SHOCK writer John Nicol picks his 10 favorite Clive Barker joints.
Fresh off the immense success of his latest novel THE SCARLET GOSPELS, Clive Barker and his fiction continue to maintain a lasting presence in the world of horror literature. Excitingly, choice selections of his back catalog are resurfacing as of late and being revamped as definitive editions from micro-publishers. Earthling Publications, Dark Regions Press and Gauntlet Press continue to churn out wicked collector pieces like upcoming THE BODY BOOK (Dark Regions), THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW (Gauntlet), and the new special edition of THE SCARLET GOSPELS (Earthling).
They are truly catering to the hard core connoisseur and possibly the next generation of Barker fans.
In lieu of this renaissance, SHOCK thought it a good time to whip-up a top 10 list of Barker’s best short stories and novels. And if you have not read these titles, you’ll find no plot spoilers here.
10. EVERVILLE (The Second Book of the Art): The highly anticipated sequel to the extremely popular THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW and another one Clive’s famously hefty epics that brings the reader back to the dream sea of Quiddity and reacquaints us with the evil Iad Ourobourus. Clive’s supernatural detective, Harry D’Amour, even makes a substantial appearance…
9. The ABARAT Series (Books 1-3): Imagine a Barkeresque version of Harry Potter with a teenage heroine named Candy who is thrust into a world of magic, imagination, and wonder. A world outside ours that is made up of 25 islands each representing one hour in a day, plus a 25th island which represents time outside of time. Each book contains 300 or more paintings done exclusively by Clive himself! There are two more books reportedly en route…
8. THE THIEF OF ALWAYS: Clive’s first venture into children’s literature, and before you get all bent out of shape, it is plenty scary and haunting at times. In the THIEF universe Harvey Swick is seduced by the deceptive magic of Mr. Hood and his home – a place where all your wishes come true. But a day spent in Mr. Hood’s tainted house equates to one year in the real world, and Swick is lost to the illusion, while secretly, Mr. Hood gets fat off of Harvey’s desires and greed. Give this book a read or re-read; it’s pure otherworldly horror fun.
7. SCAPE-GOATS (BOOKS OF BLOOD, Vol. #3): This short gem is hands down scary as shit…it plays on so many human fears and hits close to home! A ship gets marooned on an island in waters that happen to be the cross currents for the washed up dead. If you thought zombies were bad, how about messing with the angry, water logged dead – intense! Clive covers the fear of water, the unknown, something grabbing you from abyssal depths, isolation and abandonment…chills the bones just thinking of it.
6. IMAJICA: This mammoth epic coming in at over 800 pages is definitely a fan favorite, to such an extent that ranking this in sixth place may land us in hot water. It came in at sixth only because it treads more in the fantastical realm than in the horror domain. On a very positive note, Guillermo del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH borrows heavily (in this writer’s opinion) from IMAJICA to great effect; you can see its inspiration in the movie’s fantastic creatures…
5. THE SCARLET GOSPELS: Holy Clive Barker, Batman! Who would’ve thought that the infamous high priest from the order of the Gash (Pinhead) would ever share the same pages with another Barker character…yes, that’s right, the suave gumshoe Harry D’Amour (from THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW, THE LAST ILLUSION and EVERVILLE) squares off against Pinhead, in this farewell piece to the coolest cenobite in Hell’s employ.
4. IN THE FLESH (BOOKS OF BLOOD, Vol. #5): An unequivocally unnerving entry from Barker’s infamous BOOKS OF BLOOD series (a tale that almost came to cinematic fruition by Mick Garris). This short story is so frightening it demands multiple reads with the lights out. It is so densely packed and detailed, we still can’t believe it’s only a short story! If THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION took place in hell and mated with THE SHINING, IN THE FLESH would be the progeny of this unholy copulation – it’s that good!
3. THE DAMNATION GAME: The terrifying novel that kick-started it all and launched Barker’s career. Beloved by many, this early entry is pure dread; nasty and uncomfortable while being beautiful and poetic in the same breath. Clive always manages to make nightmares a thing of awe, and make us inadvertently fall in love with his monsters and visions without even realizing it.
2. WEAVEWORLD: The ultimate adult fairy tale horror hybrid was a photo finish for our number one spot. If you haven’t read this masterpiece yet, wait no longer…it will not disappoint. This book is so incredibly imagined, packed with everything from magical beings, to hidden worlds, to horrific beasts (The Scourge is a nasty thing); it is beautiful and dreamlike while being explicitly dark and nightmarish. Top notch Barker for sure.
1. THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW (The First Book of the Art): This epic masterpiece is Clive’s equivalent to King’s THE STAND. It is horrific, majestic and apocalyptic and that’s just in the first third of the book! As part of an envisioned trilogy, SECRET SHOW was the first and EVERVILLE (#10) was the second. Fans are rabidly foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the third and final chapter in The Art saga. Please Mr. Barker, we’re begging you…
What are your favorite tales by Mr. Barker? What’s your all time fave?