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Books of Blood: Vol 2, by Clive Barker
Genre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Penguin
Published: 1991
Review Posted: 7/30/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10

Books of Blood: Vol 2, by Clive Barker

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

Clive Barker's trilogy of terror continues in Books of Blood: Volume Two. The collection opens with "Dread," in which a university student named Quaid conducts his own independent study of fear. Kidnapping other undergraduates, he imprisons his victims and forces them to face their greatest phobias. But in neglecting his own nightmare, Quaid has forgotten that "if we don't go out and find the beast...sooner or later the beast will come and find us."

The devil himself comes up to the streets of London in "Hell's Event," a kind of supernatural tall tale about a charity race that serves as Satan's bid for dominion over Earth: "'Once every century this race is run...Your athletes, against one of ours. If you win, another hundred years of democracy. If we win...the end of the world as you know it.'" But the devil never plays fair, and the runners' only hope is to remember the advice given to Lot's wife when she fled Sodom: Don't look back.

Beneath its gore, "Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament" is a meditation on love, and the terrible void that exists when love is lost. Deeply depressed, Jacqueline attempts suicide but survives, now possessing the terrible new ability to reshape flesh and bone at will. Killing her psychiatrist and her husband, she sets off on a journey to learn about power -- but instead, she finds love. After meeting and abandoning a man named Oliver Vassi, Jacqueline is surprised to discover that "[s]he had understood herself best embracing someone else."

Judging by the last two tales in the collection, the "someone else" that one embraces doesn't necessarily need to be human. In "The Skins of the Fathers," a group of demons impregnates a woman near the town of Welcome, Arizona. Years later, the creatures return to collect their child. Barker includes a nod to H.P. Lovecraft in the story, revealing that the otherworldly monsters are actually the creators of men: "Women had always existed: they had lived, a species to themselves, with the demons. But they had wanted playmates: and together they had made men." As the townspeople band together behind their sheriff to pursue the "divils" with bazookas and grenades, Barker shows how "childish" these men are, compared to their demonic forefathers.

When an artist rushes to Paris to help an old friend in "New Murders in the Rue Morgue," he finds something stranger than any of his paintings: an ape that dresses like a man and sleeps with a prostitute. Updating Poe's famous story, Barker also adds a dash of Gustav Meyrink to the tale: His description of the ape sounds remarkably similar to the creature in Meyrink's "Der Golem." Barker's ape is "freshly shaved" with skin "pink as a peach"; Meyrink's golem is "clean shaven, of yellow complexion." The two beasts even walk the same way: The ape's "gait was mincing...Almost a waddle," while the golem "stalks through the Ghetto with a queer groping, stumbling kind of gait, as if afraid of falling over."

Within one of the stories in his collection, Clive Barker explains the endurance of horror as popular entertainment: "There is no delight the equal of dread...[W]e come back and back and back again to our fears." For readers seeking sources of delightful dread, Books of Blood: Volume Two does not disappoint.
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