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Clive Barker is a well-known name in the world of horror and fantasy. His biography of a director and producer holds titles such as ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘Jericho’, which are trend-setters in times, when people thought that everything has been done before. Having said this, Barker’s true talent shines most in the field of literature. Known as one of the most promising writers in the horror genre and proclaimed by none other than Stephen King as the future of the said genre, all of Barker’s books prove that he will most certainly live up to these expectations.
The first volume of the Books of Blood consists of 6 stories and 3 introductions. The first story carries the title ‘The Book of Blood’ and it unfolds the tale of how the said book came to be. The narrative is original and grim with brilliant twists and the incorporation of paranormal elements. It is interesting to point out that Barker doesn’t abide by the rules imposed on authors at the beginning of their careers for a strict word count of their works and creates every story as he sees fit. The end result is compact, concise stories that are surprisingly engaging and influential.
The second story in the book is ‘The Midnight Meat Train’, which most people will recognize as the film adaptation with Vinnie Jones and Bradley Cooper, which was actually pretty decent. The author himself has expressed his desire for the movie to become the first of a trilogy, which will shed some light on the creatures that are behind all existence and demand bloody sacrifices for it.
In ‘The Yattering and Jack’ Barker offers an interesting insight into the mishaps of an inferior daemon. Even though someone might argue that comic is not a term that ought to be used when we’re reviewing a book in the horror genre, this story has an undeniable humoristic element to it. Time and again Barker manages to offer something fresh and original, proving that he definitely doesn’t fall under any categories of the said genre.
‘Pig Blood Blues’ makes the infamous scene from Hannibal pale in comparison. Barker is truly at his best in terms of ruthlessness and brutality that makes the reader squirm with disgust. Another proof that he is willing to experiment and explore different angles and approaches of the genre, playing with and pushing the limits of sane and normal.
In ‘Sex, Death and Starshine’ the plot unfolds following the pattern of…well..sex, death and starshine. Although far from frightening, the story is quite intriguing. The dead too require a healthy dosage of entertainment and apparently they know how to get it.
‘In the Hills, the Cities’ deservedly is placed at the end of the first volume of the ‘Books of Blood’ as it is truly the best work of the author of the 6 stories. Barker’s imagination has really surpassed all limits and ventured into realms of unimaginable horror and dread.
As a whole ‘Books of Blood’ has its weak and strong points. As we mentioned before, Barker is not amongst the authors to follow predetermined patterns in their style of writing or narrative and he’s definitely not the one to spare his readers any brutality. He’s exhaustive and thorough to the point where it can get physically unsettling for the person on the other side of the book. His works are a must-read for anyone who’s looking for something different than the mainstream horror formula.