I’m going to be on Jennifer Walker’s show on Blog Talk Radio, A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book, tonight, talking about Brutal Light, writing in general, dark fantasy, where I get my ideas, and other such things. It’ll run from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm EST, and will be streaming live during that time. If, for some implausible reason, you fail to gain the urge to rearrange your life so as to hang on my every erratic, meandering word, it will be archived there for you to listen to in your own good time.
Archive for February, 2012
Septina Nash’s sister, Sexta, is missing, and Septina is willing to face mad scientists, ninjas, the need to learn skateboarding, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, penguins, and much more in order to find her–if only her teachers would understand! Subtitled ‘from the Desk of Septina Nash,’ this epistolary book is a long series of letters that either describe a real, weird, zany adventure, or show just how far one grade-school girl will go to explain why her homework isn’t done and she had to skip certain classes.
That this works at all is a tribute to Greg Fishbone’s ability to write a central character at once relentlessly likeable and so committed to her way of seeing the world that nothing will stand in her way. It’s appeal isn’t quite so broad as that of his Galaxy Games–it’s bright, high-speed whimsy is more suited to tweens than teens or adults. (Though there were some bits that cracked this 42-year-old up, nonetheless.) That said, it’s a great fantasy book for that age group–I’m planning on getting a copy for my niece when she’s a bit older.
Julian Frost, whose life is already dark due to the murder of his parents and the loss of his sister, believes he has found his salvation in his new love, a vampire named Violet. But fate has more troubles in store for him, and he must decide if he is to let her make him into a vampire, so that he might face the vampire hunter that menaces her, and perhaps finally take revenge on his parents’ killer.
There is a lot going on in this book, and it’s to the author’s credit that it never becomes confusing and that none of the scenes are gratuitous. Julian is a compelling character, and his struggles were well presented. The one knock I have against this book is that it feels like it zips along too quickly–there are enough story developments along the way for a novel twice this length–and secondary characters and overall atmosphere take a few hits along the way. But what’s there is entertaining, and should be enjoyed by fans of non-sparkly vampires.
Not long ago, Clive Barker told us had had a terrifying brush with death, due to being put into a coma for seven days due to a spillage of poisonous bacteria into his blood during some dental work. It was a shocking thing to learn, and I along with many others was relieved to hear that he made it through and his health was improving. It also got me to thinking about something I’d planned for this blog that, with everything that’s been going on with me and my book in the last three-quarters of a year, I’d never made happen. I wanted to do a series of appreciations of writers, such as Clive Barker, that have had a strong impact on me.
Barker wasn’t one of my formative influences; I didn’t pick up one of his books until 2002, when I was 33. It was maybe two-and-a-half years after I’d finally dug into some Stephen King, whose works I’d once avoided, erroneously believing the negative opinions of some non-horror-fan friends. Clive Barker being one of the biggest names in the field after King’s, I figured he was worth a try. So I started with a cheap, dog-eared volume I’d snagged from a used book shop, figuring that if it didn’t suit me, I wouldn’t be out much money. That book was Imajica.
Once in a while, a book comes along that turns my head inside out, and this was definitely one such book. It was epic, intense, and effortlessly strange. It was violent, graphic, sensual, demanding, and surreal. Not only did it demand my time, my active involvement, my intelligence and my imagination, it drew upon these before I even realized what was happening. It changed my perceptions of what a book could do, how far writing could go, and what I wanted to do with my own writing. (For this reason, I listed it as one of the books that made me weird in one of my guest blogs.)
I followed these up with two more of what would become my favorite Barker works, The Great and Secret Show and Everville, both epic works set on Earth and the dream-sea world of Quiddity. They weren’t quite the shock to my system that Imajica was, but the feeling of immensity, depth, and danger was there, expertly spun into works that gave me the feeling that there was something more here than fiction; that there was a truth within that only fiction can reach, one I could sense but could not–perhaps still cannot–express.
I’ve enjoyed some of Barker’s other works, including Coldheart Canyon, The Thief of Always, The Books of Blood, Galilee, and Sacrament, though those did not have the same terrific impact. In fact, it may be because they didn’t have the same impact that I drifted away from reading Barker: on looking at the log of books I’ve kept for the past 14 years, I was surprised to discover I hadn’t read any by him in the last five.
Clive Barker’s power for me is that, in some ways, he’s the opposite of King. Where King is so very good at finding the horror in the everyday and the mundane, Barker excels at elevating the everyday and mundane into realms of terrifying, dreamlike horror. Many writers try to create worlds that are larger than the one we all inhabit; Barker is one of the few who succeeds, not only on a lofty imaginative level, but on a visceral level. He simultaneously evokes senses of wonder and terror, and for that I’ll always come back, no matter how long I’ve been away.