Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Scarlet Gospels - Clive Barker

I have been a huge Clive Barker fan ever since I first stumbled upon The Hellbound Heart back in the late 1980's. (Showing my age now! LOL) While the majority of people, it seemed, learned of Clive through the scintillating horror films of the Hell Raiser series, which are based on the Hellbound Heart novella, my own route was through his novels and short stories. I avidly devoured The Great and Secret Show, Weaveworld, Imajica, Everville, Coldheart Canyon, etcetera, etcetera, through to Mister B. Gone, enjoying each and every one for Clive's detailed and superbly grandiose narrative style.
And now we have The Scarlet Gospels, the long-awaited and desperately anticipated conclusion to the Tales of the Cenobites, in particular the greatest Cenobite of them all - the great Hell Priest himself, more commonly (and unflatteringly) known as Pinhead.
The novel tells the tale of the final confrontation between Pinhead and the great saviour of humanity from many of Clive's other stories, Harry D'Amour, the tattooed avenger of evil. I don't intend to recount much, if any, of the plot or details of the story, as I'd rather you read the book for yourself.
What I really want to blab on about is the style of Clive's writing in this book, which has continued to improve like fine wine. In this novel, the detail and imagery, in both breadth and execution, are absolutely phenomenal!  We are taken on a journey through Hell that makes Dante's Inferno look like the tentative scribblings of a miscreant child. Seriously! The scope of Barker's world of the damned is  incredible. The sojourns of both Pinhead and his associates, and D'Amour and his team of Harrowers, pulls us through vast, colourful (or colourless) lands, seas and forests, as well as crowded cities and demon-clogged roads, and temples that take us back to the unhallowed lands of the Old Ones as depicted by H.P. Lovecraft, and magnificent, endless cathedrals that the mind finds hard to comprehend and visualize because of their very vastness!
And the language Barker uses to describe these vistas and the events that unfold within them is so rich and detailed, and impeccably varied, that I ended every chapter with a "Wow! That's amazing!", and the thought, once I had finished the book, of "How did he fit so much into only 361 pages?"
And, yes, while I have read some of the comments by readers of the book complaining that it was too short, I find that kind of remark really only shows how ignorant they are of Clive's skill as a writer. Sure, I would like the book to be longer, but if that's how many words it took to write the novel, who are we to complain in the face of a master like Clive Barker?  Certainly there is nothing missing from the book in the way of completing the tale, and does every Clive Barker book need to be as long as Imajica or The Great and Secret Show? In that case, Mister B. Gone would be woefully short! And no writer worth his or her salt starts a story with the statement, "I am going to write an 80,000 word or 200,000 word novel!" or "I am going to write a 40,000 word novella!" That's just not the way it works, dear readers! A writer writes a story until it's finished, whether that takes 10,000, 100,000, or 500,000 words!
Rant over, my recommendation is - buy a copy of The Scarlet Gospels and read it. If not for the fact it is destined to become one of the classic horror stories of all time, then do it simply for the fact it is a beautifully written story.

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