It has to be said that even though I don't entertain much horror, Clive Barker is somewhat of a legend. Growing up in the 80's his name was often spoken in quiet awe by impressionable teenagers, not least due to his infamous Books of Blood collections.
For me though it was the character of Pinhead that managed to solidify his standing as a master of horror. Hellraiser brought with it a different kind of bad guy. This guy was much more coldly intelligent and collected than any I'd seen before. This wasn't some guy who'd just gone bad, or a long-toothed creature of the dark. This guy was the real deal, a character directly from the pits of Hell. He also seemed more competent that most horror creations of the time, less inclined to lose his prey by all but the narrowest of margins or cheap tricks.
Anyone who has followed Clive Barkers career will know that The Scarlet Gospels has been a long, long time in production — as far back in time as 1998 Barker mentioned he was writing the book, originally planned as anthology with a Pinhead novella included. Luckily Barker decided to create a full-length novel focusing on everyone's favourite Cenobite and Barkers other landmark creation, the infamous private investigator Harry D'Amour.
What impresses me most about The Scarlet Gospels is the sense of scale you get, its a tale as grand as they come — and yet without losing touch with the individual characters. Both Harry and Pinhead get equal screen-time but it's the path that Pinhead takes that really steals the show.
It's a different reading experience to most horror novels I've read, I found myself rooting for Pinhead as much as I was Harry and company. That's not to say Harry is in anyway undershadowed, it's just that in this book its soo good to be bad. The plot moves forward swiftly with a number of twists and turns. Figuring out just what Pinheads endgame could be is one of the highlights. The ending is just superb, cataclysmic, bittersweet and perfectly fitting.
The Scarlet Gospels was worth waiting for, it is Barker at his finest a wonderful continuation of the story of Pinhead.
Written on 18th May 2015 by Ant.
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