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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever-evolving Barker
Sacrament is easily the least read of Clive Barker’s novels. It has apparently only sold half the usual number of his books, and there is one simple reason for this: the protagonist is gay. In this day and age it is a real pity that readers have been put off by such an unimportant detail, especially when anyone who reads this book will discover that it is without...
Published on 20 Oct 2002 by L. Niblock

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing story, appalling conversion to ebook
First off, this is not Clive at his best. It's a weak story which meanders along for a while before reaching an (anti) climax. I did not feel involved at all. None of his amazing imagination was there. As a gay man I was hoping to empathise with the main character but he just seemed to be a bunch of cliches used to illustrate how AIDS wiped out a huge chunk of San...
Published on 23 Feb 2011 by RobP


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever-evolving Barker, 20 Oct 2002
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
Sacrament is easily the least read of Clive Barker’s novels. It has apparently only sold half the usual number of his books, and there is one simple reason for this: the protagonist is gay. In this day and age it is a real pity that readers have been put off by such an unimportant detail, especially when anyone who reads this book will discover that it is without doubt one of Barker’s best (and no, I’m not gay myself).
The story concerns Will Rabjohns, a wildlife photographer who is attacked by a grizzly bear and left in a coma. During months of unconsciousness he goes dreaming of his childhood in Yorkshire, where he met two enigmatic characters, Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee, who have lived for centuries in ignorance of what they are or how they came about, and have strange ideas about what the world is and their role in it. Will re-discovers how Steep shaped his life, and on waking from his coma is drawn back into contact with him again, as Steep goes about his murderous crusade.
This, of course, is just the barest bones of the story. As ever with Barker’s books there is a world of content on these bones: his sharply realised characters, his natural sense of pace, his prose (which has always been so elegant while at the same time never distracting) approaches perfection here, his ability to tell his story with original, unpredictable scenes, and the nuggets of philosophy that his work has always contained. It is in this last capacity that Barker has excelled himself with this novel. The nature of God, existence, life and death are examined with an intelligent, well-considered insight that I have never encountered before in any media anywhere else, including Barker’s own. If that makes the book sound like a tough read, it isn’t at all. Barker has an instinct for description that makes reading his stuff effortless; you don’t so much read it as see it, and you glide through the pages so quickly.
For me this book is up there with Imajica, The Great and Secret Show and Weaveworld (although unlike those books the other-worldly fantasy element is less present here in favour of reality). For anyone whose mind is sharper than the average turnip, and can’t help but wonder occasionally about whether or not there’s a God and what life is for etc this is a book for you. It doesn’t pretend to supply answers, of course, but throws up so many possibilities, and so many words of wisdom, that you absolutely come away with the parameters of your own mind stretched. I can safely say that you’ve never read a book like this before. There’s nobody out there that mingles reality and fantasy like Barker, and gives a sense of there being more to the world than meets the eye.
If the book has one weakness it is that the usually uncompromising Barker sex scenes have clearly been toned way, way down due to their gay context in fear of deterring delicate potential readers. It is a shame to see the small-minded must be kowtowed to for the sake of sales. That said, it makes no difference to the overall strength and energy of the book, and if you’re looking for a book with real weight, real imagination and intelligence, get your paws on this.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Rocket, 18 Feb 2003
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
Undisputedly one of the best books I've ever read (and I mean all books, not just CB's).
While I am not a huge admirer of Barker's mainstream fiction, and am rather sceptical of the whole horror stratum of literature in general, this is definitely a must read. I'd like to be useful, though, and so I think there's something you should learn outright: If you're in primarily for horror, if you're looking for gore, ripped flesh and other more sickly things; in other words, if you only like concrete colours and not shades, this book isn't for you.
For Sacrament is indeed a book written in shades. Above all, Barker is in my opinion one of the most talented stylists of our age. His narratives, even where they lack action and are simply contemplative, are plainly above praise. The enigmatic Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee who imbued the life of wretched Will Rabjohns with that uneasiness which was later to grow and wreck his sanity are probably among the most extraordinary, nontrivial, and so--on some very deep, rudimentary level--the most frightening characters I've ever encountered in the literature. To reiterate though, this is not the kind of fright you'd expect when you read about someone with a meat-ax about to crack your skull in two.
The book starts with Will Rabjohns, arguably the world's most famous wildlife photographer, trying to talk to a half-mad hermit who tucked himself away in a small northern village, Baltazar, about a mysterious couple he had met earlier in his life--Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee. So, in the first part of the book, we get a glimpse of Will Rabjohns the grown-up. Then, after an assault by a wounded bear, Rabjohns falls into a coma from which he may never recover.
His mind, meanwhile, drifts away to the recollections of how he grew up as a second and apparently much less loved child; in a family where his elder brother was ran down by a car and so killed. To save his mother shattered with grief, his father--a philosopher of some renown--decides to move to a village rather far from where they lived (Manchester), Burnt Yarley. There the plot starts to unfold in all its creamy and seductive magnificence.
Will makes friends (kind of) with a strange couple, a brother and a sister; and, as he's evidently not very welcome at home, he at a certain point in his wanderings simply gets lost in the fields during a storm. There, he meets another couple: a woman of unearthly beauty and her companion, a remarkably effective gentleman of some forty years. The couple and Will become friends, too... in a sense. Until, in the course of many strange events, he begins to uncover something about them (such as the fact that they are seemingly quite immortal, or that Jacob Steep seeks to cleanse the world of all the last species so that it may be cleaner and God's voice might be heard) which, were he adult, would make him flee them instantly--but since he's a boy, his psyche is flexible and so, as a flesh of a clam, adapts to a burning alien particle.
However as time goes, the pearl expands and devours him from the inside. Thus follows his awakening and the beginning of his conscious quest for Jacob Steep, the Killer of Last Things, and his fair lady Rosa McGee. The two men are intertwined (in a rather Freudian way, one might add) in a manner which none of them likes. It is a conflict which shall ultimately be resolved (with the addition of numerous other characters, all of them unlike anything you've seen before) and its resolution is the punchline of the book.
This punchline is very deep, unexpected, and moving. It seems as though the writer himself elected, in the end, to provide a bright and explicit summary of what it means to be wholly human... And so the notorious sexual aspect seems to be rather exaggerated. Yes indeed, the love scenes are depicted with some frankness (which I'm sure most erotomaniacs would brand as insufficient were it a usual love story), but they are by no means key in the book.
Finally, read the book if you love England. It is full of the kind of characteristically British (or so methinks) ennui, inset in an ornament of landscapes and weather crafted so meticulously and with such great love and care that The One Task of any Writer (you know, the one that rules them all)--to immerse you completely into the mood of the book--is fulfilled.
All in all, the book is much like a photoalbum where intricate sepia pictures are bound together by a no less meaningful fabric. It hints so delicately and yet so masterfully at the fact that there is something beyond that, if one ever doubted whether to place Barker together with the best writers of our day, these doubts now should wither and pass away.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than ever, 2 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
Sacrament is agreeably different from Clive Barker's usual stuff. Instead of allowing magic to dominate, this is a story where magic occurs on an everyday basis - and where new magic is found!
It's an easy and undemanding read with a pleasantly trashy story, so you can drift away without getting lost.
I think it's great to have a central gay character: Barker achieves strong emotional resonances through a fresh and honest approach. Lovely. Give us more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A conjurer of unique tales, 5 July 2006
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
"Sacrament" is the tale of a young boy's apparently chance encounter with two immortals in the Yorkshire Dales, which changes the course of his life forever. As an adult living in San Francisco the encounter has left him with unfinished business (and a spirit guide that I felt held echoes of the bunny from Donnie Darko) to return to, business of epic proportions.

Clive Barker has a unique style and flow to his work, and a beautifuly brave and fertile imagination. This sees him glide well away from the often formulaic outpourings of other writers in his genre. Within the solidly described material worlds of California and Yorkshire, here is a story of humans and immortals, psychic powers, gods and devils and one in which esoteric and occult references abound.

My favourite pieces are the chapters set in Will's childhood. A number of modern writers of horror fantasy write exceptionally well from a youngster's point of view and then often insist on continuing or returning to the plot from a less-flexible adult perspective. This for me is only somewhat the case in "Sacrament".

Whilst Will's sexuality is important for elements of the twisting plot, Barker at times seems unsure what to do with it. The chapters set in the San Francisco gay scene are wearily and sometimes even cheesily romanticised. Though they do contrast - possibly deliberately - to the highly eroticised relationship of the immortal couple. The worst this does though is to give the reader a few extraneous pages and it hardly affects the flow of the book.

In all, an excellent read. I haven't read Clive Barker for a while, and having refreshed myself with "Sacrament" I think it's high time I was seeking him out again ...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of dark and imaginative fiction., 23 Mar 2006
By 
Chris Hall "DLS Reviews" (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
A dark tale that skates around the ideas and principals of extinction, both individual and as an entire species. The storyline finds itself placed both in the gay bars of San Francisco and the rather different atmosphere of the Yorkshire Dales. The novel blends dark fantasy with a sprinkling of the exotic and erotic. The base of the story skirts between the physical world of mankind and the haunting and surreal world of the magical and fantastic. The book opens the doors to many questions for the reader, but refreshingly it leaves the questions unanswered, allowing the reader to make their own conclusions and judgments. It is a book that you can tell Clive had brewing in himself for a long time, and this passionate masterwork has finally got released.
The book is well written and gripping from the start, with surreal character developments and even more bizarre twists within the plot. It will ease you into the unfolding tale and totally absorb you. A classic addition to Barker’s work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different story, 1 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Sacrament (Hardcover)
Normaly a Clive Barker novell is drippping with blood and gore; this is much more (and also less). This time he shows that magic can be an important part of humans and love...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Barker book with the obligatory horrible ending, 1 April 2014
By 
Jan Patrik Sahlstrøm (Oslo, Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
Another brilliant book by the master of the macabre. This book is a lot more of this world than his other books, but it still has that unmistakable Barker feeling, which includes completely unravelling at the end. Mr Barker couldn't write a good ending if his life depended on it. Still an excellent read, just be prepared to be dissapointed by the ending.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing story, appalling conversion to ebook, 23 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Sacrament (Kindle Edition)
First off, this is not Clive at his best. It's a weak story which meanders along for a while before reaching an (anti) climax. I did not feel involved at all. None of his amazing imagination was there. As a gay man I was hoping to empathise with the main character but he just seemed to be a bunch of cliches used to illustrate how AIDS wiped out a huge chunk of San Francisco in the 80s.

The worst thing about this book though is the conversion to ebook. I have a suspicion this was done with (bad) OCR software as I lost track of the number of typos and silly errors (eg having '1' instead of 'I', sentences going italic for no apparent reason, missing closing parentheses).

Very disappointing, and my first bought book on the Kindle. Hmm.
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2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 8 Jun 2010
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
This is the second Barker book I've read. The first was Weaveworld.
After the majesty of Weaveworld this is a huge disappointment.
The story is longwinded and meandering, and I'm not sure what the relevance is of about 50% of the circumlocutory narrative.
The main protagonist does not some alive, he is confusingly portrayed and did not evoke sympathy.
Early on we meet two potentially charismatic characters, but even they seem to become flatter/duller as the story goes on.
About 90% of the story has nothing supernatural going on.

If you've read one or two books by Barker and were amazed, or even blown away like I was with Weaveworld,
don't take this as your next Barker. It's probably best to leave this to the very last.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars English Fantasy-Horror with ecological twist...., 11 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Sacrament (Paperback)
Clive Barker is on less-than-satisfactory form here with this novel of ecological insights. Clive Barker normaly delivers nothing but the best, but here he lets himeslf down with by laying on the 'right-on' ecology in absence of any real philosophical wonder. However, Barker's work is of such a high standard that it still warrants the 'Four-crown' rating above. He still stands head and shoulders above his peers, and may he long continue to do so!
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Sacrament
Sacrament by Clive Barker (Paperback - 4 Feb 2010)
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