It's been a while since I read something by Clive Barker. After "Weaveworld" I thought he was a pretty good writer but then I discovered Stephen King and a while later John Irving...and others, too.

A few years ago I interviewed the drummer of Venom (see interview elsewhere) and he was at the time reading Clive Barker's "Everville". I made a mental note to go and read that book myself. It didn't happen until recently, and it also entailed reading "The Great and Secret Show", Book One of The Art.

The world as we know it is not what we think. Underneath - or intermingled, or above - there is the world of the Dreamsee, Quiddity, in which us mortals swim three times in a life. But the creatures of Quiddity want to get out, most dangerous of which is the Iad Uroboros, an indescribable horror that may destroy the world as we know it. And people in search of power - The Art - try to get in. Horrors unspeakable happen, and many die.

The two Books of The Art are separated by five years, each culminating around a catastrophe or near-catastrophe where a breach of the integrity of Reality/Dreamworld is involved. The first part is captivating and makes use of brilliant inventions and ideas conjured up by Barker's mind. Either he's a chronic sufferer of horrible nightmares, or his mind works in ways all too weird and wonderful to understand. The existence of Quiddity is made throroughly credulous ("Weaveworld" never really was, to me)... knowledge of The Art is distilled from things that happen in everyday life, a great many small and seemingly unconnected things...

"Everville" is a great deal better than "The Great and Secret Show", even though the latter is a fine book, too. A fitting progression. Where "The Great and Secret Show" is a story involving The Art and the discovery of The Art, woven into a great horror story, "Everville" is much more imaginative. The building's been done by the first part, so the second part can basically get down to serious business. Horror aplenty, of course, but craftfully mixed with passages in the Dreamworld that seem at times like a warped and more horrible version of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".

Clive Barker is the H.P. Lovecraft of our times, and "Everville" probably one of his finest works. Those into the genre should definitely read these books; they're very inspiring and captivating.

"The Great and Secret Show" released 1993, ISBN 0-00-617908-8

"Everville" released 1996, ISBN 0-00-647225-7



Written December 1998


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