Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: "The Scarlet Gospels" by Clive Barker

On a sentence by sentence basis, Clive Barker’s return to horror The Scarlet Gospels is fantastic. Barker has always been a master at taking the grotesque; the violent and the aberrant and making it seem not only pretty and beautiful, but sexy as well, as strange as it is to say that. I recall fondly reading through his first volume of the Books of Blood and being hypnotized by each dark tale Barker weaved, each one producing different feelings I wasn’t used to having when reading horror stories. And that brings me to my major point, which is that I think I much prefer his short stories to his novels. They are long for stories, but they are just the right size. It is pretty evident when reading this novel or his first novel The Damnation Game that his longer narratives can get a bit exhausting and quite convoluted. The story begins like only a Barker story can, with lots of blood and guts and the weirdest violence you can imagine. The surviving members of a cult of powerful magicians are slowly killed after they try to resurrect their dead leader from a mausoleum in New Orleans. The Hell Priest, who is Pinhead from the iconic Hellrasier horror franchise, interrupts them. He kills all but one, who he makes his slave as he goes back to Hell. Meanwhile, Harry D’Amour, the detective from Barker’s movie Lord of Illusions, finds the puzzle box and comes into cataclysmic conflict with the Hell Priest, being forced to travel to the underworld with a small group to save one of his friends. Harry is a great character, and carries this story through many of its stiffer moments. He is the down home voice of reason among this crazy confusing world, and he makes this book very fun. I think most would agree that this book loses steam once it gets to Hell, which is rendered very ham-handedly and is almost comical. The book finishes strong though, with an epilogue that is appropriate and earns its use of sentiment. If you can stomach some of the violence, and like your horror stories with a dollop of the weird and bizarre, this book, and most of Barker’s books, will satisfy you.

Rating: 4/5

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