THE SCARLET GOSPELS

Perhaps not the best jumping-on point into Barker’s twisted universe, but a fun, gory roller-coaster ride for horror fans...

Horror master Barker (Absolute Midnight, 2011, etc.) brings down the lights on two of his most enduring creations: the Cenobite hell priest Pinhead and private eye Harry D’Amour.

This long-awaited final chapter about characters that inspired the films of the Hellraiser series and Lord of Illusions may or may not satisfy the intense fan anticipation, but it’s still a hell of a spectacle. The novel opens as a group of magicians have resurrected one of their comrades from the dead. When Pinhead arrives to kill him again, he warns, “You are the last. After you, there’ll be no more games. Only war.” The survivors are massacred (except for one who becomes Pinhead’s slave), complete with gleefully gory descriptions of corporeal punishment. Meanwhile, Harry D’Amour is in New Orleans at the request of his blind friend, Norma Paine, who can speak to ghosts. While covering up a sex den for one of Norma’s deceased clients, Harry discovers a Lament Configuration—those would be the creepy puzzle boxes you might remember from Hellraiser or Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart (1986). This attracts Pinhead, who has now been banished from his order. Pinhead declares that Harry must bear witness to his “sublime labor” and write in his gospels of all the carnage to follow. To trigger Harry’s role in his final play, Pinhead kidnaps Norma and drags her to hell, forcing Harry and three friends to follow the demon into the breach. Once in the inferno, the ragtag band must navigate monsters, deadly fog, and the scorched landscape to follow their quarry to his final conflagration. This is graphic horror on a gargantuan scale but with some great character beats, too. When Harry growls, “This is between me and Pinfuck,” it’s a fist-in-the-air moment for Barker’s patient and passionate fans.

Perhaps not the best jumping-on point into Barker’s twisted universe, but a fun, gory roller-coaster ride for horror fans and a worthy ending for an iconic villain.

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05580-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

Categories:

SIGHTSEEING

STORIES

A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.

Seven stories, including a couple of prizewinners, from an exuberantly talented young Thai-American writer.

In the poignant title story, a young man accompanies his mother to Kok Lukmak, the last in the chain of Andaman Islands—where the two can behave like “farangs,” or foreigners, for once. It’s his last summer before college, her last before losing her eyesight. As he adjusts to his unsentimental mother’s acceptance of her fate, they make tentative steps toward the future. “Farangs,” included in Best New American Voices 2005 (p. 711), is about a flirtation between a Thai teenager who keeps a pet pig named Clint Eastwood and an American girl who wanders around in a bikini. His mother, who runs a motel after having been deserted by the boy’s American father, warns him about “bonking” one of the guests. “Draft Day” concerns a relieved but guilty young man whose father has bribed him out of the draft, and in “Don’t Let Me Die in This Place,” a bitter grandfather has moved from the States to Bangkok to live with his son, his Thai daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. The grandfather’s grudging adjustment to the move and to his loss of autonomy (from a stroke) is accelerated by a visit to a carnival, where he urges the whole family into a game of bumper cars. The longest story, “Cockfighter,” is an astonishing coming-of-ager about feisty Ladda, 15, who watches as her father, once the best cockfighter in town, loses his status, money, and dignity to Little Jui, 16, a meth addict whose father is the local crime boss. Even Ladda is in danger, as Little Jui’s bodyguards try to abduct her. Her mother tells Ladda a family secret about her father’s failure of courage in fighting Big Jui to save his own sister’s honor. By the time Little Jui has had her father beaten and his ear cut off, Ladda has begun to realize how she must fend for herself.

A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-1788-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

Categories:
Close Quickview