It shows the scale of Clive Barker’s imagination that this is Volume 4 of his Books of Blood & there are still two more. A lot of his short stories are his best work & many have since been turned into full movies (The Midnight Meat Train, Candyman, Book of Blood, Dread etc.)
Volume 4 has some of the best stories of the entire series.
The Body Politic
Imagine if your body parts decided that they no longer wanted to serve you? Imagine that they had a life of their own & were sick & tired of being subservient to your will? Well, Barker imagined it as in The Body Politic we see our hands rising up against us. Charlie’s are the first with his right hand declaring itself a messiah & sending the left out to build an army.
It’s a brilliant story that really makes you think about something you’ve probably never given a second thought too. Barker gives these hands life & they take it…err…by the hand. Gory & violent, it’s amazing to see people’s reactions to no longer being able to control what their hands do. As right says to left…people resist with their hands.
The Inhuman Condition
In The Inhuman Condition we meet Karney, a nobody used to hanging with a group of thugs he just about calls friends. After beating up a homeless man for fun, Karney finds an odd piece of knotted string among his belongings.
Karney loves puzzles & these knots offer him a serious challenge. It takes him some time but he manages to undo the first knot releasing a demon that attacks his friends. It seems as these knots hold demons in place & the more that are undone, the more are released.
Not the strongest story in this volume, it lacks a thrilling conclusion feeling more rushed than most. The characters aren’t particularly interesting & even the demons fall short of Barker’s wild imaginative descriptions.
Thankfully Revelations steps the quality right up telling the story of Virginia, a woman reaching the end of her tether thanks to her uncompromising preacher husband, John. It’s also a story about Sadie & Buck; they were married…while alive. Yep, they are ghosts with Sadie having murdered Buck 30 years prior & put to death for the crime.
Both couples are staying at a small motel. Virginia & John are on route to a massive religious rally while Sadie & Buck are heading back to try & get closure for what occurred 30 years before.
It’s a fascinating read as we see two worlds colliding & you can draw obvious parallels between the two couples. It’s not the first time that Barker has tackled extreme religious views but he writes it so well. John is so unlikable yet sympathetic because of just how devoted he is. He’s the ‘fire & brimstone’ kind of preacher which is always terrifying.
The ending is obvious from an early stage but it doesn’t dent the impact any less, instead it just builds anticipation for it. One of the best stories Barker has written.
One of the shortest stories in the entire set of volumes, Down, Satan! is one of my favourite. Gregorius is a very rich man but has become depressed feeling that God has abandoned him. Desperate to regain favour in God’s eyes he plans to try & summon Satan believing that should he succeed God will intervene & take him back.
His plan to summon Satan? He uses his wealth to build Hell on Earth. A vast Satanic Cathedral filled with all manner of delights to please the dark lord but Gregorius is frustrated to find that Satan doesn’t seem to care.
Years pass & the police end up breaking into the Cathedral to find hundreds of victims of torture & mutilation inside. Was Gregorius insane or did Satan actually call this place home?
What a story this is. I love Barker’s writings related to religion & Hell; here we get his view on what a human made Hell might be like. Corridors so hot that walking down them would see you fry, rooms cold enough to freeze bowels…it sounds incredible.
The Age of Desire
The last story of Volume 4 deals with experiments to try & create a chemical aphrodisiac which goes badly wrong turning one man insane with lust. We see the effects from the point of view of the man, described like a fire that won’t stop burning. Barker enjoys writing about sex & this is one of his most graphic stories as the lust-driven man will have sex with anything & everything (graphic detailing of his copulation with a wall). It sounds almost amusing but really isn’t, one of the few stories to turn my stomach a bit.
It’s an interesting story but I find Barker’s sexual descriptions to be a bit too cheesy. Only he would be able to make a relations with inanimate objects seem romantic.
Books of Blood - Volume Four (Clive Barker)