What I'm Reading: Books of Blood - Update
Last week when I decided I was going to start a "What I'm Reading" feature, I realized that I started one, and completely forgot to update it. Here now is my update for "Books of Blood" by Clive Barker. But first, a refresher on what my initial expectations for the book were;
Well I couldn't be any more wrong, huh? Not until I was about halfway through the book did I discover that none of the three movies (Hellraiser, Candyman, The Lord of Illusions) originated from from volumes 1-3. I don't know if they're in the final three volumes, but that only gives me more motivation to read them. I say "more" because these three volumes certainly redeemed Clive Barker in my eyes. Not every story was great, or even good, but he definitely beat the odds.
This is meant to be a spoiler free review, and I don't want to drone on about the sixteen stories in the book, so I'll only highlight the very best and worst of them.
- The Book of Blood: Appropriately titled, this isn't meant to be so much of a story on its own, but more of an introduction to the rest of the book. Nonetheless, this was a fun read that sets up the notion that every is their own book of blood, and just like people, stories, even from a single author, vary greatly from one to the next. This may sound mundane and obviously, but speaking as an author, it is important to remind yourself to try new things.
- The Yattering and Jack: What an inventive story that went in a completely different direction than I was expecting. Firstly, it was far from doom and gloom horror that pre and proceeded throughout the book. At face value, it is an average haunting story, but the way Jack and the Yattering play off of each other, is an interesting twist. It is one of those ideas that I read, and kick myself for not thinking of it first. Possibly my favorite from the three volumes.
- Pig Blood Blues: The first miss of the book, I think this one got away from the author. I've seen it with others and myself, there's a kernel of a good, possibly great story, but it just doesn't develop the way you want it to. I have to believe that is the case with this story, because there is very little redeeming qualities of this tale of a former policeman turned advisor/security at a boarding home for wayward boys (I think) and his dealings with a talking pig that eats students.
- Rawhead Rex: I look at this story as a cautionary tale of when an author tries too hard. If you've read any Clive Barker, you know he's a different sort (which is meant as a compliment) and can be considered edgy, but with this one it feels like he went too far just for the sake of pushing boundaries. Ancient monsters, cool. Terrorizing towns, cool. Corrupting clergy, also cool. Baptisms of piss, huh? Living embodiment of male sexual desires, what? Only fear is pregnant woman, wha... eh that makes sense actually.
- Confessions of a (Pornographers) Shroud: This is not what the title suggests, it is so much better. It's surprising actually, for Barker, who is not afraid to delve into debauchery with his writing, this isn't about anything debase, and to a point is actually the opposite of that, as a Catholic accountant is deceived into working on the books, and later accused of being the king of a porn cartel. It is after his death that things get interesting.
- Human Remains: The final story of the book, isn't the best, but it is far from being bad. It follows Gavin, a hooker, who sees something he wasn't meant to while on with a John. Thing is, he doesn't even know what he saw. He comes face to face with... something, and Barker ends the first book with a great introspection of what makes us, us. Why do our lives matter, DO they matter? Again, not the best of the bunch, but a great way to end the book. I can only hope the sixth volume ends as nicely as this.
There are other gems through the volumes, but you should really discover them for yourselves. I'm glad I gave Barker another shot, and this furthered my position that short stories really are some of the best readings.
Before I rate the book, a quick recap of the ratings;
Inside Flap = This book is so bad you should stop reading after the inside flap, and save your money and time.
Chapter 2 = One and done. The book's premise showed potential, but the writing killed any upside before getting to the second chapter.
Page 75 = This is typically reserved for books opposite than Chapter 2's. The writing is at least good enough to keep you going longer than you should, but the plot ruins any hopes, and you just need to stop reading before you get sucked in past the point of no return.
Cover to cover = Book was well written with an engaging story, and will leave you satisfied once you close it for good.
Multiple Reads = The only thing better than reading and liking a book, is finding a book you enjoy reading more than once. This doesn't happen often and isn't a rating I expect to use often.
It's hard not to recommend finishing a book of short stories, especially anthologies written by different authors. If you don't like one story, move on to the next. It's almost impossible you won't find a single story you like, as long as the theme is something you're interested even remotely. Single author collections are different. If you don't like the author you don't like them. But, if you're a fan of horror, you owe it to yourself to give this collection a shot. It may not be for you, but Barker's "Books of Blood" is a well known tome in the horror realm.
Check back soon for my next What I'm Reading, which I promise to update quicker than this one.