“Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium” by Clive Barker (Subterranean Press, 2015)

For those who have wondered about one of the great horror writers who goes by the name Clive Barker, but have never read any of his work, they would do well to sample the novella Tortured Souls. It encapsulates this talented author in a limited number of pages, showing his skill at revealing a short story, with memorable characters, and some dark and bloody plot that will leave you gasping.

The “first city” of Primordium is renowned throughout history for its upheavals and political changes and at its heart lives a being whose origin is unknown and whose existence is enigmatic to say the least, known by many names, but most commonly Agonistes. If you wish, he will transform you to your heart’s desire, whether it is for love or revenge, but know that it will be an agony you have not felt before.

In this novella we learn of the wondrous city of Primordium and some of its inhabitants and their desires and hates, as well as the power that Agonistes wields and how once you are transformed by him, there is no turning back, whether you wish to or not.

Originally written on November 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Scarlet Gospels” by Clive Barker (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

Scarlet Gospels

To know Pinhead is to fear him. The demon who is a priest of hell can be summoned with a cryptic little box, and then the hooks and chains come, giving a whole new meaning to the term agony. Barker fans have been waiting for the demon’s return for many years and the creature appears in this final showdown in The Scarlet Gospels.

With a nod to the Divine Comedy, Harry D’Amour soon finds himself sucked into a world of trouble. The lead investigator of all things magical and supernatural has to pull together his cadre of helpers and then they find themselves passing through a portal straight into hell. Harry has one goal: to end Pinhead once and for all. But traveling through hell isn’t that easy, especially after his history of pissing off the paranormal and sending numerous demons back to hell from whence they came.

The gang soon discovers that something is terribly wrong in hell. Things are falling apart and looking way worse than they normally would. Pinhead has started his final plan after taking the life of every known magician, witch and wizard and has absorbed all this power; and now he is bringing hell to its knees. Sending the dead and the demons to whatever there is beyond hell, with plans to take on Lucifer himself and make himself ruler of hell. The question is how is Harry going to bring Pinhead’s existence to an end?

The Scarlet Gospels has been building for years, with readers anxiously waiting for some new material, and sadly the result doesn’t deliver as expected. While the story is a fun romp through hell for Harry and the gang, the last part of the books gets to be a little too much of the same thing over and over again. Barker had said this would be it for Pinhead, one final sure ending for him from which he couldn’t return. But by the end of the book, as the reader is left feeling unsettled with how it all came to a close, they’ll also be wondering if this really is it for Pinhead, as his unmoving corpse was never actually seen.

Originally written on July 10, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Scarlet Gospels from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Chiliad  Abarat  Coldheart Canyon

“Chiliad: A Meditation” by Clive Barker (Subterranean Press, 2014)


Bestselling author Clive Barker has an innate ability to find an unusual and compelling word, story or book that grabs a reader’s interest; and he does just this with Chiliad. A chiliad is a measurement of a length of time, exactly one thousand years; this book features two novellas that stretch across the span of a millennium.

“Men and Sin” takes place in the year 1000 AD about a strong relationship between an ugly man and ugly woman, and when this man has his love taken from him, her life ended, he vows revenge against those who have committed this grave sin for removing the thing he cared for in his life. “A Moment at the River’s Heart” taking place a thousand years later also features a brutal attack against a woman and its repercussions against those who carried out the act and those who care.

Barker apparently wrote these novellas after a period of depression, and while the stories can feel convoluted and overly-philosophical, it’s possible to feel the dark, strong emotion emanating from Chiliad. It is an evil and twisted ride, one you might want to end, but it is also one you shan’t forget.

Originally written on December 30, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Chiliad from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Abarat” by Clive Barker (Joanna Cotler Books, 2002)


A lot of people have been waiting for Clive Barker to unveil his newest creation since Coldheart Canyon earlier this year.  We all knew it was going to be for kids, but we also knew it was going to be classic Clive Barker, and would be a great first book in the series.  Having read this first installment, I concur with every fan’s automatic assumption.

Abarat is the first book in the series about a young girl, Candy Quakenbush, who lives in Chickentown, USA.  She has never felt she truly belongs in the dead end town which prides itself on maintaining the industry of its name.  And so one day she heads out into the fields, where he finds what looks like the ruin of an old lighthouse and an old pier.  Soon she meets a couple of characters, one good and one bad, and she has just seconds to start up this old lighthouse using a magic she never knew she possessed.  Suddenly the sea comes rushing in from nowhere and she is whisked away to the Abarat, a vast archipelago where every island is a specific hour of the day.  And so Candy is taken on many different adventures, both good and bad, where each time she comes close to losing everything, she somehow manages to break free.

With a vast cast of crazy and unusual characters, any reader would be struggling to deal with what they all look like and how to separate all these places.  Fortunately, Barker hasn’t only been busy writing, but he has also been busy painting for this series.  Abarat features over one hundred original designs and paintings by Barker which he has spent the last four years creating, all to do with the current book at hand.  The result is a visual opening into an impossible world that could only exist within the mind of one man.

The book ends with Candy alive and well on towards another adventure, as Barker ends with a familiar phrase: “So Ends the First Book of the Abarat.”  With three more to come in the series, one can only wonder what Candy is going to get up to next.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally published on December 9th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Coldheart Canyon” by Clive Barker (HarperCollins, 2001)

Hollywood’s Debauched History

Coldheart Canyonstarstarstarstar

Coldheart Canyon is a clear example of what happens when a brilliant, literary mind sits down to create long, great work.  Over six hundred pages, Clive Barker’s new novel ascends to a horror level above Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Neil Gaiman, both in story and literary style.  Barker has often been slotted into the genre of “horror writer,” and it is when one reads Coldheart Canyon that one realizes he really in a league of his own.

Todd Pickett is a lot like Bruce Campbell, the renowned Hollywood  actor – of the B-movies that is.  He has how own scary fan club and he has been making action-flicks since the early nineties, but has now reached his career plateau.  No longer is he able to make the big bucks for the tough-guy movies; what he needs is to revamp himself and present and new and improved Todd Pickett to the world.  The solution then, in a place like Hollywood, can only be one thing: plastic surgery.  Except is goes wrong, and he ends up getting scarred and needs a place to hide out for a while so he can heal.

The covert locale of Coldheart Canyon is a castle-like mansion located in a most obscure area of Los Angeles (if one does not know where to look for it, one will never find it).  It is devoid of life, or so Pickett thinks, but after some time spend in solitude, the ghosts begin to make an appearance.  Coldheart Canyon was originally owned by a famous actress of the silent-movie era, Katya Lupi, where famous parties of degradation and sexual exploitation used to take place, where the crème of Hollywood would give into their secret and uncouth desires – like Charlie Chaplin’s passion for very young girls – with the aim that once they have satisfied their anxieties, they will be happy and smiling for the camera the next day.

However in the basement of this house is something special, something from a bygone time centuries old, taken from the hidden hinterlands of Romania.  A snippet of time, involving a group of fifteenth century hunters and the Devil’s wife, held within a breathtaking mosaic, which holds much more than startling colors and shocking landscapes.  There is a power at work here, one in  which the Devil’s hand is steering; a power where a quasi-immortality is granted, though as with everything involving the Devil, it is at a terrible price.

Having spent years working on this novel, Barker has made it immensely personal, with characters that have been taken from his very own life; even the death of his beloved dog is incorporated into the book.  At the same time Barker is doing what he does best: delving into a conglomeration of fantasy and horror, taking the reader to a metaphysical plane that can only be reach by the skilled hands of Barker.  With his colorful vocabulary and literary skill that raises the novel to a much higher level, Coldheart Canyon attains new bounds from the mind of one of today’s most eminent authors.

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

Originally published on February 4th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Cabal” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 3 of 3: “Cabal”


Cabal: The anthology starts off with this novel from Clive Barker.  In the remote town of Midian, there is a race of the undead, similar to vampires, and yet different; the sun kills them, they feed on human meat.  They also have strange powers, where they can metamorphose into flesh-hungry beats with astounding strength.

The min character, Boone, “thinks” he has committed an uncountable number of murders and goes to Midian, where he feels he will fit in.  There he is set-up, the murders are blamed on his without question, and he is shot and killed.  Except, for the trap fell, he was bitten by one of the Nightbreed, becoming one of them.

The time is now at hand.  The Breed have been in hiding for too long, and Boone now knows where the Breed reside.  En force they will come to wipe them out, but the Breed have other intentions in mind.  Led by Boone, they will combat the humans and fight for their right to survive.

Cabal was made into a movie, under the title Nightbreed.  The story is one of Barker’s short novels, only 195 pages long, but like his other works, it is a masterpiece in itself, reaching out and titillating the human psyche with its supernatural hands.

“The Life of Death”: A church from the seventeenth century is being demolished, while onlookers wish otherwise.  In the church is a crypt, but within are not a collection of organized bodies, but piles of them, tossed in without concern, and they appear to have suffered from some disease.  Now this disease has been released into the open; the problem is nobody knows it exists.

“How Spoilers Bleed”: Locke has “bought” a piece of land in the jungle of Brazil, but the Indians who have lived on this land for centuries do not agree.  What I the white man’s greedy answer?  To kill them all off with disease, but the Indians also have a disease of their own kind to give to the white man.  It is a disease that causes the skin to split and bleed upon touching any surface.  The death is most painful and unstoppable.

“Twilight at the Towers”: A member of the KGB wishes to be one no longer.  He wants to disappear into the democratic world, with the help of the British Security Service, in return for trade secrets.  There are also the inhuman experiments the KGB has been performing, creating their very own beasts.

“The Last Illusion”: The illusionist has had enough of the crowds and the life of trickery.  He has staged his last illusion, one in which he will disappear forever.  The wife of the illusionist hires a detective to find out what happened to him.  The detective, Harry D’Amour, goes on a great adventure in trying to find the master illusionist.  Along he way he will see sights that are not humanly possible, and feats that defy the wildest imagination.  “The Last Illusion” was made into a movie, under the title Lord of Illusions, starring Scott Bakula.

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

Originally published on October 8th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“In the Flesh” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 2 of 3: “In the Flesh”

In the Fleshstarstarstar

BIOGRAPHY: Clive Barker is the bestselling author of nineteen books, including Weaveworld, Imagica, and Galilee. He regularly shows his art in Los Angeles and New York, and produces and directs for both large and small screen.  Recent projects include the Oscar-wining film Gods and Monsters, and an exhibition of erotic paintings and photographs, The Weird and the Wicked.  He lives with his husband, the photographer David Armstrong, in Los Angeles, along with his family of dogs, rats, geckos, iguanas, and turtles.

“In the Flesh”: A new inmate has joined the prison: a descendant of a man who murdered his wife and children; the man was hung and his grave is under an old bush.  The inmate, through the powers of the supernatural, is able to transcend the real world and pass into the plane of death, reaching the town where murderers live after they die.  There he finds his grandfather and a reconnoiter of the unusual kind takes place.  But what the inmate doesn’t know is that the grandfather has other plans in mind, which involve a trade-off, bringing his old body back to life, where he will be able to continue where he left off.

“The Forbidden”: The true story to the successful movie, Candyman, brings a college student to the ghettos of New York, where she hears the local legend of the man who smells of sweets and takes lives.  The police pretend he doesn’t exist, even though lives have been taken.  It is all very much shrouded in mystery, as Helen tries to solve what is really going on.  There is a final confrontation between Helen and the Candyman, while the world around continues on as if nothing is happening.

“The Madonna”: In a special building of astounding architecture there is a supernal activity taking place.  In a pool the genesis of this metaphysical creation happens.  A female beast of disgust, creating imps of revulsion, which are suckled by lolitas of captivating beauty and innocence.  And when people discover this repulsive Eden, they inevitably engage it, but then an astounding change takes place from which they can never return to their former selves.

“Babel’s Children”: A small island in Greece supports a prison facility of the most exceptional kind.  A group of the most powerful people on the planet, created after the Second World War to control worldly decisions.  Their existence must remain hidden, since they are like gods.  But when they are visited by an inquisitive female, all this will change, and their existence is brought into doubt.

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

Originally published on October 1st 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Inhuman Condition” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 1 of 3: “The Inhuman Condition”

The Inhuman Conditionstarstarstar

In the mid-to-late eighties, after the first three successful installments of the Books of Blood, the next three in the series were released under the same title.  Earlier this year, these three books were re-released in paperback from Pocket books.  The Books of Blood IV and V were published under the names of the first short story in each respective book: The Inhuman Condition and In the FleshThe Books of Blood VI was published differently: joined with the novel Cabal, the four stories are added on after the novel, providing a very nice anthology for fans of Clive Barker.

“The Inhuman Condition”: Two thieves decide to vent their anger on a hapless hobo, while the other sees little use in this and decides to wait at the side while the other two reduce the vagabond to a bloody pulp.  Karney, while he impatiently waits, finds a piece of rope with three knots in it, belonging to the now bloody hobo.  Taking the line of knots home, he furiously begins to attempt to untie one.  It takes him days, but finally it is complete and a supernatural beast is released.

The same occurs with the other two knots.  However, the hobo wants the knots and its beasts back, for they are very much a part of him in a way that the reader cannot possibly imagine.

“The Body Politic”: A story where one’s hands attain their independence and seek out a way to separate themselves from the unwanted body they are connected to.  Like some nightmarish disease, this spreads to many people, and scenes are revealed in amazing imagery by Barker’s skilled pen, of hands detaching themselves from their respective bodies and then strangling and strangling until there is not longer any movement in the husk that the hands were once connected to.

Only one man is able to devise a plan that will lead to the extinction of this army of protesting hands, though he carries it out at the sacrifice of his own life.  Nevertheless, the world is safe again, for the moment.  In another place, a new horror animates itself in rebellion.

“Revelations”: Two of the characters in this story have been dead for twenty years (he from a bullet shot by his wife for cheating on her; she from the electric chair after being tried and convicted for the murder of her husband).  They return to the scene of the crime in an effort to understand what went wrong.

At the same time there is another couple, he an annoying Bible-thumping evangelist, she submissive and unquestioning.  But this night will be different.  This time she will no longer submit to his whim and that of God; she will stick up for herself for the first time.  It will end in bloodshed and death, in a grand finale where shots will be fired.  The end is already determined.  And then again, not.

“Down, Satan!”: A man loses his belief in God, his new plan is to find Satan and deny him, proving to God how faithful he is.  To bring Satan to him, the billionaire creates a pseudo-Hell in North Africa: “There were ovens large enough to cremate familiars; pools deep enough to drown generations.  The new Hell was an atrocity waiting to happen; a celebration of inhumanity that only lacked its first cause.”  Though he is unsuccessful in ensnaring Satan, the many pain-inflicting tools of this New Hell begin to work, seemingly of their own accord.

“The Age of Desire”: A new drug has been invented, one which turns on the libido to its full potential and lets it rule the body over the brain and the heart.  The first time it is administered to a human, he rapes and kills the doctor then escapes.  The other doctor disappears into hiding.  The police arrive and pick up the pieces and try to understand what is going on.  Meanwhile the infected human, possessed by what he considers an all-consuming fire on his skin, attacks the nearest person (be they male or female) and proceeds to abuse them in every sexual way possible.  His desires rise to such a crescendo that he proceeds to find a sexual interest in inanimate objects, such as brick and stone.

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

Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Complete Clive Barker’s Great and Secret Show” by Chris Ryall and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW, 2008)

Complete Clive Barker's Great and Secret Showstarstarstarstar

After an incredible undertaking, with much conferring with the original creator Clive Barker, writer Chris Ryall and artist Gabriel Rodriguez have finally finished the complete story of the epic Great and Secret Show, now released in paperback in its complete form.  With a brief but proud introduction from Barker, who has nothing but good and great to say about Ryall’s and Rodriguez’s work, and the hopes that they will do the same to the sequel, EvervilleThe Complete Clive Barker’s Great and Secret Show is a great tale the likes of which you will not read anywhere else, brought to life in beautiful graphic fashion.

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.

With this incredible story to tell, Ryall and Rodriguez have outdone themselves, bringing the people and places, the creatures and creations to life in a visual medium.  As Barker says in his introduction: “This is no longer my Great and Secret Show . . . They’ve given life to my words.”  For Barker fans, this is a wonderful adaptation to discover and enjoy; for non-Barker fans who enjoy the medium of the graphic novel, this is a perfect introduction to Barker’s incredible imagination, brought to life under the pen of Ryall and the brush of Rodriguez.  The Complete Clive Barker’s Great and Secret Show is an incredible and fantastic journey that once discovered and begun, readers will be unable to stop until they reach the last glossy page.

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

Originally written on December 22nd, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

Great and Secret Showstarstarstar

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.