extolling the virtues about some of our favourite authors. Today we welcome Sharon Ring, from Dark Fiction Review. Sharon is on Twitter as @DFReview and can also be found on Facebook. She would like to talk to you about Clive Barker.

Will this be five hundred words of preaching to the converted? Surely everyone who reads genre fiction has read at least one Clive Barker book? I think, for anyone new to genre fiction, a stroll through some of Barker’s work should be more or less compulsory.

Reading Barker seems to be a rite of passage. When I brought up the subject of Clive Barker and his BOOKS OF BLOOD on Twitter recently, I found myself in the midst of a lengthy conversation with several people. Most of us read the BOOKS OF BLOOD in our teens, the stories have stayed us, we can recall them with a hint of that original frisson of excitement and many of us still have our copies to hand, occasionally digging them out for yet another re-read.

The BOOKS OF BLOOD leapt into my world in the mid eighties when they were originally published. From the very first short story, “The Book of Blood,” I was caught up in each and every tale of good and evil, self-destruction, madness, depravity and transcendence. Barker wrote like no other writer I had come across at this point in my life. At the same time the BOOKS OF BLOOD were being devoured by horror fans, Barker’s first novel, The Damnation Game, was published. Hailed as a Faustian novel, this was a quieter tale, though no less disturbing in its content and themes. One year later the novella, The Hellbound Heart, was published then filmed as the first Hellraiser movie, one of the most important pieces of modern cinematic horror.

Barker’s shift towards fantasy was equally captivating. Blurring the lines between horror and fantasy gave books like Weaveworld, Cabal, The Great and Secret Show and Imajica a more unsettling edge, something I hadn’t seen before in the more traditional fantasy fare. Gone were the quests, dwarves and elves; in came shifting Dominions, mutant creatures and distorted demons. When I read modern urban fantasy I constantly see nods in Barker’s direction, making me wonder just how deeply embedded Barker’s worlds have become in our imaginations.

Barker creates some of the richest, most complex fantasy worlds I have ever come across, worlds which exist alongside our own, and through which Barker’s characters effortlessly navigate. And those characters, simultaneously beautiful and hideous: The Cenobites (The Hellbound Heart), Pie ‘oh’ Pah (Imajica), Mamoulian (The Damnation Game) and Candyman (The Forbidden). Hellish creations, deeply sexual and, more often than not, amoral rather than immoral, Barker’s characters offer an otherworldly perception of the human condition, of the notions of pain and pleasure, the thrill of the forbidden.

Not just a writer, Barker has broader creative skills. He has directed and produced several movies, including: Hellraiser, as mentioned before; Candyman, from the short story, The Forbidden; and Nightbreed, based on Cabal. He’s also an artist who illustrates many of his books, his sketches and paintings depicting the unparalleled weirdness of the stories.

To pass him by would be criminal, everyone should read Clive Barker.

With great thanks to Sharon!

If you would like to contribute an author feature then please get in touch!


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AMANDA RUTTER, one of our guest reviewers, used to be an accountant in the UK but she escaped the world of numbers and is now living in a fantasy world she creates. She runs Angry Robot's YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. And we knew her when....

View all posts by Amanda Rutter (guest)

6 comments

  1. Thanks, Sharon! I keep meaning to read Clive Barker. I have a copy of Weaveworld but haven’t opened it yet.

  2. 13893572424840246551 /

    Ooh, Weaveworld is a great place to start if you prefer fantasy to horror. Check out The Great and Secret Show after that – a very strange little book.

  3. I remember reading The Great and Secret Show a long time ago. It had aspects I liked and aspects I didn’t like, but I have never forgotten the concept of Quiddity: the dream-sea that you swim in three times in your life. Birth, death, and the first time you sleep beside the love of your life.

  4. I’ve never read him either. Maybe I should pick up one of his fantasy novels.

  5. @Kelly Quiddity is such an amazing concept. Quite beautiful.

    @Ruth If you fancy jumping in at the deep end, I’d have to recommend Imajica. Breathtaking. If you fancy something a quicker read then go for Weaveworld. :)

  6. 05985640437327240188 /

    I have recently read (and reviewed) The Hellbound Heart although I had read Weaveworld way back in the 80’s. I forgot how good a writer Clive Barker is!. I am now about to embark on The Great And Secret Show in the next few weeks. Great overview Sharon :-)

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