Monday, June 1, 2015

Reviewing Clive Barker's "The Scarlet Gospels"

I've got a major soft spot for Clive Barker, and I think I always have. At least I have since I first saw "Hellraiser" in my youth. Since then I've watched every single film Barker has ever directed and/or had his name attached to (for better or worse) and read most of his stories as well. Needless to say, I've ate, drank, and slept Clive Barker for the better part of my 30 years on this planet.

That's why I've looked so forward to "The Scarlet Gospels" for the better part of a decade since he had first hinted at a novel pitting Pinhead against supernatural detective Harry D'Amour (from the story "The Last Illusion" and the film "Lord of Illusions", where he was played by "Quantum Leap" star Scott Bakula) in a be all, end all confrontation that would mark the end of stories for both characters. So when the book was finally released this month, I was so fucking excited to finally crack it open and read this thing. Well, after finally getting a chance to finish it completely, the end result is just...well...underwhelming.

Don't get me wrong, the novel starts off fucking AMAZINGLY with a group of some surviving magicians meeting super grisly demises at the hands of Pinhead, but after that it's mostly downhill for everyone involved. Granted it isn't terrible, actually almost quite the opposite, but I just felt so underwhelmed by the whole thing. Now without giving too much away, half the book is dedicated towards Harry and his crew of cookie-cutter stereotype supporting characters (which in itself is a major disappointment: Barker almost always crafted super well-rounded characters) traversing through Hell as Pinhead wrecks havoc. I figured seeing vivid descriptions of what Barker's take on Hell would be awesome...but instead all it does is conjure up a whole bunch of "meh".

Oh, and Pinhead's mission? What is it exactly? We're never really given a clear idea. We just know he wants to rule Hell (maybe?) and needs Harry to be a witness. Why? We're never really sure. Not to mention the fact that "The Scarlet Gospels" just feels like so much was left on the cutting room floor that the novel as a whole feels kind of incomplete. Maybe it's just me that feels that way, but it sure as shit feels like a lot is missing here. Maybe in a few years we'll get a "director's cut" or something.

All in all, I still recommend reading "The Scarlet Gospels" regardless. It is entertaining for what it is, but Barker has done much better with his past works. Also if this is indeed the end of the road for Pinhead and Harry, they at least get wrapped up decently enough. And even though it isn't perfect, it's just good to see Barker back in the game. Maybe somewhere along the way he'll get his full game back and come back to blow our collective balls off one more time.

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