Monday, December 5, 2011

Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three.

Title/Author: Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three by Clive Barker.

Genre: Horror.

Publisher: Berkley Trade.

Source: Purchased.

Favorite character: Birdy from Sons of Celluloid.

Favorite quote: “There is no delight the equal of dread. As long as it’s someone else’s.” ~Dread.

“It was a full, harvest moon, and the light, though cold was luxuriant.” ~Rawhead Rex

All in all: Imaginative.

Synopsis: "Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we're opened, we're red." For those who only know Clive Barker through his long multigenre novels, this one-volume edition of the Books of Blood is a welcome chance to acquire the 16 remarkable horror short stories with which he kicked off his career.

My Thoughts: This book took me a long time to get through. It is not light reading. It sucks you down into its bloody, gory depth. From the very first story, the “frame” so to speak, that explains what the Books of Blood are to the last ghostly saga.

I enjoy a good gore-fest, yet I realized I was making faces at some of the details of intricate violence and troubling images. It’s not just random blood and violence however.  At the heart of it, the stories are just good stories. They are deep and well thought out, imaginative and surprising. They are written with words strung together in a gorgeous, lush tableau. Descriptions reach ambitious heights. The writing is also brutal and gritty and the mood is dark, proving that Horror can be both beautiful and disturbing. Don’t let anyone tell you different. What I also really enjoyed is that as prolific as Barker’s writing is, it does not seem forced to me. It flows and slides and creeps and batters you so naturally and casually, you just sort of accept it and come to expect it.

Sex, Death and Starshine is a wonderfully, creepy ghost story and The Yattering and Jack is a hilarious yarn about a demon who is trying to best a man, but all his efforts are thwarted. It is so clever and refreshing because of the humor. New Murders in the Rue Morgue is a murder mystery as intriguing as its predecessor and takes the tale a step farther. For me, Rawhead Rex is brilliant. The murderous villain, his origins and the hints throughout are woven together not only to create a horror story, but a re-telling of a folklore story.

I feel confident in also saying that many of the stories could be studied in feminism, sexuality, and psychology courses. And, if you’re so inclined could raise discussions of what is behind bondage, mutilation and control. But I think the most inherent trait in the stories is suspense, fear and dread (and one of the stories is actually called Dread and explores this emotion).

One thing that was a tad lacking for me are the characters and I didn’t realize this until I got to one of the last stories, Scape Goat, which is written in first person and I realized I connected with the main character, Frankie. She took me more into the story while with the other characters I felt more as if I were watching theirs. (The other character I really like is Birdy from Sons of Celluloid. Maybe because she is a strong female.) This really didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book, it’s just something I noticed.

I also appreciated the foreward by Mr. Barker as he reflects on his stories which were written many years ago, the horror genre in general and himself as well and how he has changed. I feel this is a must for Horror aficionados. The concepts are inspired, the writing is superb and the stories are just exceptional in their inventiveness.


2 comments:

Rabid Fox said...

Loved these volumes. If I ever get the time I'd love to go back and re-read them.

Will Errickson said...

Read these as a teen when they came out in the '80s, loved them. Reread them throughout my 20s, still loved them. Reread them *this* year, in my 40s, and this reading solidified my opinion that all six volumes of BOOKS OF BLOOD are a major achievement in horror fiction of the 20th century. They are so confident and perfectly conceived, and virtually nothing like other authors of that day. Rereading these tales is worth making time for; chances are good that what you set aside wouldn't be as good!

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