This second omnibus edition collects volumes 4-6 of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.
Volume 4 includes: ‘The Body Politic’ where Barker takes the old horror cliché of possessed murderous hands and transforms it into a bizarre over-the-top fantasy where peoples body parts conspire against them; ‘The Inhuman Condition’ features a tramp with a demonic familiar; ‘Revelations’ is a clever ghost story where a sordid crime of passion at a motel is mirrored years later; ‘Down, Satan!’ is by far the shortest story in the collection, a throwaway piece about an attempt to create hell on earth; and ‘The Age of Desire’ finds an experiment taking human sexuality to horrific extremes.
Volume 5 presents: ‘The Forbidden’ - an intelligent examination on urban legends and the curious immortality bestowed upon murder victims (later filmed as ‘Candyman’); ‘The Madonna’ has a bizarre Lovecraftian entity inhabiting a disused swimming pool; ‘Babel’s Children’ is a non-horror piece presenting a conspiracy theory about the real rulers of Earth; and ‘In The Flesh’ mirrors prison life with a more deadly supernatural after-life imprisonment.
Finally Volume 6 gives us: ‘The Life Of Death’, a very clever tale about an infectious disease with a nice sting in the tail; ‘How Spoilers Bleed’ is a fairly typical ‘natives revenge against exploitative Westerners’ story; ‘Twilight at the Towers’ mirrors the undercover world of spying with the double life of werewolves; ‘The Last Illusion’ tells of the attempt by a magician to cheat Hell, and introduces the investigator Harry D’Amour who would feature in later Barker novels; while closer ‘On Jerusalem Street’ acts as the second half of the framing device introduced at the beginning of the first novel.
As with the first omnibus, this is chock full of great short stories, with a very high hit rate: at the worst a few of the stories here are mediocre, but the vast majority are inspired pieces of horror fiction. Great stuff.
Back in 1984, Clive Barker made his name within the deeply competitive world of horror with the publication of the first three volumes of the macabre short stories `The Books Of Blood'. Written in his spare time, he admits that he was not expecting them to sell really at all, let alone predict the public response that followed. The release exploded within the horror literature genre, hailing Barker as an exciting and imaginative newcomer. Stephen King, already known as a master in the genre, went as far as to pronounce Clive to be "the future of horror". The books won both the British and World Fantasy Awards, as the public lapped up the gore soaked pages. After this initial success, Barker followed with a final three volumes, creating a collective masterpiece of horror. His two omnibus's were later to be broken down, to be sold as individual books which Barker was invited to be able to illustrate the covers for with his dark and twisted artwork. The books have since been put back together again into these two large collections.
The books were moderately successful in Great Britain, but found wide critical acclaim in the United States. Their popularity and the sheer amount of sales have found the books repeatedly reprinted and available in over a dozen languages. These books are a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading books from the horror genre. They are also an important stage within the work of Clive Barker forming a solid point for his writing to work from.
Here we have the last three volumes from the collection of six. Released in their individual forms back in 1985, this omnibus was later reprinted by Warner Books in 1994. The book was printed with different cover artwork (done by Bob Warner) and is the current version on sale of this dark and twisted masterpiece. This second collection contains the following short stories:
The Body Politic - 47 pages
"What if parts of your body, such as your hands for instance, suddenly decided that they wanted to sever their connections with you and be free? Human hands tear themselves from their masters to start a bloody revolution". A truly unforgettable tale of weird horror that screams paranoia from every page. Barker offers up this surreal treat that will please any horror fan. The short was later to be adapted for the movie `Quicksilver Highway', which was unfortunately directed by Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining - TV version) in which he delivers his usual low-talented direction skills to complement the budget on offer.
The Inhuman Condition - 47 pages
"A knotted string unravels dark hungering nightmares". Bringing with it a brief glimpse at Barker's principal ideas for `The Hellbound Heart', this short story packs in heart-pounding suspense and twisted horror to form a gripping and terrifying storyline. The premise behind the story is a clever and inspired one, as we see mankind's irresistible urge for curiosity.
Revelations - 56 pages
"In a Texas motel room, the living and the dead make love. Buck and Sadie Durning check into the Cottonwood Motel in June 1955. Buck never checks out and four months later Sadie is executed for his murder. Thirty years later, John and Virginia Dyer check into the same hotel where the ghosts of Buck and Sadie have returned to relive their fateful drama". A terrifying and disturbing tale that will haunt you for a long time to come. Barker paints a vivid picture of the murderous atmosphere that will chill you to the bone. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1992 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `Revelations' where it was illustrated by Lionel Talaro.
Down, Satan! - 6 pages
"A palace is built to lure Satan back to earth". A very short one here from Barker, setting down a creepy and dark idea that sits there waiting to unnerve you. The story was later adapted in 1992 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 5' where it was illustrated by Tim Conrad.
The Age Of Desire - 54 pages
"A powerful aphrodisiac creates ghastly sexual urgings". Here we have a erotic horror crossover with a fair sprinkling of black comedy mixed in with the dark and twisted storyline. The short story was made into a graphic novel at one time but the decline of Eclipse Comics resulted in the sad loss of this graphic novel illustrated by Timothy Bradstreet.
The Forbidden - 37 pages
"There are some taboos too terrible to be broken. Some stories too terrible to be true. Until you begin to believe them". Here we have the original inspiration for the film Candyman, which was adapted from the short and further developed upon. The forbidden offers up an intense atmospheric story of tension and horror. The story is very well written, delivering a well crafted and haunting story.
The Madonna - 38 pages
"She was older than legend: the Unholy Mother whose beautiful children were most men's dream, and every man's nightmare". A nail-biting short packed with more bizarre and horrific images vividly crafted from the mind of Clive Barker. The storyline is gripping and dark, with an atmosphere so chilling, it will haunt you for ages afterwards. The story was later adapted in 1990 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 4' where it was illustrated by Stan Woch, Mark Farmer and Fred Von Tobel.
Babel's Children - 27 pages
"A paradise island, lost in a sparkling sea, what better place to plot the end of the world?" A bit of a different short story here, compared with the rest of the shorts in the Books Of Blood. The plot is carefully unfolded, creating an air of mystery to the whole storyline, until the final conclusion hits you in the face. I wasn't that keen on this one, but it was certainly an interesting read.
In The Flesh - 46 pages
"Every night they locked the cell doors for twelve hours; locked the prisoners in with their regrets and their secret terrors, and something more. Something from the lunatic world of pure slaughter that waited just beyond the walls". One of the most loved and enjoyed of Barker's short stories is this dark and twisted tale that takes you on a trip through the weird and limitless imagination of Clive Barker. The storyline is extremely well-constructed, dragging you further and further into the story as it hurtles towards the horrific conclusion. This is a definite must read for all fans of Barker's work.
The Life Of Death - 34 pages
"She nearly Died on the operating table. Masked men removed the cancers, and her womb. But Elaine Rider lived on, mourning. Until, after a midnight visit to the newly opened crypt of All Saints Church - A plague pit heaped with bodies, festering now they are exposed - she is suddenly a picture of health and vitality. Kavanagh's morbid preference was for the sad, fragile Elaine he met before. Before she had the power to kill with her touch. But who is Kavanagh? Elaine mistakes him for Death in disguise, her clean-boned guardian, her promised lover. He is something far worse, as she will learn". Barker carefully weaves this morbid and haunting tale, steadily building upon the tension, as you are taken to the grande finale with a nasty twist. I would say that this one is one of his best shorts from the Books Of Blood collection. The story was later adapted by Fred Burke in 1993 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `The Life Of Death' where it was illustrated by Stewart Stanyard.
How Spoilers Bleed - 31 pages
"They committed a crime no jury could convict them for. But there were other judges, other punishments". A gory and disturbing story that will anger and revolt you from the start. The plot slowly unfolds, bringing with it a tale of horrific revenge and cruelty. The story was later adapted in 1992 into the graphic novel `Tapping The Vein - Book 5' where it was illustrated by Hector Gomez.
Twilight At The Towers - 31 pages
"Ballard was the perfect spy. A man with all the cunning of an animal. Or was it vice versa?" This story brings haunting glimpses of the novel to be later published in 1988 entitled `Cabal'. This was surprising as the US edition of this volume of the Books Of Blood included the story of `Cabal'. `Twilight At The Towers' is a creepy and violent tale involving the manipulation of the flesh once again. A little slow-paced to start with, Barker soon gets you involved with the violent action and horror that follows. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1993 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel `Rawhead Rex' where it was illustrated by Hector Gomez.
The Last Illusion - 52 pages
(A Harry D'Amour Novella) "New York has shown Harry horrors enough for a dozen lifetimes. He thought he'd seen the worst that flesh could suffer. Then the beautiful widow walked into his life, with a husband who wouldn't lie down dead, and all Hell on her heels. And suddenly Harry was face to face with forces that could teach Manhattan a lesson in depravity". A bizarre and disturbing short story that pulls you into the unfolding dark and depraved madness from the very first page. The short spirals to a dramatic ending that could only come from the dark imagination of Clive Barker. This is one of the best short stories of the lot. The story was later adapted into the 1995 film `Lord Of Illusions', which Clive Barker was the producer, director and screenwriter for. The short story differs from the film quite dramatically, with completely different storylines and endings.
The Book Of Blood (a postscript): On Jerusalem Street - 3 pages
"After the end, a new beginning: walking the highway of the dead". To conclude the whole Books Of Blood series, this postscript forms a perfect bookend together with the first short - The Book Of Blood (see Books Of Blood Volume One). A macabre little ending that ties the whole premise of the books together, leaving the collection feeling like a whole.
on 6 March 2006
In this second half of the highway of the dead, Clive Barker takes us even deeper than we could have ever dreamt into the empire of death. Every story is a miracle and a fascinating marvel. Every story deserves our attention and energy. But some are maybe slightly more conspicuous, at least for me. But these stories seem to be fascinated by various parts of the body, various parts and pieces that have total freedom to do as they like, be they hands that sever their attachment to human beings to live their autonomous life and get rid of the human race ; or the righteous christian soul – a very gullible appendage or appendix indeed – of a preacher who is ready to kill if necessary to impose his vision of the final apocalypse, at least if he has enough time to do it before being executed by his prospective victims ; or the sexual impulse of a man boosted by some prophetic prefiguration of viagra, an impulse that will have to run its course to the end which necessarily means death for the body that is nothing but the tool of that drive ; or the fascination of the eyes, and the camera that is nothing but an extension of these eyes, of this research worker who discovers the deepest pulsating need of mystery, horror and fear in the minds of ordinary simple people who invent the Candyman to inhabit their nights with some thrilling experience ; or the deepest voracious cannibalistic female mother of everything and everyone, a madonna that controls, dominates and generates the whole world that is so willing to be so possessed that no one sees or realises it ; or the killing instinct of one’s grandfather once hanged for his murdering crimes and now able to revisit his grandson in order to make him do again what he himself did in order for this grandson to take his place in the city of the damned and for him to get on the road to eternal life or non-existence since freed of any torturing and waiting ; or the very death we all carry in us and that can be turned into a living deadly organism that is transported and scattered around like a plague, as if death was an organ of ours among many others ; or the greed that gets punished somewhere in Amazonia through a curse from Indian victims of the voracious western ogres who need to eat the flesh and drink the blood of innocent prehistoric survivors of ancient nature-oriented civlizations ; or the real beast that lives in some of us and that is controlled by psychiatric expertise into obedience and service to the secret clandestine forces that stabilizes the obscure balance of the world split in two camps, at the time of the cold war when Clive Barker was writing, and today at teh time of the war on terrorism ; or the satanic magic one can buy from Lucifer against one’s own soul that one can always retain or recapture by mocking the devilish master and using Satan’s magic to block the recuperation of one’s body after death without which the soul is nothing, in fact not even detained. One may be surprised and even shocked by the quantity and diversity of bodily fluids that are shed in those pages, but Clive Barker has a fluid and liquid imagination and his world would have no density without those life-providing even and especially diabolical fluids. We could also wonder why Clive Barker needs so much sex in his stories, and particularly non-kosher sex, that kind of sex that is associated to Sodom and Gomorrha. But once again the potency of Clive Barker’s style is in the sexual dimension of the delirium he calls his imagination. Writing for him is nothing but intercourse with this imagination of his who definitely rapes him over and over again page after page in all possible variations and nuances. And the most hellish form of rape is for him scatological, which means the release of another bodily fluid of sort. Fragile-psyched and delicate-sensitivitied readers are rather heartily advised not to enter these deep lanes and paths down into the pestifirous crypt of human haunting delusions which are nothing but, over and over again, the last illusion that will charm us into either stupidity or complete vegetable stupor. Maybe some will be illuminated, but these lights are nothing but the mesmerizing power of IT, of the longed-for molesting we all hope will one day assault us with delicious ecstacy.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Université Paris Dauphine, Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne
on 17 June 2009
After fervently reading the first volume of Barker's Books of Blood, I really couldn't wait to sink my teeth into the second volume. It was consumed in a matter of days, but didn't taste as sweet as the first.
This volume is more about the fantasy than the horror and as usual, Barker has let his imagination of the leash. We have stories of a murderous hand army, a woman who is literally, death, a spy story with a dash of monster, a rich man's desire to bring about hell on earth, an estate that harbours a deadly secret and a woman's desire to unveil it. 14 tales of revenge, birth and mystery all imbued with the authors famed prose; which at times, escalates to near literary perfection.
And the characters? Superb. There are no sniffs of a stereotype, all possess unique, engaging persona's that ache for your attention. But what I love most about any Barker work is the creatures. Haunting and obscenely beautiful, beasts that once you visualise, will never forget.
This book, as with the first one, is also aptly named; these are gory stories that should be approached with a corrugated stomach. The bodies keep mounting, the blood keeps splashing, bones keep crunching; but none of the gore is over the top and, in it's morbid way, is beautifully composed.
It didn't quite give me the chills of the first one, and some of the stories are passable (the real reason it doesn't get another star) but the majority are wonderful: personally I would choose 'In the flesh' as the most flagrant of the assortment.
If your looking for a 80mph scare fest, go read some King. But, if your looking for a writer who twists, flays and distorts the horror genre; if your looking for a rhetoric genius; if you want to see the dark crevices of a imagination pregnant with the macabre, then you've come to the right place. (Do yourself a favour and buy both, you won't regret it.)