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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fable told in real time, 6 Nov 2011
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rawhead Rex (Paperback)
I'll confess that I was first and foremost aware of Rawhead Rex as an eighties gore fest movie about a giant creature with rows of sharp teeth roaming the countryside eating everything in its path until someone channels lighting through a magic stone, killing or stunning it (leaving room for the sequel which never happened, unsurprisingly since the movie was much maligned and Barker didnt even like it). The book diverges from the plot of the movie and has a different conclusion.

The narrative of this tale is pretty pacey and it has the momentum of a thriller, the horror aspect is good as characters are introduced with sufficient back story to evoke shock when they meet their fates, not always, at least not immediately, by being chewed up and spat out by the monster. There is some great narrative content which really builds in or upon the desperation of people to live, whatever the cost, their reactions of terror are entirely credible. This sort of critical realism was something I enjoyed since the tale in many ways is sort of fable told in real time, the stories of child eating giants are well known but its only when they become less "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fumb" and more up to the minute that the horror hits home.

The narrative moves between the characters, to begin with a farmer who accidentially releases the monster, some country vicars, a farming family, a family planning to settle in the countryside, some police officers and even the monster itself. This allows for an interesting insight into the monster, in which the tale becomes a strange sort of time travel narrative, as the monster encounters houses, cars, petrol and petrol fires for the first time. In a big way this convincingly contributes to the creature's ultimate undoing.

The book does end a lot differently from the film, reaching a more final conclusion, less supernatural in some ways but not entirely unbelieveable either. Having succeeded in mounting such a campaign of terror, involving rampant murder, desecration, infanticide, tearing people apart and eating them and finally burning the whole settlement the populous literally go crazy and reek their own bloody revenge on the monster. This is made believeable by Barker's establishment early in the plot of the creature's vulnerability to weapons, violence and its terror of a particular artifact/relic which gets dug out towards the finish.

I have given this book less than the complete star rating because it suffers from some of Barker's characteristic literary quirks, there's unnecessary sexual content and perversity, the complete ommission of some of which would not effect the story at all. Its something I've come to expect from Barker and while on occasions it fits some of his stories, it can unfortunately eclipse them just as well. Recommended to fans of monster stories or monster horror. NB it is one of the stories collected in The Mammoth Book of Monsters (Mammoth Books).
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Rawhead Rex
Rawhead Rex by Clive Barker (Paperback - 24 Jan 1994)
Used & New from: 18.09
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