Clive Barker’s books have always found a way to unnerve me, and keep me turning the pages at the same time, so I’m always happy to come across something by him that I haven’t read yet.
This one opens with a plea. A begging for the reader to burn the book. Please.
It seems that the words within the covers are actually the manifestation of a lower demon, Jakabok Botch, Mr. B for short, who is trapped within the binding and pages of the book. He attempts to bargain with the reader, revealing tales of his life, hopefully, in exchange for a last flickering flame that will end his suffering. What follows is an interesting and dark tale that follows the young demon, as he is hoisted from the 9th ring of hell, to the World Above, and encounters one trouble after another.
Horribly burnt by his father, he wanders, disfigured, until he meets up with a fellow demon Quitoon, with whom he travels for hundreds of years, and they establish an almost husband-wife relationship, and it’s clear that Both is quite dedicated to Quitoon, a rather sadistic and dangerous fellow.
Quitoon is driven by the need to seek out secrets and wonders of the Machines that are being invented. In fact, he is fixated on travelling to Mainz where, apparently something that could change the course of history is being invented. Mr. B isn’t very keen on travelling there, but his love-hate relationship with Quitoon may force him that way after all.
Interspersed with this story, are the pleas, the demands, and downright threats on the part of Mr. B against the reader in terms of burning the book. The one I like the most features him telling the reader how he will kill them, and where he is at that very moment. I liked it, it was almost unnerving.
Barker has always had that ability with me, to get under my skin, slightly, or completely unnerve me, but I am unable to stop reading, I need to know what happens. While this book wasn’t quite as strong as some of his others, I do like the way it’s composed, and how poor Mr. B ended up bound within the book.
This one has a lot of humor, especially in the first section of the tale, when Mr. B is talking about living in the 9th ring of hell, and his home and family life, before he’s caught and fished out. Then, as he interacts with humans, and other supernatural beings, there is a lot of laughs, some revulsion, love, and betrayal. It’s a well-crafted tale, though I occasionally felt that Mr. B’s demands that I burn the book went a little beyond pestering to flat-out annoying.
Still, having read this, my mind is a little eager to perhaps revisit some of the other Barker tales, the darker ones, the epic ones…
Do you have a favorite?