Kirkus Star


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Barker's most ambitious work yet, topping even Weaveworld: a massive (560 pp.) and brilliant Platonic dark fantasy that details an eruption of wonders and terrors--as the veil between the world of the senses and the world of the imagination is rent in a small California town. The torrent of invention here is astounding In the First 44 pages alone, antihero Randolph Jaffe, a clerk at the Dead Letters Office in Omaha, discovers among the letters hints of a gloat esoteric knowledge called the ""Art""; goes mad with lust for the Art, savagely kills his boss, and flees; wanders into a time loop beyond our universe to match wits with Kissoon, erstwhile guardian of the Art; in order to prove worthy of the Art, teams up with a top scientist, Richard Fletcher, to isolate the substance--the Nuncio--responsible for evolution; ingests the Nuncio, thus becoming transformed into a near-immortal, the Jaff; and goes to war with Fletcher, who's also partaken of the Nuncio. And all that is just prelude to the main conflict: the war that's fought a decade later between the evil Jaff and good Fletcher--a war that's witnessed by their children (spawn of their rape of four teen girls) and by a sympathetic reporter and his semi-girlfriend (the novel's hero), and that, played out against an all-American mall-bound town, threatens the order of our universe. For if the Jaff wins, and thus can practice--imperfectly--the Art, Kissoon will lead an invasion into our world of the lad, monstrous lords of a parallel universe separated from ours by the great sea of dreams, Quiddity. With monsters made of animated feces and of foul emotions at his command, the Jaff finally does win--plunging many folk into Quiddity, from which a heroic, transformed few will return to do final battle even as the terrible Iad draw ever closer to our world. Over the top and at times out of control; but the total impact is staggering as Barker creates (with borrowings, e.g., from Lovecraft)--in addition to a prime sex/gore fright entertainment--one of the most powerful overtly metaphysical novels of recent years (""mind was in matter, always. That was the revelation of Quiddity. . . Before life, the dream of life""). A major horror novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1989
Publisher: Harper & Row