Galilee by Clive Barker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this first when it came out, so this is a reread. My initial impression was of gods walking among us with a serious attempt to make old legends real. I recognized Dumuzi/Tammuz right off the bat and was enchanted. I had been doing a Barker marathon at the time, so I was really into the meandering and directionless text. He always got somewhere in the end, so I my faith was strong.
This second read showed me how much more mythology I now know and reaffirmed my belief that Barker was a bit more accomplished in the realm of practicing magick. I always guessed as much back in the day, but now I can point to a hell of a lot of interesting factoids. I won't do that here. I'm sure it would bore most anyone to death. Suffice to say, I *still* think this book is one hell of a meandering ride.
Do you like to read about two great families, with a lot of interesting history between them? Check. Do you love magical realism? Check.
Do you love novels that sincerely try to give you a bit of everything, trying to bring the novel truly alive with all the foibles of gods and humans? I don't say this lightly. I'm really saying that it tries to bring together love and hate, ennui and passion, romance and intellect, immortality and guttering flames, and even potence and impotence. The pieces are everywhere, and Barker consistently brings them all self-consciously to the fore through his narrator, rising from self-satisfied indolence to an interest and a restored passion for exploring life.
Even the narrator has a hard time pulling all the pieces together, and honestly, I think Barker was speaking to us all, directly. It was a truly huge novel in all it tried to accomplish. It had such a huge cast even while ostensibly remaining a revenge tale couched within an epic romance.
I knew what to expect, so I didn't expect a polished flow or even a real thread of a plot until late. It's just not what this novel was designed for.
It IS designed to throw you into such a deep and exploratory life among living gods, half-gods, and the Kennedy clan... oh wait.. I didn't mean that... that you as a reader aren't *meant* to do much else besides ride the boat of the novel and enjoy the lives and the scenery.
And that's fine. There's a lot to enjoy.
It's really hard to put my finger on exactly what I like most about it. I know I like it. I think it's mostly the whole cloth, the tapestry and the weave, that I most appreciate. The hundreds of smaller aspects only serve to bolster the feel of the whole, while never striking me over the head with it's importance, save for a few endgame plot-worthy scenes, of course.
I really do love a happy ending, though, and I had been noticing that Barker's concurrent works were all inching toward the same conclusions. A true departure from the horror I knew and love, in other words.
I do recall that I pointed myself back to this and another of Barker's works as an obvious precursor to American Gods. If it wasn't for things like this novel, I wouldn't have been so well primed to enjoy Gaiman's novel. (And it was only later than that when I finally picked up The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, so the whole cause/effect thing is hairy, anyway. I'm just spouting my impressions. Good impressions, I might add.)
Meandering can sometimes be a boon, and in my final estimate, this one pulled it off.
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