Books of Blood: Volume 3 is five short stories of extreme violence & gore all with the distinctive descriptive style of Clive Barker. When Barker talks about ripping flesh & breaking bones you see & feel every moment. There are few authors out there with this much imagination & his short stories are often his best work.
Son of Celluloid
Telling the insane story of an escaped convict who dies under a cinema, he unknowingly had a cancerous tumour that over the years feeds on the emotions of the many cinema goers. One night with just a few people in the building it decides to go on the attack.
What can I really say about Son of Celluloid? It’s a horror story about a sentient cancer growth that uses the power of film to suck the emotions out of people. It’s wacky & fun but lacks the interesting characters that we often get in Barker’s short stories. A group of unmemorable people up against a villain you’re highly unlikely to ever forget!
Rawhead Rex suffers from some of the same problems as the first story in that characters don’t get as much focus but with a monster as vivid as Rawhead Rex it doesn’t matter as much here.
Rex is an ancient & very destructive monster that is accidentally awakened in the Kent countryside. He goes on a rampage killing & destroying everything in his path but times have changed since he was last awake & he isn’t used to the modern world.
Throwing in religious elements & perspective from Rex really makes the story shine. I was very impressed with the level of violence Barker writes here as we get graphic deaths of both adults & children.
What doesn’t quite work though is what Rex fears (pregnant woman) & the ending is a bit of a let down although it is good to see the village rise up against him.
Confessions of a (Pornographer’s) Shroud
Ronnie Glass is a nice, religious but unexciting man who gets set up by colleagues to look like the king of a pornography cartel destroying his reputation & life. Ronnie snaps & gets his revenge on a few of the men but is murdered before he can finish the job.
He wakes as a ghost while his body is in the morgue & uses his will to possess the shroud that covers his body before taking his revenge on the rest of the men who destroyed his life.
Confessions of a (Pornographer’s) Shroud is bit lighter in humour than most of Barkers’ work. The gag being the image of a ghost wearing a shroud as if it’s a person doing a terrible ghost impression. It’s a fun read & has an uber-violent ending as we see Ronnie’s final target get turned inside out!
Scape-Goats is a short & disappointing read where a group of bland characters yacht hits a deserted island. While waiting for the tide to come in & free them they explore & discover it to be an inhospitable place except for 3 badly-maintained sheep. While trying to uncover the mystery they discover that this island has converging undersea currents that has carried hundreds of bodies of those who have died at sea.
It’s an island of death but those that reside under it might not be as dead as first thought.
The final story of the Volume three, Human Remains introduces a bi-sexual prostuite used to the good life thanks to his exceptional looks. He’s a shallow character concerned by the passage of time’s toll on his face so looking to settle down with someone rich. One night he is hired by a nervous archaeologist & discovers a strange statue in the bathroom.
Over the next few weeks he begins to find himself changing become more emotionless & not needing to sleep or eat. Meanwhile it seems as though he has a doppelganger committing crimes that he is getting the blame for.
All of this started when he first laid on eyes on that strange statue.
It’s a really strong end to another hit & miss volume. The pay off is easy to see but it doesn’t disappoint & for it to take place in locations I know so well (London) made it much more real. Seeing a vain man struggle with his disappearing good-looks made for a fascinating read, it’s easy to identify with those involved.
Books of Blood - Volume Three (Clive Barker)