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Monday, October 22, 2007

"Mister B. Gone" by Clive Barker

Order "Mister B. Gone" HERE (UK) + HERE (US)

Thanks to the movies Hellraiser, Lord of Illusions, and Candyman I was introduced to Clive Barker, but it was his writing that made me a hardcore fan. “Imajica”, “Weaveworld”, “Books of Blood”, “The Great and Secret Show”, “Everville”; all personal favorites of mine and great examples of Mr. Barker’s wild imagination and unique talents. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I last read a Clive Barker book (2001’s Coldheart Canyon) so when I heard about “Mister B. Gone” I couldn’t have been more excited, especially after reading the press release: “A propulsive frightfest layered with psychological nuances, textured characterizations, philosophical reflections and theological meditations, Mister B. Gone is the Clive Barker original his millions of fans worldwide have been awaiting, one packed with subtle scares and heart-stopping terrors from cover to cover”. Let’s just say the description is not a hundered percent accurate...

First off, I’m not sure I would describe “Mister B. Gone” as a 'frightfest'. Sure, the main character is a demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell, and there’s some evisceration, bathing in infants’ blood and a plethora of other ghastly moments. At the same time however, fantasy elements are prominently in play—yet another slant on the war between Heaven & Hell—and there's also plenty of wry humor. In fact, “Mister B. Gone” doesn’t take itself too seriously and its playfulness actually diminishes the book’s more gruesome moments. Just to give you an example, demon Jakabok Botch, the book’s narrator, has a family—his bastard father Pappy Gatmuss, his whore Momma, and his younger sister Charyat; goes to a school in the Ninth Circle to learn the Agonies, and is captured by humans in the World Above by a trap that uses ‘shanks of raw meat & cans of beer’ as bait ;) Of course the most telling manner of the book’s more flippant nature is the way Jakabok, or Mister B. as he’s sometimes called, is written. In short, Jakabok is the “Mister B. Gone” book and throughout the entire novel he’s talking directly to you the reader, in hopes that you will be persuaded to burn the book. Along the way, he’ll try to Threaten you, Appeal to your compassionate side, Seduce you with gifts, regale you with such memories as The Bonfire, The Bait, Killing Pappy, My First Love (yes, apparently demons can love :), What Happened on Joshua’s Field, Meeting Quitoon, How He Saved My Life; and even tell you the story of how he became the book in the first place, which takes place in Mainz, Germany in 1439 and involves goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, an invention that marks the End of the World, angels, demons and a shocking Secret. In essence, Jakabok is quite the amusing little demon, due mainly to a personality that is snarky & whimsical and he's actually quite likeable. Being afraid of Mister B. though is a whole different story ;)

I’ll be honest. “Mister B. Gone” wasn’t the book I was expecting. I was really hoping for a return to Clive Barker’s early days when he wrote some of the most creatively disturbing horror I’ve ever read, but instead we get a book that is much more humorous than it is scary. Just because it wasn’t what I was hoping for though doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book. It’s Clive Barker for goodness sake! So once I got over my initial disappointment, “Mister B. Gone” turned out to be a pretty fun little pick-me-up that features the author’s vintage prose, idiosyncrasies and imagination which plays around with the concept of demons, Christianity, good vs. evil, love, and so on. The only real problem I had with the book is that because it’s so short—256 pages—some of the themes and secondary plots weren’t fleshed out that well, specifically the relationship between Jakabok and fellow demon Quitoon. Basically, the two end up traveling together for over a century and developing a special bond which comes into play in the later stages of the story. Since we don’t get to see that development, the subplot loses a lot of its impact. Personally, I think if Mr. Barker had spent more time recounting the two demons’ adventures together as they sought out new inventions and terrorized humanity, those moments would probably have been my favorite in the whole book :) As it stands, “Mister B. Gone” is not the Clive Barker original that I’ve been waiting for, and I think other readers will agree with me, but it is a nice Halloween treat and a pretty good diversion until the real Clive Barker book that we’ve been anticipating comes out—“The Scarlet Gospels” (TBA 2008?) featuring Pinhead (Hellraiser films, The Hellbound Heart) and detective Harry D'Amour (The Last Illusion, The Great & Secret Show, The Lost Souls, Everville). Until then, let Mister B. convince you otherwise...

16 comments:

Katie said...

I've been wondering about this one, it seems as if everyone is talking about it but no one I know (until you) has read it. I might have to look into, I haven't read any of his other stuff though.

Robert said...

Katie, not sure if I'd start with this book if you haven't read any Clive Barker. I'd start with his earlier material, "The Books of Blood", "Weaveworld" and "Imajica". If you like any of those, you'll end up liking his others :)

Will Errickson said...

So far the handful of reviews I've read on Barker's latest are mediocre; no one seems excited by this so-called "return to form" for Mr. Barker. I hated Coldheart Canyon, couldn't even finish it, thought Galilee had some great writing but was a bit pulpy; mostly I'm just waiting for him to write the third book of The Art, which is 10 years overdue at this point.

Robert said...

Clive Barker has definitely evolved over the years. In fact, I think his Abarat series rubbed off of him when he was writing "Mister B. Gone", which also has a sort of YA vibe. Still, you can't expect an author to write the same as he did 10-20 years ago, so I can't complain too much. But like you, I'm looking forward to the next Art book...

Anonymous said...

The only books by Clive Barker I've read are Abarat and Abarat: Days of Magic Nights of War but Mister B. Gone looks really good. I've never even heard of his other books.

Robert said...

I think you'd like this one then :) It kind of has a YA-feel despite the demon protagonist and other hellish elements...

Anonymous said...

I'm about 1/4 through it, and its great, i don't want to put it down, but Clive is a great author, I love Abarat, it has all of his art in there, and its just generally a great read

Robert said...

Glad you're liking it so far :D Definitely let us know what you think of it when you finish the book...

Anonymous said...

His early works such as Damnation Game, The Great and Secret Show, Weaveworld, Imajica, Cabal etc are works of pure horrific genius.
Galilee and Cold Heart canyon I think were brilliantly written books but for me suffered because they were not what I was hoping for.
This is the curse of an Author that evolves but has readers that don't.
The Abarats were a return to what I enjoy.
I think what I enjoy the most about the good Barker books is that the places he takes you are so horrifyingly original.
Truly original worlds are such a rare thing that each should be cherished as the treasure that it is.

Anonymous said...

I've never read any books by Mr. Barker that fit into the adult horror genre, but I have read the two Abarat books. The first of which I recieved as an eleven-year-old from a close family member and to this day remains my favorite book. I thought the concept of Mister B. Gone sounded so incredibly creative, I couldn't wait to dive into it. But looking back, I am beginning to think that my excitement grew solely from the revived hope of Mr. Barker finishing his Abarat series. I believe my expectations were a bit high...

Brett said...

Well, I liked it. I have read other works by him and loved them all. For a small book I thought it was a fun ride. So I burned it. Just Kidding.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say that since turned onto Barker many many years ago I was ruined. It was hard finding books that took me where Mr. Barker takes his readers. I have read all his books (except Mr. B Gone) and each one is genius. I think his talent is he can write horror, childrens books, and sci-fi and still keep his reader interested. I believe every good author should have a get out of jail free card. If he ever writes a book that just bombs I think he deserves his fans forgiveness. I am looking forward to reading Mr B. Gone and putting it with my collection. Read ON

Anonymous said...

What is YA?

Cindy said...

YA is Young Adult usually refered to books that are meant for ages 12-18.

Megan said...

you may want to use spell check, my friend.

Anonymous said...

It was amazing.. Jakabok was nothing but a tortured soul, depressed and lonely, I just wanted to comfort him.. Great book, congrats.. And the ending? Uh, when I read the last paragraph it took me like 10 minutes to pull myself together.. Extremely touching!! Loved it, I definetely reccomend it!

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