Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sacrament, by Clive Barker

(hb; 1996)

From the inside flap:

“... Will Rabjohns, perhaps the most famous wildlife photographer in the world, has made his reputation chronicling the fates of endangered species. Including his own. For even as Will rises to the pinnacle of his career, he is witnessing his own world – the close-knit San Francisco community that has nurtured and liberated him – ravaged by AIDS.

“Then an almost mystical encounter with a bear in the Artic leaves Will all but dead. In the depths of his coma, he revisits the wilderness of his youth in England and relives the terrifying encounter that created him, both as an artist and a man.

“Befriended by a mysterious couple, Rosa McGee and Jacob Steep, the young Will is granted the love he has been denied by his own family. But with that love comes a grim education. For while Rosa shows him the cruelties of passion, Jacob teaches him the purities of death – seducing him with the possibility that he might one day slaughter the last of a species and thus change the world forever.

“When Will stirs from his long sleep, he realizes that this dark dream, which he thought he had put behind him, is still very much a part of who he is. Haunted by its echoes and driven by the certainty that he must face Rosa and Jacob one final time, he sets out on a journey of self-discovery – a journey that will lead him from the familiar streets of San Francisco, back from the Yorkshire moors, and on to the stark beauty of Scotland's Western Isles. There he will penetrate the ultimate mystery – The Domus Mundi – and finally discover the secret that links his destiny to that of the innumerable creatures with whom we share our planet.”


An elegiac tone suffuses Sacrament, a gentler offering than Barker's earlier, bloodier writings (The Books of Blood; The Hellbound Heart – which later became the first Hellraiser film; The Damnation Game, etc.). Like those earlier works, though, Barker has sacrificed none of the poetic sublimity that graced them.

The theme of nature conservation also predominates (appropriate, given our global dilemmas), as well as beauty – some of the most beautiful scenes in this book are also the most basic: lovers, exchanging knowing heart-wise glances; a wintry field, stark beneath sudden sunlight, and deep quiet. Sensuality, humor and gore is very much present, often fused with spiritual and mortal moods.

One of Barker's best works, up there with Imajica and Galilee.

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