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Books of Blood #1-6

Books of Blood, Volumes 1-6

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"Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we're opened, we're red." For those who only know Clive Barker through his long multigenre novels, this complete edition of the Books of Blood is a welcome chance to acquire all six volumes and 30 remarkable horror short stories written by the British author Clive Barker. For those who already know these tales, the poignant introduction is a window on the creator's mind. Reflecting back after 14 years, Barker writes:

I look at these pieces and I don't think the man who wrote them is alive in me anymore.... We are all our own graveyards I believe; we squat amongst the tombs of the people we were. If we're healthy, every day is a celebration, a Day of the Dead, in which we give thanks for the lives that we lived; and if we are neurotic we brood and mourn and wish that the past was still present.

Reading these stories over, I feel a little of both. Some of the simple energies that made these words flow through my pen--that made the phrases felicitous and the ideas sing--have gone. I lost their maker a long time ago.

These enthusiastic tales are not ashamed of visceral horror, of blood splashing freely across the page: "The Midnight Meat Train," a grisly subway tale that surprises you with one twist after another; "The Yattering and Jack," about a hilarious demon who possesses a Christmas turkey; "In the Hills, the Cities," an unusual example of an original horror premise; "Dread," a harrowing non-supernatural tale about being forced to realize your worst nightmare; "Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament," about a woman who kills men with her mind. Some of the tales are more successful than others, but all are distinguished by strikingly beautiful images of evil and destruction. No horror library is complete without them. --Fiona Webster

818 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Clive Barker

702 books13.3k followers
Clive Barker was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Joan Rubie (née Revill), a painter and school welfare officer, and Leonard Barker, a personnel director for an industrial relations firm. Educated at Dovedale Primary School and Quarry Bank High School, he studied English and Philosophy at Liverpool University and his picture now hangs in the entrance hallway to the Philosophy Department. It was in Liverpool in 1975 that he met his first partner, John Gregson, with whom he lived until 1986. Barker's second long-term relationship, with photographer David Armstrong, ended in 2009.

In 2003, Clive Barker received The Davidson/Valentini Award at the 15th GLAAD Media Awards. This award is presented "to an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for any of those communities". While Barker is critical of organized religion, he has stated that he is a believer in both God and the afterlife, and that the Bible influences his work.

Fans have noticed of late that Barker's voice has become gravelly and coarse. He says in a December 2008 online interview that this is due to polyps in his throat which were so severe that a doctor told him he was taking in ten percent of the air he was supposed to have been getting. He has had two surgeries to remove them and believes his resultant voice is an improvement over how it was prior to the surgeries. He said he did not have cancer and has given up cigars. On August 27, 2010, Barker underwent surgery yet again to remove new polyp growths from his throat. In early February 2012 Barker fell into a coma after a dentist visit led to blood poisoning. Barker remained in a coma for eleven days but eventually came out of it. Fans were notified on his Twitter page about some of the experience and that Barker was recovering after the ordeal, but left with many strange visions.

Barker is one of the leading authors of contemporary horror/fantasy, writing in the horror genre early in his career, mostly in the form of short stories (collected in Books of Blood 1 – 6), and the Faustian novel The Damnation Game (1985). Later he moved towards modern-day fantasy and urban fantasy with horror elements in Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), the world-spanning Imajica (1991) and Sacrament (1996), bringing in the deeper, richer concepts of reality, the nature of the mind and dreams, and the power of words and memories.

Barker has a keen interest in movie production, although his films have received mixed receptions. He wrote the screenplays for Underworld (aka Transmutations – 1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986), both directed by George Pavlou. Displeased by how his material was handled, he moved to directing with Hellraiser (1987), based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. His early movies, the shorts The Forbidden and Salome, are experimental art movies with surrealist elements, which have been re-released together to moderate critical acclaim. After his film Nightbreed (Cabal), which was widely considered to be a flop, Barker returned to write and direct Lord of Illusions. Barker was an executive producer of the film Gods and Monsters, which received major critical acclaim.

Barker is a prolific visual artist working in a variety of media, often illustrating his own books. His paintings have been seen first on the covers of his official fan club magazine, Dread, published by Fantaco in the early Nineties, as well on the covers of the collections of his plays, Incarnations (1995) and Forms of Heaven (1996), as well as on the second printing of the original UK publications of his Books of Blood series.

A longtime comics fan, Barker achieved his dream of publishing his own superhero books when Marvel Comics launched the Razorline imprint in 1993. Based on detailed premises, titles and lead characters he created specifically for this, the four interrelated titles — set outside the Marvel universe — were Ectokid,

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Nichole.
20 reviews
July 10, 2013
For those who have not been introduced to the works of Clive Barker, the Complete Books of Blood is the best place to begin. With 16 different flavors of horror splashed on each sticky page, Barker leaves no nightmare unexplored.

Be warned: one does not just dip their toes into the Bloody Books without falling in.

Recommended reading:
Human Remains
The Madonna
In the Flesh
Profile Image for Sara.
1,735 reviews14 followers
January 12, 2013
I read volumes 1-3 last year, so I read volumes 4-6 this year. Just as amazing and just as creative. Each story brings it's own horrors and Barker really knows how to bring them alive. His writing is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. This is definitely a book I will read over and over again- perfection!
Profile Image for Alex.
Author 3 books22 followers
August 3, 2019
I understand why Clive Barker is the benchmark most frequently pointed at to define splatterpunk. These stories embody that ethos and is absolutely splatter and absolutely punk. I think “Fuck art, let’s kill!” is the anthem of splatterpunk, and this collection wears that like a tailor-made skin-suit. I’m glad I made the journey, but a significant way through these stories stopped dragging me along.

Clive Barker seems to really like a wide cast of characters and a significant number of POV shifts. It feels like some of these would be stronger without the POV of the monster, especially when they are particularly inhuman. If you want to dip in your toe, read Volume 1. If that pleases, continue to Volume 5. If you enjoy everything so far, keep going. If not, you can proceed with the knowledge that you have made a fair attempt.

If you want to cherrypick stories, there are a handful of truly excellent stories that are not to be missed. From Volume 1, “The Midnight Meat Train” is a deeply unsettling love letter to the grungy New York City of yesteryear. When NYC makes an appearance in any story, it must also be a character, and the one it plays here is unpleasant. “In the Hills, the Cities” is a masterpiece of discomfort and disquiet of the Eastern Bloc during the cold war. I love this story, not least because it had that lightning strike moment where I realized NIN borrowed a line from this story: “I hate the smell of old churches, stale incense, old sweat, and lies.” There’s a lot in this story to dig into including metaphorical living cities, the ephemerality of relationships, and the titan lurking in the hills waiting to rise up and destroy the world. These two stories make the collection worth hunting down. In the fifth volume, “The Forbidden” is a gem and makes me want to rewatch Candyman.
Profile Image for Bjorn Roose.
308 reviews6 followers
July 20, 2019
Okee, ik moet om te beginnen twee dingen toegeven: 1) ik heb in een intussen toch al redelijk ver verleden Clive Barkers "Weefwereld" ("Weaveworld") gelezen, maar er niet veel meer van onthouden dan dat het over een tapijt ging waarbinnen allerlei dingen gebeurden; 2) ik associeerde zijn naam voor de rest vooral met de film "Hellraiser" (de eerste en volgens mij enige goeie uit de serie), die door hem geregisseerd werd en gebaseerd was op zijn boek "Hellehart" ("The Hellbound Heart").

Ik had dus, voor zover ik me kan herinneren, nooit een van zijn korte verhalen gelezen en dat zijn nu net de verhalen die in "Boeken van Bloed" terug te vinden zijn. In dit boek - oorspronkelijk verschenen als meerdere boeken - zijn dertig verhalen samengebracht, goed voor zo'n 950 bladzijden tekst. Voordeel én nadeel van zo'n bundeling is dat je het boek na het lezen van een of meerdere verhalen op de salontafel (of het nachtkastje) kan laten liggen en er later weer naar kan terug grijpen zonder dat je van begin af aan moet herbeginnen of zonder dat je "uit de sfeer" raakt.

Da's dan ook wat me gebeurde met deze bundel: ik ben er in begonnen aanvang december 2018 en het heeft tot half juli 2019 geduurd tegen dat ik de turf uit had. Niet erg, niemand verplicht me sneller te lezen, alleen heb ik zelf zoiets van: "Nu moet het maar eens uit zijn. Neem dat boek en lees het, verdomme." Toen ik weer ging sporten, een goeie maand geleden, deed ik dat. Sporten bestaat bij mij uit rijden op een hometrainer en dat kan perfect gedaan worden terwijl je leest (alleen zorgen dat je je boek niet onder zweet).

Soit, terug naar Barker en in het bijzonder zijn "Boeken van Bloed". Om nu te zeggen dat dit "de meest provocerende verhalen ooit in druk verschenen" zijn, zoals de Washington Post volgens de voorpagina beweerde, lijkt mij er wat over. Voor mij zijn dat, als we "provocerend" even gelijkschakelen met "horror", nog steeds de vier eerste verhalen die Stephen King onder het pseudoniem Richard Bachman schreef: "Razernij" ("Rage"), "De marathon" ("The Long Walk"), "Werk in uitvoering" ("Roadwork") en "Vlucht naar de top" ("The running man"). Ik heb nadien geen enkel horrorverhaal meer gelezen dat me zo naar de keel greep als die vier, óók niet van King zelf trouwens.

Bovendien deed King in die boeken - ik ben al een jaar of vijfentwintig opgehouden met de man te lezen - niet wat Clive Barker héél regelmatig doet: zich bedienen van open eindes. Die techniek is zo zwaar beproefd in het horrorgenre dat hij op het systeem gaat werken. Vooral als hij gebruikt wordt bij kortverhalen, waarvan je het ene na het andere kan lezen.

Voor de rest echter grotendeels lof voor Barker. "Het Boek van Bloed", waarnaar de bundel genoemd is, is gewoon schitterend. "Tunnel des doods" ook, temeer omdat het open einde in dit verhaal wel degelijk past. "Jack en zijn demon" eveneens.

"Varkensbloedblues" zou goed kunnen zijn als het thema van het mensenetende varken niet al lang uitgemolken was en als je de clue niet van een uur ver zag aankomen. Dat laatste is trouwens wel vaker het probleem met Barkers verhalen, maar zijn sfeeropbouw weet dat goed te ondervangen. Alhoewel, af en toe de verhalen nóg korter maken, zou de kwaliteit ervan ongetwijfeld nog ten goede komen.

"Sex, dood en stralende sterren" is gewoon een zoveelste zombieverhaal (en ja, ook in de jaren tachtig, toen dit verhaal geschreven werd, waren er daar al veel van, zijnde dan wel door de band genomen interessantere dan nu) en "In de heuvels, de steden", dat enorm goed begint, gaat onder in zeeën van bloed (een gemiste kans in dit geval). "Angst" was misschien een goed verhaal in diezelfde jaren tachtig, maar eerlijk, horrorclowns zijn intussen wel al een beetje héél erg afgezaagd (maar helaas niet tot aan hun enkels). En dan "De helse wedstrijd" ... Komaan zeg, een politicus die zijn ziel aan de duivel verkoopt ? Alsof politici een ziel hebben en de duivel daarin zou geïnteresseerd zijn.

Nu goed, ik ga hier ook niet alle verhalen opnoemen die ik niet al te sterk vond. Ik ga het dus verder niet hebben over "Jacqueline Ess: haar laatste wil", "Zo vader, zo zoon", of "Nieuwe moorden in de Rue Morgue". Of over het spookverhaal (dat zich dan ook nog eens afspeelt in een van die typisch Amerikaanse motels) "De openbaring" en het niemendalletje "Prins der duisternis". En ook niet over "De madonna" (bijzonder lullig einde van een verhaal dat niet slecht begon) of "Kinderen van Babel", dat eigenlijk qua structuur krek hetzelfde is als "Tunnel des doods", maar dat heb je op dat punt in het boek dan al gehad.

"Koning Monster" was wél goed (al zijn priesters die zich alliëren met helse gedrochten natuurlijk oude koek), net zoals "Bekentenissen van een lijkwade" (een op zijn minst originele invalshoek), en "Zoon van het witte doek" (dat me om een of andere reden ook deed denken aan "Flicker" van Theodore Roszak, en niet alleen omdat "het witte doek" er een hoofdrol in speelt).

"Zondebokken" werd interessanter naarmate het verhaal vorderde, maar "Menselijke resten" bloedde, net zoals het daar op volgende "De opstand der handen" (dat anders qua basisgegeven zeer goed gevonden was), dood aan een uitermate voorspelbaar einde, terwijl "De ontmenselijking" als een te luchtige cake in mekaar stortte.

"Graffiti" dan ... Dat gaat eigenlijk over de "Candyman", die iedereen allicht beter bekend is uit de gelijknamige film. Die film werd geregisseerd door Clive Barker (hij waagde zich niet alleen aan "Hellraiser") en was eerlijk gezegd beter. Maar "Het tijdperk van verlangen" is op zich weer een verbeterde versie van het oude "Jekyll and Hyde"-verhaal.

En "Vlees en bloed" was verre van slecht, maar voor het concept van de stad "aan gene zijde" ging Barker mijns inziens een beetje té veel leentje buur spelen bij C.S. Lewis' "De grote scheiding". Nu ja, de lezers van Barker hebben niet noodzakelijk dat boek van Lewis uit 1946 gelezen. Net zomin als ze noodzakelijk "Hondenhart" van Michail Boelgakov hebben gelezen, waar Barker volgens mij het idee achter "In de schaduw van de torens" heeft gehaald.

Moet ik duidelijk maken waarover "De levende dood" gaat ? Ik denk het niet, hè ? Barker probeert nog een originele draai te geven aan dit zombieverhaal, maar het plot daarvan is net iets te dun. Net zoals het hele plot van het tropische-ziekte-door-een-vloekverhaal "Domein van de angst". Of dat van "De laatste truc" (met in de hoofdrol een tovenaar/goochelaar die een pact heeft gesloten met de hel en daarvoor de tol niet wil betalen).

"Het Boek van Bloed (een PS): Jerusalem Street" sluit deze bundel af met een terugkeer van het slachtoffer uit "Het Boek van Bloed", dat opnieuw slachtoffer wordt. Waarmee de illusie van een raamvertelling benaderd wordt, al zouden er daarvoor eigenlijk méér uitstapjes naar/met dat slachtoffer moeten geweest zijn tussen de andere kortverhalen door.

Al met al is deze bundel, ondanks mijn bij momenten niet erg lovende kritiek, ongetwijfeld het lezen waard voor mensen die eens kennis willen maken met het horrorgenre zonder er honderden bladzijden lang aan gebonden te zijn. En voor mensen die het kortverhaal als genre weten te waarderen. Want, eerlijk is eerlijk, Clive Barker is wél goed in het schrijven van kortverhalen. Hij weet de lezers van bij de eerste paragraaf mee te nemen en ook vast te houden tot de laatste paragraaf. En dat is meer dan van vele andere schrijvers kan gezegd worden.
Profile Image for Santosh Bhat.
235 reviews
May 15, 2017
The stories are macabre and grisly, but not many of them are scary. My favourites among them are Rawhead Rex and The Body Politic. There is a strong fantasy element involved in Barkers horror stories, but many times his attempts at building a mythology don't make much sense. Barker is a lover of gore, and his stories are steeped in it. People don't just die in his tales, but their innards are ripped apart. But the true test of horror is when they give the reader nightmares, but these tales failed in that sense in my case.
Profile Image for Ryan.
6 reviews
June 25, 2018
One of the best collections of short stories going. Imaginative, fantastical, fun, great characters, unflinching. Much better than what I was expecting. There's a couple of duds in my view, but overall, absolutely inspirational.
Profile Image for Alan Smith.
55 reviews3 followers
June 30, 2023
I read these slowly over the last couple of years. Barker really is a horror writer like no other. Most horror books get their tension and momentum from your dread; you know or fear what terrible thing is going to happen and you read on almost as a way of getting it over with, to end the tension. Cabin at the End of the World, a book I love, is a great recent example. It really was scary to me and I couldn't get that insurmountable dread out of my head even when I wasn't reading it.

Barker is a different kind of horror to me. Not really scary. Disturbing, shocking, enthralling, but not scary. In fiction I kind of think of terror as fear and fright -- like the worst thing you can imagine. Like you're on a train and suddenly you're trapped in a car with a scary serial killer! I think of horror as more shock and disbelief -- a thing so bad you could never have imagined it. Like you're on a train and suddenly you're trapped in a car with a scary serial killer... .

Anyway, if you haven't read Barker but are a fan of the weird, twisted, and macabre, super recommended. "In the Hills, the Cities" at the end of Book 1 might be my favorite, one of the weirdest, just... hallucinatory things I've ever read, beautiful and repulsive at the same time.
Profile Image for Meagan.
9 reviews
March 1, 2020
We're all Books of Blood...

... wherever we're opened, we're red. So Barker begins his jaunt through slicked carnage & chattering horrors with a glib, vaudevillian quip. This collection is not for the feint of heart; neither to the genre or the author.
If you are new to Clive Barker's work, look for one of the less expensive editions of this collection of short stories. It's definitely recommended reading for anyone getting into the horror in general, as he writes in several styles and displays skill in many of the classic horror forms (the ghost story, the haunted house, etc).
Given the size & cost of this particular edition, it's not practical for the casual reader, however, it would make a fantastic gift for a committed fan. The vast amount of material assaults the senses & creates a fugue state of dread. The presentation is severe: the book itself is over-sized & nearly three inches thick. Stark black lettering on sterile white frames a small, crimson image on the cover, a bloody smear of a painting laughing out at you, painted by Barker himself. The pages are a heavier weight, and the fonts are crisp and stern. If you have a Barker fan in your life, or are a fan and looking for something to spoil yourself with, I highly recommend this.
Profile Image for Gab.
237 reviews5 followers
March 27, 2022
Like with every collection of short stories, this one has better and worse one in the mix.
This said, I think that what makes 'The Books of Blood' a benchmark when it comes to horror in general are two things:

The first is the imagination of Barker, not only for being "twisted," but because is varied. We have body-horror, psychological horror, splatterpunk, satire and even very well done comedy in the mix.

The second is that there is no lazy writing. For example, I'm not a big fan of splatter and slasher not so much because I cannot stomach the gore, but because often the gore is all you can find in it, it becomes self-serving and redundant. It feel like Gareth Marenghi: "Blood! Blood. Blood, blood, blood, blood... Blood!"
This, both from the title and the splatter cover arts, could have easily been one of that, using the ever-green "It's just not your kind of thing" excuse when somebody criticises it for bring nothing to the table. But Barker doesn't do that: even the most splatter scene has a point, has a plot and it's part of a conflict with a cause and a consequence, so it's worth reading.

A really good collection.
Profile Image for K.T. Tate.
Author 21 books4 followers
May 30, 2019
I have such mixed feelings about this body of work. Some stories I liked, some were deliciously shocking, some I only liked bits of and some I don't remember as they didn't stick for me. Al of them were clever ideas though. Here are a few of my thoughts;

The Skins of the Fathers in Book two was my favourite.
Jacqueline Ess: Her Will And Testament was great but I was so angry at the ending.
The Inhuman Condition was great fun
The Body Politic was so hilarious and insane that I laughed out loud and got strange looks from friends when I explained what was happening. It was great.
Down, Satan! this I think was the most frustrating tale as I could imagine so much more that could be done with it.
The Madonna I really loved. Not sure the rape was scene was required, but it didn't detriment the story for me.
The Last illusion was just great fun reminiscent of film noir / pulp hijinks.

Overall I am really glad that I read this massive body of work. Barker has a very clear voice even as he flits between types of horror. I will certainly be seeking out more.

Profile Image for Jamie O'Rourke.
78 reviews
February 24, 2017
The Books of Blood are some of the best short story collections on the market. Through six volumes, there are really no stories to dislike, when you get the chance, I implore you to give these wonderful tales a read.

The Yattering & Jack
Sons of Celluloid
The Body Politic
The Forbidden
How Spoilers Bleed

...Scapegoats? I suppose...
Profile Image for Christopher Besonen.
Author 12 books66 followers
July 6, 2021
Long time fan of Barker film adaptations, so when someone told me was a writer, I had to dive right in. It would be a decision that I would only come to regret, because I went do many years simply watching his work, rather than reading it. All of his work is brilliant, but I truly love his short stories!
1 review
August 20, 2019
A great series of stories that kept me entertained and entranced from the first page until around the mid-point. Then it picked up again at the end. I can see why Stephen King thought so highly of these stories.
Profile Image for Adrian Bloxham.
1,160 reviews1 follower
February 18, 2020
This is really just book 6 but I couldn't find that single volume. This is the first of the volumes I read borrowed from Earldom library after reading about them somewhere. They struck me as brilliant immediately.
Profile Image for Matevž.
181 reviews
December 10, 2020
I like Clive Barker a lot and have read a lot of his work, including some graphic novels and more.

This compilation features a lot of his (shorter) works and is quite a read. The stories range from exceptional to average, what one would expect from a compilation :D

p.s.: Don't read after bedtime!
Profile Image for Trisha.
643 reviews48 followers
November 25, 2017
apart verhaal is Angst. wel leuk om te lezen hoe Barker het menselijk brein heeft gebruikt en dit terug laat komen in zijn verhaal.
193 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2021
I first read these when they originally came out thirty odd years ago, and I've read a lot of short stories since then. They remain the best collection of horror short stories I've ever read.
2 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2022
All 6 books. Some stories are hit or miss. “THE YATTERING AND JACK” and “IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES” were the definite standouts for me.
Profile Image for Samuel.
14 reviews
April 15, 2023
Probably the greatest collection of short story horror ever written.
70 reviews
July 10, 2020
A feast of visuals and descriptions of the grotesque. Characters, mostly devices to deliver us to the creative horror; storytelling, an afterthought.
Profile Image for Greg Kerestan.
1,280 reviews15 followers
January 25, 2016
If you like Clive Barker, you'll agree that there's no such thing as excess when it comes to him. His style, drenched in melodrama, weird sex, weird violence, the supernatural, the theatrical and heavy doses of surrealism, lends itself well to the short form, and this volume collects almost all his short stories. Either you're a Barker fan or you're not, but those who are will LOVE this.
Profile Image for Descending Angel.
681 reviews29 followers
April 2, 2016
One of the best collection of short stories ever. Six volumes, 30 storys. A few have adaptations (candyman, lord of illusions, the midnight meat train) but there's still many i would love seeing as a movie. Best stories: Jacqueline Ess, Son of Celluloid, Dread, Revelations, The Madonna, The Life of Death, The Last Illusion.
Profile Image for Laurie.
6 reviews
January 12, 2015
Creepy! I loved how imaginative the stories were but, they were very scary! His stories are the kind to keep you awake at night wondering what's outside coming to get you! One of my favorite books of all time!
Profile Image for Tijl Vandersteene.
124 reviews10 followers
June 24, 2015
De meester van de moderne horror. Niet zijn beste verhalen maar nog steeds sterk, vreemd, angstaanjagend genoeg om er een onaangename ervaring van te maken. Ideaal om tijdens de zomer te lezen, als het bloedheet is: koude rillingen en kippenvel verzekerd.
Profile Image for Ryan.
59 reviews18 followers
March 9, 2007
trent reznor quotes from this on pretty hate machine. I KNOW! i freaked out too a little bit.
Profile Image for Timothy Walker.
6 reviews6 followers
July 10, 2012
My favorite, by far -- "Rawhead Rex", with "Midnight Meat Train" a close second.
Profile Image for Chad.
Author 85 books664 followers
August 23, 2012
In short story originality and creepiness, this is up there with Poe
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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