Friday, May 22, 2015

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

(hb; 2015)

From the inside flap:

"Long-beleaguered detective Harry D'Amour ("The Last Illusion,"* Everville), investigator of all things supernatural, magical and malevolent, has been battling his own personal demons for years. When he happens upon a Lament Configuration -- a deeply intricate puzzle box that is rumored to open a doorway to Hell itself -- his own demons are replaced by the real thing as he finds himself caught in a terrifying game of cat and mouse that is bloody, disturbing and brilliantly complex."

(*Published in Barker's 1988 story anthology Cabal.)


Scarlet is a sexually explicit, ultra-gory, sometimes funny and over-the-top journeys-through-variable-Hells read that quickly susses out squeamish readers, making more room for gut-true horror fans. It harkens back to the sometimes-shocking (even within Barker's fictive-collective milieus) savagery of his early work, particularly his story collections (The Books of Blood, volumes One through Three; In the Flesh), which are now set in the crossover universe of The Hellbound Heart and Harry D'Amour-inclusive works (the stories "The Last Illusion" and "Lost Souls"; the novels The Great and Secret Show and Everville).

Some readers, used to Barker's epic-scale, ambitious works (the aforementioned The Great and Secret Show, Everville as well as Imajica), might be put off Scarlet's straightforward plot. In order to fully enjoy this book, it is best to appreciate it for what it is: one of the best horror writers of his generation having well-written, blunt fun with a mixed mythos (and their characters) he created over a thirty-year period.

Excellent read, this -- a great, unrepentant-in-its-harshness capper to the Engineer/Hell Priest/Pinhead and Harry D'Amour storylines. Like many of Barker's works, Scarlet is worth owning.

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