MISTER B GONE by Clive Barker: A Review

“I have seen the future of horror, and it is named Clive Barker.”

Of all the lines and soundbytes and selling blurbs to help a new writer get noticed, that Stephen King has written, the above is arguably the most memorable, for the simple fact that the books he said the above quote about… going on 3 decades later, Clive Barker’s introduction to the horror field, the apt named BOOKS OF BLOOD still live up to the hype.

They still, much as Poes tales of the macabre, or Harlan Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS, remain watershed moments in a field that is particulary hard to stand out in, the field of short horror fiction. The crowd being massive and the competition fierce.

I’ve praised the BOOKS OF BLOOD series previously, suffice to say it remains 3 decades later an oft reread perrenial favorite.

However that said, I have continually found Barker’s attempt at longer fiction, to consistently fall short of the glory (I add the caveat I have not read his Abarat novels, which I understand are quite popular with children and their parents).

And unfotunately MISTER B GONE is no exception. I won’t belabour the premise since that’s never the point of my reviews, but this tale of a demon, told not just from a 1st person perspective, but told from the physical book’s perspective is a nice conceit, is a nice experiment.

I like how Barker is not afraid to play with the form, the expectations of the genre, in this case making the book resemble an aged tome. Like stated, a nice conceit, surrounding an interesting premise.

It is one that would have made a good short story, but padded to novel length it quickly becomes tiresome, repetitive… tedious.

Only the fact that I also acquired the audio book at the same time even enabled me to finish the book.

In rare cases, just like a good director can improve a just okay book (Michael Mann in MANHUNTER, Zack Snyder in 300) a good Audio Actor can make listenable an oft tedious read. And that’s what happened here with Doug Bradley’s unabridged compelling reading of a less than compelling book.

Because when I say repetitive, I mean repetitive, the book is largely very one note, the book as a character and the book under review. Indeed the bulk of the book consists of three words repeated, requested, demanded, over and over and over.

“Okay I get the point! Get on with it.” I muttered more than once, while reading/listening to the book.

It quickly is an exercise that outlives its welcome. And when finally we get to the reveals of the book, they are all pretty darn underwhelming. And even the climax, the attempt to give import to the war being waged in the pages of the book, is just not a remotely novel (novel as in new) or interesting premise.

It’s just… not good. So yeah, I hate to give a thumbs down to yet another Clive Barker novel, but not everyone can sustain a story, keep it inventive and interesting, for hundreds of pages. Just as very few can do what Barker did in the BOOKS OF BLOOD, in a few pages deliver a gripping, memorable, complete tale. You have people who are great at short stories, you have people who are great at novels, and in a far smaller camp you have people who are great at both (Percival Everett, Stephen King, Chester Himes, etc).

Clive Barker from my experience is not in the latter camp. Your mileage may vary, but for me MISTER B. GONE gets a big good riddance. D-/F.

My purpose of this blog is to bring you honestly the things I Love, and occasionaly the things I feel deserve a warning, dissenting, but I hope never cruel or frivolous, opinion. And because I never like to leave a review on the negative (when I can avoid it), I offer the following:

In prep for this review I explored Barker’s website, and he has quite a few works that I didn’t catch upon first release, that sound very interesting. Particularly his art book, VISIONS OF HEAVEN AND HELL. So looking forward to sampling that, from what I’ve seen so far it’s quite impressive.

“Calling you excrement would be an insult to the product of my bowels.”

That is a fantastic line, and honestly is so good it almost, but not quite, saves the book for me. Makes me chuckle. 🙂

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