Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Hellbound Heart (1986)

Author: Clive Barker  |  Page Count: 128

'Everywhere, in the wreckage around him, he found evidence to support the same bitter thesis: that he had encountered nothing in his life—no person, no state of mind or body—he wanted sufficiently to suffer even passing discomfort for.'

The novella that became more famous for being filmed as Hellraiser (1987) by Barker himself is a fine example of how good an author he used to be. His prose effectively blends the fantastical with an exploration of the common from an uncommon perspective. In Frank Cotton Barker created a character for whom hedonistic desire has exceeded earthly pleasures, forcing him to cross an unseen border into the realms of the unknown: a meeting with the Order of the Gash.

The Cenobites, as they're more often referred to, are creatures for whom dealings in pleasure are a currency and a privilege, but their definitions of what pleasures of the flesh entail long ago exceeded the human sadomasochistic scale.

There are only four main characters. Unlike Frank the other three aren't as seasoned or as inherently obsessive in their pursuits. Their world is smaller. They're regular people with regular needs. Part of what makes them interesting is that, while each person's desire is different, they're tangled up together: two are in a loveless marriage, while the third is dealing with feelings of unrequited love. Everyone, including the antagonist Frank, craves something that only exists outside of themselves, and some of them dare to reach for it.

As first chapters go it's one of his more repulsive ones. The calculated grossness continues in the same vein throughout. You get the feeling that Barker has visualised the scenes so completely that he was able to move around within them, see them from all angles and even, on occasion, smell their vileness.

The Pinhead character that has become the hideous figurehead of the film series isn't in the book, or rather isn't the same as the one film fans will be familiar with. Putting his image on the cover was a cheap lure by Harper Collins. But I do love the unifying border design they used across all their early Barker books.

4 perverse logics out of 5

No comments: