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

READ REVIEW

THE SCARLET GOSPELS

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 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more