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Mister B. Gone
Clive Barker
Harper Voyager, 248 pages

Mister B. Gone
Clive Barker
Clive Barker was born in Liverpool, England in 1952. He is the author of numerous interstitial books including The Books of Blood, Weaveworld, Imajica, and his first book for children, The Thief of Always. He is also an accomplished painter and filmmaker, and he produced the 1998 Academy Award winning film Gods and Monsters. His influences include Ramsey Campbell, William S. Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Christopher Marlowe, and William Blake.

Clive Barker Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Abarat

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandy Auden

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If you're a fan of Clive Barker's darker, bloodier tales then you're not likely to find any satisfaction in this latest story. The gore is kept low-key and the tone is kept quite light and occasionally humorous -- overall it sits somewhere between Hellraiser and Abarat, though probably closer to the latter than the former.

It's an interesting story though and once you've opened it you'll be mesmerized by the adventures of Jakabok Botch, a demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell. Botch lives next to one of the rubbish tips that his father patrols to keep the trouble-makers out, when he's not beating Botch or his mother to a bleeding pulp in a drunken frenzy. When Botch is hideously burned, it sets off a series of events that sees the young demon on a century-long journey, chasing across the face of our earth with a companion older than time, voyeuristically searching out the great inventions of Mankind.

Accepting the light, juvenile voice of the narrator Botch (and acknowledging that Botch really should sound more mature given he's been around for hundreds of years) this book is a nice all round package. The cover, blurb and interior graphics open your experience, setting the mood, and the integral bookmark takes you back to a time when books were made rather than churned out in mass market printing runs.

Then when you read the first page, the psychology kicks in. Botch tells you in the opening lines: "Burn this book. Go on. Quickly while there's still time…" and with an irresistible curiosity, you have to turn the page. After that it's too late, no matter how many times Botch implores you to burn the book, you're in for the entire ride.

Barker employs an unusual structure as the ongoing story flips between the demon recounting his fascinating life and then taking asides to address the reader directly, trying various techniques (from promises to threats) to encourage you to burn the book. The regularity of this coercion does get a little wearing at times but also, the more Botch insists on the book being burned, the more your suspicions are raised as to why he wants this to happen so badly.

Barker uses more psychology to engender sympathy for his main character. Cleverly using the demon's history of parental abuse as a youngster, and his displays of compassion on his travels in our world, Barker paints a slightly rosier picture of his character than is deserved for someone who murders for fun and torments people on a whim. It's a fine balance that Barker maintains (with only occasional slips) but on the whole the reader is manipulated well, even into a re-assessment of Botch's motivations later in the book.

And the sense of your perceptions being controlled becomes even stronger as events in Botch's life are revealed and tantalising information is dropped "accidentally" into the narrative, to maintain a forward momentum quite separate to the demon's direct appeals. Botch's escape from the violent people who bring him Above; his volatile relationship with the mysterious and ancient demon Quitoon; and his doomed arrival at Mainz in the Fifteenth Century to witness an invention that will change the world -- they all flow freely into the next until you're standing at the final revelation. It's a shame that the closing dénouement is the weakest part of the story, but it will be interesting to see if the plea in the final couple of pages does indeed have the hoped for subconscious effect on its readers…

Copyright © 2008 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and a combination interviewer/reviewer for SFSite.com and UKSFBookNews.net. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.


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