Wednesday 26 August 2015

Book Review - The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

I'm a big Clive Barker fan and especially of his Cenobite mythos, both in film and book, so I've been looking forward to reading this. So much so that I re-read The Hellbound Heart recently to refresh my memory! I wasn't disappointed and enjoyed reading this a lot, it's not quite up there with his best, but a decent read.

Part of this was the core story. I'm a huge fan of Paradise Lost, those that know me know that it's my favourite story of all time. It's far from a simple retelling though and that is also an interest of mine - how people interpret the core themes differently.

As can be expected Hell features predominantly in the story and it shows the author's vision in making this not just a location, but a functioning society as well. Fans of the cenobites get to see how the Order of the Gash fits in with the wider context of Hell.

The story in main follows Pinhead (he apparently really doesn't like that name :-) ) and his secret scheme in Hell. I really enjoyed spending time with the character and there's some unexpected development with him. One marginal disappointment was the buildup, they are legendary at causing suffering over extended periods of time, but pretty much straight away he's killing people quickly, although in imaginative ways.

This does get addressed later on and is also a word of warning. Some of the scenes aren't for the faint of heart. As with his previous work the author has a wonderful turn of phrase and his prose is a joy to read. There are points were you marvel at how something so horrific is so eloquently described.

Naturally there are heroes in the tale trying to counter Pinhead's plans and this is an odd bunch of characters. These are well realised but their presence seems to act only as a counterpoint to Pinhead. They could have been removed from the plot and yet the story would have remained almost the same.

What they do provide is a different perspective and that does make the journey through Hell more interesting and help pace things to the conclusion. The conclusion is epic and worked for me, but the story then drags a bit as the various lives are then cleaned up. I think I would have almost kept the ending dramatic but more ambiguous.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The gates to Hell are open and something beckons... The last of Earth's magicians are living in fear. A Cenobite Hell Priest known as Pinhead is killing them off, gorging on their knowledge to enhance his own magical powers as part of a quest to takeover Hell. Meanwhile, Private Investigator Harry D'Amour is fulfilling the final wishes of the dead, who communicate with his business associate, the blind medium Norma Paine. But while investigating one such case, Harry inadvertently opens up a rift between hell and the real world. When nemesis Pinhead emerges through the portal, a vicious battle ensues. After failing to enlist Harry as one of his Scarlet Gospels, an elite group of indefatigable messengers who will witness his takeover of hell, Pinhead captures Norma and Harry realizes he must go through hell - literally - to save her.

Click here to buy The Scarlet Gospels from Amazon (and it's a decent horror read)

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