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Books of Blood: Vol 3, by Clive Barker
Genre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Penguin
Published: 1991
Review Posted: 10/19/2006
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Books of Blood: Vol 3, by Clive Barker

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

Clive Barker proves that you can't keep a good corpse down in Books of Blood: Volume Three. In the collection's opening story, "Son of Celluloid," a criminal dies in a forgotten crawlspace at the back of an old movie theater, but the cancer within him survives. Realizing that residual energy from "the electric stares of...half a century of movie-goers" isn't enough to sustain it, the thing begins feeding on the audience members themselves. Partially successful as a biting commentary on the deification of silver screen legends and the double-edged sword of celebrity, the tale ultimately deteriorates into a game of hide-and-seek littered with puns: "'Here's looking at you, kid.' An eye, a single vast eye, was filling the doorway."

Barker directs that same morbid sense of humor at the familiar notion of sheet-covered ghosts in "Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud": When an honest yet greedy accountant is tortured and murdered, his spirit finds a way to live on by possessing the shroud covering his body in the morgue. Despite the cartoon-like image of a piece of cloth attacking a man, the author manages some gruesome descriptions: "He doubled up as the disemboweling began, feeling his viscera surge up his throat, turning him inside out."

"Scape-goats" is a far more subtle tale, rippling with an undercurrent of unease. After their boat runs aground, two young couples find a few penned-up sheep on an otherwise uninhabited island, and the boat's captain kills one of the animals in a drunken rage. Too late, his friends learn that the uncharted body of land is more burial mound than island - and the sheep were supposed to be offerings to the restless dead.

An ancient statue demands offerings of another sort in "Human Remains." In the story, a kind of psychotic Pinocchio vows to live through sheer force of will - and plenty of blood-baths. As the statue grows stronger and more "human," it transforms itself like a doppelganger, and the man being copied fears for his life - with good reason: "When it's perfected its physical imitation,'ll steal the one thing it can't imitate: your soul."

Barker wanders into Lovecraftian territory with "Rawhead Rex," in which a forgotten evil is unleashed to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting town. Here, though, the man who releases the monster isn't a typical Lovecraft character seeking forbidden knowledge: He's just a farmer trying to clear his field. This is Barker's most intense work since "The Midnight Meat Train" in Volume One; readers will cringe as Rawhead, a nine-foot-tall creature with a taste for "child-meat," devours a little girl in front of her helpless mother: "She saw Amelia's tear-stained face, doll-stiff, being fed between those rows of teeth."

Although Clive Barker went on to write epic-sized novels, some fans would argue that the author's twisted visions were best distilled in his early story collections. For those readers - and for those who have never experienced Barker's short fiction - the Books of Blood are waiting patiently in the dark.
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