“Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, Volume 1″ by Chris Ryall and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing, 2006)

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It’s always interesting to see how graphic novel adaptations of complex and long books are going to turn out.  Thankfully, Ryall’s and Rodriguez’s adaptation of Barker’s book is one that he can be proud of, and will make fans happy.  For a summary of the novel, see my review for The Great and Secret Show.

The key here is that this is the first volume in an at least two-volume series, because the forty or fifty pages would not be able to cover the whole story.  What’s so refreshing is the art.  Clive Barker has a very vivid imagination and to see these crazy and complex images show in art form, rich with color and detail, is a truly enjoyable experience.  Along with a brilliantly written script that manages to condense a six hundred page book – or three hundred in this case – into this slim graphic novel.

Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show is perfect for the fan of the book looking to see it done in a whole new way, as well as those not sure if they want to tackle a long dense book, and looking for a Cliffnotes version.  Of course, once they’ve read it, they will probably want to read the novel version, which of course is highly recommended.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 5th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Living Dead” Edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books, 2008)

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After the success of John Joseph Adams’ last anthology Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, he returns with a new fantastic collection, The Living Dead, with stories from the greatest horror fiction writers in publication: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Laurel K. Hamilton, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, and many others.  It is a fascinating collection for it proves to the reader that no zombie story is the same, and what amazing settings and situations authors can come up that involve zombies.

In the first story, from Dan Simmons, “This Year’s Class Picture,” Ms. Geiss, a former high school teacher, has barricaded herself in her old high school.  A barbed wire fence and wall surround the school, along with a moat filled with gasoline.  Geiss spends her days with her class, a class of zombie children.  After hitting them with a tranquilizer, she chained them to their chairs and each day shows them pictures of humanity, the beauty of the world, and the greatness of the human race, trying to make a connection, trying to get a reaction.  But each day she is greeted by the dead stares in their faces, with their eyes hungry for human flesh.

In Neil Gaiman’s “Bitter Grounds,” the narrator has had enough with his life and just up and leaves one day.  Meeting an anthropology professor presenting a paper on zombies in New Orleans, he steals the man’s identity, and never expecting to go through with it, finds himself in New Orleans being the professor.  At night in the streets of the old city, he meets some people that later he considers may not be human.  He presents the paper as the professor, semi-believing in its intention, especially after his experiences of the night before.

In “The Dead Kid” from Darrell Schweitzer, David is a young boy who wants to hang out with the big kids who are always bullying him; he wants to be like them so they’ll stop bullying him.  So one day they show him “the dead kid”: a very young child that is being kept trapped in a box in a cave in the forest.  It is very pale, twin empty sockets where its eyes should be, and spends its days slowly writhing, trying to get free of its prison.

The Living Dead is a sobering read in that it primarily reveals to the readers the horrors zombies are capable of, but also presents the dark and evil side of humanity and what it is capable of when pitted against these walking corpses.  The idea of the zombie forces one to face the reality of death and how in this way it may be cheated, but when the cost is a term that has become synonymous with something that is dead but alive, incredibly stupid, and hungers for flesh; it makes one yearn all the more for an undisturbed grave.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 9th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Mister B. Gone” by Clive Barker (Harpercollins, 2007)

Mister B. Gonestarstarstar

The moment you pick up this book, you know you’re in for a treat.  It’s small and compact, inviting, around 200 pages long.  On the front black cover is the title in Gothic type: Mister B. Gone, with Clive Barker carved in rough letters beneath.  Between the two lines is a strange pictograph making one curious and interested.  On the back is the same symbol and not another word.  Turn the cover and there is a strange marble page design, which kind of looks like a webbing of veins and arteries, followed by two title pages, then the book begins with these words: “BURN THIS BOOK.”

Bestselling author Clive Barker hasn’t released a book in some time, and is currently in the middle of his four-book Abarat series, as well as the third book in the Art trilogy due sometime this decade or the next.  And yet the concept for Mister B. Gone suddenly occurred to Barker one day and he was supposedly unable to do anything else until he got this book out of his head.

This book is about a demon.  In fact, it’s a book written by a demon; it’s his story, because he’s trapped in the book.  He has but one request for the reader: to burn the book and free the demon by killing it, presumably sending it back to the ninth level of hell.  His name is Jakabok Botch, and as he continuously tries to convince the reader to burn the book, he reveals more of his life story.

It is the sixteenth century, and when the demon is trapped and scooped from the ninth level of hell to the surface by a group of people looking to make a profit from selling demon skins, Jakabok’s adventure begins.  He soon befriends another demon, Quitoon, of a much greater size and power than him, and their friendship lasts over a hundred years, as they spend their time terrorizing and demonizing the world.  The story builds and builds to a crescendo involving Joahnnes Gutenberg and the invention of his revolutionizing printing press which will irrevocably change the world.

While Mister B. Gone lacks the depth, development and sheer incredulity that one is used to with Barker’s work, it is nevertheless a great little horror story.  And each time Jakabok threatens on the page that he is coming up behind you with a knife, the reader can’t help but reflexively stop and look behind them.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 10th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Weaveworld” by Clive Barker (Poseidon Press, 1987)

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A relatively early book in Clive Barker’s career when he was still living in England, it is set within his hometown of Liverpool.  Starting out seemingly normal with normal people, it immediately jumps to the mundane and insane.  Weaveworld is a book that will delight, appall, horrify, and leave you thinking about the meaning of place and belonging somewhere.

The main character, Cal Mooney, is a person going nowhere fast in a dead-end job, until he comes into contact with this large rolled up carpet that is being moved from a house.  Gazing into its intricate patterns, he sees more at work here, and discovers paradise for the first time.  As the book develops and more characters are added, he discovers that the magically collected designs within the carpet is what is known as The Fugue: an ancient civilization and people who have lived since the beginning of existence but over time, after cohabiting with humanity, have lost numbers and suffered destruction.  Over a hundred years ago The Fugue, using magic, picked the best pieces of their world and their people and wrapped themselves into the design of the carpet, safe and protected, until they will have a safer place to live in the future.  Guardians were appointed over time to protect The Fugue, but now they are all gone.  The Fugue’s greatest enemy, The Scourge, was a menace while they were living in the world, but now lies dormant while they are in the carpet.  That is until they are freed and begin to change the world around them; old enemies come out of the woodwork, and Mooney, along with the daughter of one of the guardians, Suzanna Parish, must work to protect and save The Fugue before it is too late.  While not every question is fully answered, or every problem resolved, the book is still an incredible journey.

If you haven’t read Clive Barker before, Weaveworld is the perfect introductory novel to his language, his incredible imagination, and horrors you never thought possible.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 4th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Great and Secret Show” by Clive Barker (Harpercollins, 1990)

A Great and Secret ShowStarStarStarStarstar

In The Great and Secret Show, one of the great storytellers brings us the first volume of the Art Trilogy, taking readers to a place they’ve never been before.  This book is not a fantasy book, not a horror novel, or a science fiction story; and at the same time it’s all these and much more.  Barker takes you to a new plane of existence in The Great and Secret Show where you’ll laugh and cry, smile and scream; where unimaginable horrors and triumphs await!

Randolphe Jaffe is a loser who’s going nowhere fast, that is until he gets a job for the post office working in the dead letter room in Omaha, Nebraska – the nexus of the country where all lost and undeliverable mail ends up.  Going through thousands of pieces of undelivered mail per day – money and everything of value is surrendered to his boss – he begins finding clues of an undiscovered power in existence beneath the realm of society.  It takes time, but he puts the pieces together until he has a good idea of this power known as the Art, where he then receives a medallion, the very symbol of the Art.  While it means little to him at first, he knows it is an important piece of the puzzle.  Naturally, his boss wants the item and it is then that Jaffe takes the first step down his new path and kills the man in cold blood.

Collecting the important evidence together, with the medallion, he travels across America, living on the whim of the Art, letting it guide him where it will.  Innocent bystanders are used by him, sensing the power of the Art and agreeing to whatever Jaffe tells them.  It is in an alcohol- and drug-infused stupor that Jaffe conducts his pilgrimage into the desert and finds the Loop: a place out of time, and meets Kissoon, the last member of the Shoal.  The Shoal was the group appointed to protect the Art.  For the world is part of the Cosm, and beyond this is the Metacosm where the sea of Quiddity lies – a place visited by all when they are born, the night with their first love, and when they die – and within Quiddity lies the island of Ephemeris, the dream land.  More importantly at the far edge of the Metacosm lie the Iad Uroborus, a great evil that is always looking to consume the Cosm.  The Art is a way of getting to Quiddity.  Kissoon tells Jaffe that he must occupy his body so he can leave the Loop and defend the Cosm.  Jaffe suspects otherwise and flees, embarking on his own mission of discovery with Richard Wesley Fletcher as they research the Art in its entirety.  Fletcher soon discovers a liquid form of the Art known as nuncio, testing it first on a chimpanzee who becomes a human with the ability of speech and thought, known as Raul.  The nuncio will force the being to the next evolutionary step, but Richard also knows if Jaffe were to use it, it would focus on his urges of murder and revenge, making him into a serial killer.  But it is too late, for Jaffe discovers the existence of the nuncio and in a fight both are infected by it and become higher beings – The Jaff and Fletcher.

And then a great war is fought in the skies of America between these two gods of power until they are spent and plunge into a lake in Palomo Grove, California.  There they both rest until four unsuspecting girls go swimming and are inseminated by The Jaff and Fletcher to create subjects to regain their power.  And so the town is irrevocably changed forever as the four girls are all changed, becoming pregnant, giving birth to the offspring of these deities.  Only three survive: a son of Fletcher and twins of The Jaff, and it is when, years later, that Fletcher’s son and The Jaff’s daughter meet and fall in love at first sight that the gods are awakened and the town takes a turn for the worst.  Using the life-force of a recent victim, The Jaff is able to regain his power and begins collecting minions that he calls terrata from the people of Palomo Grove, sucking out their souls and using their rage, evil and anger to fuel his creatures.  Fletcher is left with the dregs and is barely able to leave the crevasse where the lake used to be and find out what has happened to his son; then in a heroic effort, he gives up his life, spreading his power through the minds of the people of the town, who then have their dreams of meeting celebrities come true.  These are the allies who must battle against the terrata in the mansion on the hill.

With help from a pulp reporter, Grillo, and his friend, Tesla, Fletcher’s son Howard with The Jaff’s daughter – who despises her creator – confront The Jaff and his son in the big showdown.  Only the evil god takes it all to a whole new level when he rips a hole in the fabric of reality with the power of the Art, opening a widening doorway to Quiddity.  Soon everything in the room is being sucked into this other realm, with only The Jaff, Grillo and Tesla making it out of the room alive.  As the rest of the world comes to comprehend the catastrophic events taking place in Palomo Grove and take notice, a decision must now be made with how to solve this whole horrible mess, as the Iad Uroborus are on their way at high speed to pass through this rip and take over the world.

Time is of the essence, and Tesla – who has visited Kissoon herself – puts it all together and manages to move this trans-dimensional hole to the land of the Loop where time is stuck.  Realizing that Kissoon chose Trinity, New Mexico – the location of the first detonation of the atomic bomb, where no one would think to check – she must kill Kissoon, who has already broken free due to his taking over of Raul’s (yes the evolved monkey) body, and with Kissoon gone, all that remains in the Loop is Raul’s body.  The only solution, which Tesla goes forward with, is for Raul to occupy her body: two spirits, two consciences in one body, but it works.  The Loop collapses, time starts moving again and just as the Iad Uroborus begin spilling into this world, there is the bright light and giant mushroom cloud, and the world is saved this time, but the power of the Art is not over.  The adventures of Grillo, Tesla and this crazy wacky and incredible world Barker has created continue on in the Second Book of the Art, Everville.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on February 13th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.