Books of Blood (Volumes one to three) by Clive Barker
I must say that I was more than excited to read this book. I had been eyeing the book for many years. One, because it was Clive Barker…duh, and two, because it had a creepy, yet extremely cool, cover. I began to get serious about my relationship with this book when I read a review about it on Amazon.com. The review talked about how scary the book was and gave the first story “Midnight Meat Train” a stellar appraisal. I mentioned on my myspace page that I was beginning the book and received numerous exaltations from friends claiming it was a fantastic and terrorizing read.
I began my journey into the Books of Blood in early October, thinking that October was the perfect month for such a frightful endeavor. I read the introduction and was thrilled to learn that Clive Barker is gay. I also learned that this was his initial foray into published writing. Barker was quite young when he wrote these short stories and the book was a risky undertaking for the publishing company.
The three volume set of short stories opens with a somewhat cheesy line about people being books of blood because we are red when we are opened. The first story “Book of Blood” was a clever introduction to the book. This is the story that explains the title and the concept of the books of blood. Okay…I was intrigued and very eager to move on…
“Midnight Meat Train” was next on the agenda. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, I thought the story was…cute. Maybe it is my numbness to horror stories and the fact that everything is so overexposed now. I had to remember that these stories were old. These stories predate pretty much all horror stories out there today. So, I moved on…
It was when I reached the third story “The Yattering and Jack” that I began to lose heart. This story was also…cute. Though it was a little more fun than “Midnight Meat Train” what with the attack turkey and all, it still left me craving scariness and fright. “Pig Blood Blues” was kind of dorky…I mean, a flesh eating pig? Come on…that’s as bad as attack sheep. “Sex, Death, and Starshine” deserves a good nod though. This story was actually fairly interesting and maybe slightly eerie. The last book of volume one “In the Hills, the Cities” was difficult for me to grasp. This story was pretty much strictly blood and gore. Maybe I just have trouble figuring out the mechanics of, and imagining, hundreds of people tying themselves together to create one moving giant. Maybe it’s just me…
The second volume did improve. Maybe Barker began to find his voice and talent with this set of stories. Of course, it did help that the volume started out with “Dread” my absolutely favorite story in the entire book. Though, not a horror story per se, it was definitely psychologically chilling. The entire book is worth owning for this story alone.
We move on to “Hell’s Event” where the characters are literally running for their lives…in a race no less. “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament” was basically about a woman scorned. However, having the ability to make a man fold in on himself would be a nifty talent to have. “The Skins of the Fathers” makes a person think twice about child abuse. And “New Murders in the Rue Morgue” deserves a read for naught but the remembrance of our beloved Mr. Poe.
Volume three was definitely full of more goodies than the first two. “Son of Celluloid” was a treat to read. Film lovers would enjoy this tale of a haunted movie theater that begins killing its employees. “Rawhead Rex” was delightfully gruesome, neither priest nor child was safe from being ripped to shreds in this account of a nine-foot monster released from its imprisonment by an idiotic farmer. “Confessions of a (Pornographer’s) Shroud” is another story that is a little far fetched for my taste. Can you really take a killer sheet seriously? I sure couldn’t. “Scape-Goats” is certainly worth perusing. Who can pass up a story about fools on a haunted island that leaves you feeling giddy because there is really no hope for any of them? The final story, “Human Remains” brings the book full circle. The first story in these books of blood was about human sacrifice and we end in a similar fashion.
All in all I thought the book was…cute. No other word really describes my take on these stories. But again, maybe I am just numbed to the culture and society in which I have been raised. Not much can scare me any more. Though, when reading these stories (my first venture into short story collections) I tried to remember that these were written before the true horror genre exploded. Clive Barker was one of the innovator’s of the field of terror and these stories were written prior to the publication “Hellbound Heart” and the production of “Hellraiser.” Therefore, I believe that this book is a must read for any lovers of the art of fright if only to pay homage to one of its masterminds.