The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a panacea for my horror-starved heart.
You know these two movies? I still continue to love Lord of Illusions and Hellraiser. I gushed blood over these two gems for many years. So what could make my day complete? You got it; a pale scarlet horse comes riding up to my doorstep to hand me this gorgeous little tome featuring Harry D'Amour and Pinhead performing an intricate dance around one another; filling me up with a horrid rooting fascination for anything that Pinhead tries to accomplish, or clean up; and sick pity for the genuinely good man in Harry that is always eventually drawn to hell.
First of all, let me say that Harry is well and truly out of his league for almost the entire novel. He is so hopelessly outclassed that I'm forced into a situation where I, the reader, am left as a victim of irresistible bondange to the novel as I, like Harry, get to witness Pinhead's ascension in hell.
Sure, this novel mostly takes place in the bowels of hell, but instead of Mr. Barker trying to goad our increased tolerance of blood and gore, he successfully introduces a kingdom of wonder and awe. That's really hard when it comes to novels about hell, in my experience. There was acknowledgement of an infinity of suffering, and some truly inspiring sights, creatures, and events, but underneath it all was the deep sense of magic and learning and discovery.
Yes. I'm talking about Hell as a place to learn and grow, and never once did I feel like I was being punked.
It continued the same kinds of themes that Pinhead has always been known for. "I will show you exquisite suffering." *shiver* And then it blew my mind with his ultimate scope and ambition. And then there were a few scenes in the book where I had to put it down and jabber excitedly at my poor uninterested family members about how damn cool the scene was. I am not going to ruin it for anyone, but yeah, they were fucking cool.
As for Harry, I learned more about him and his past in a really excellent urban fantasy setting, got to know his good friends, and learned that the lot of them are all damn crazy. If a really good friend gets dragged off to hell by a cenobite, I'm sorry, but I'm just going to have to beg off the question about going after them. First of all, it's PINHEAD. Second of all, it's Hell. I know that they were all going to do the same for Harry after he stupidly played with the box, and how he got out of that was freaking funny, but still! Barker pulls it off. He pulls it all off. It runs cinematically. It's never boring. I kept thinking that this might-might-might make a good miniseries. Maybe. I don't know. I just want to see all the love and detail brought to my tv the same way that I've enjoyed these guys all my life.
As for Mr. Barker, I just want to say Thank you! You've been out of circulation for a bit, but what an awesome way to jump back in. Thank You! Fanboy is very pleased!
If you do continue the adventures of L****** and choose to incorporate Harry, then I'm already drooling. I want to revisit everywhere. It doesn't matter. I want anything you've got, Mr. Barker!
Warning to the wise. The horror market has unfortunately fallen to the wayside to make room for an endless supply of snark and rehashed vamp/were/magic that is reaching a nearly intolerably glut in the market. This is not one of those newfangled novels, although it has some elements of the new breeds.
This novel is epic in scope and quick in execution. As I was reading it, I kept saying to myself, "This is how it's done."
Sure, I have a few issues with the characters, in that they have a bit of a lack of interpersonal conflict, but that's easily ignored because they are, after all, in Hell. As I was reading, I kept thinking about another tidbit I'd heard from another reviewer that said that Barker had written this as a straight-up showdown between Harry and Pinhead, and it was well over twice the final length. What we got was a mute witness, and it worked very well, but I can't help but wish that I could see that other version.
If Harry was a fly, he'd be picking a fight with a nuclear explosion. It's definitely not fair, and I swear it could never turn out well, but I can't help but want to read it anyway.
Here's for hoping that another version gets released someday for those diehard fans.
I could spend the next week trying to devise a plot and resolution, myself, but I fear that I'd probably go mad.
The novel is going to keep me up and wondering for some time. I love it for that.
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