Five knockout stories by a richly imaginative new horror master who has won the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award. Aside from the opening pages of the title story, which are rather shaky, Barker writes with high style and always with a gripping premise. That the stories remain slightly brittle and stifled by their genre should not dampen our enthusiastic welcome. In ""The Inhuman Incondition,"" four thieves beat up and rob a derelict in a tunnel, one of the thieves stealing the derelict's length of knotted cord. The thief with the cord becomes obsessed with unknotting the knots, but they are supernatural knots and require days and nights of endless teasing. As each of the knots becomes unknotted, one thief dies violently, then the next. In ""The Body Politic,"" a man's hands become rebels against the body. The right hand cuts off the left, and it races about as an independent creature. Soon it's meeting other hands. And other limbs have taken up the cause of freedom as the body's empire falls. . . ""Revelations"" takes place in a Texas motel, the scene of a murder 30 years earlier in which a wife shot her boorish, philandering husband dead. Now their ghosts are back, the man still boorish and attempting to seduce his unwilling wife, while a new couple--an overbearing fundamentalist preacher and his burdened wife--unwittingly reenact the earlier murder. The collection's most solid hit is ""The Age of Desire,"" in which a man--the victim of an experimental aphrodisiac that really works (somewhat like LSD)--bums to ash with relentless desire. All in all: A-plus entertainment for horror fans.