The Scarlet Gospels
Author: Clive Barker
Reviewed By: Tremain Jackson, South Branch Manager
Personal Rating: 4 Stars
Book Summary: This novel takes readers back many years to the early days of two of Barker's most iconic characters in a battle of good and evil as old as time: The long beleaguered detective Harry D'Amour, investigator of all supernatural, magical, and malevolent crimes faces off against his formidable, and intensely evil rival, Pinhead, the Priest of Hell. Barker devotees have been waiting for this book with bated breath for years, and it's everything they've begged for and more. Bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed by the epic, visionary tale. Barker's horror will make your worst nightmares seem like bedtime stories. The Gospels are coming. Are you ready?
Personal Review: I was ecstatic when I learned there was going to be another entry from the mind of the man who gave us the character of Pinhead, probably best known for being portrayed in the Hellraiser films. With the franchise having started in the late 80's, I was admittedly too young to be watching them (especially based on content alone at the ripe age of 10); however, I've always been a fan of horror and Barker has always been able to create a truly warped, deranged, and morbid world that had me completely fascinated.
So again, when another book was being released and following the original characters, I was going to have to check it out, and I wasn't disappointed. But let me provide a disclaimer from the start. This book will not be a read for everyone based on the subject matter, adult content, gore, etc. You've been warned.
For those of you8 willing to dive into Barker's world of the macabre, then I don't think you'll be disappointed. In this entry, D'Amour is back and takes a trip to hell to rescue a friend from Pinhead, referred to as the Hell Priest because he doesn't like the name Pinhead. So begins the tale that will take you into the Hell Priest's world, luring Harry and his band of followers, referred to as Harrowers, deep into his playground. Plus, you do have the return of the puzzle boxes (Lemarchand's Boxes), which I will admit I really wanted one as a kid. But of course I certainly wouldn't want them to do what they were meant to do in the books. I'm not that far out there.
One of the more compelling parts of the first novella, "The Hellbound Heart" were the Cenobites, and Pinhead takes the second lead in this story, and he's certainly up to no good in what may lead to unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences. Plus, Barker's conceptualized idea of hell in this book was truly one of the strongest features of the story, becoming very much a character in and of itself. It's still the "hell" created by Lucifer, but Barker has given it his own spin with the world-building. Barker's description of Pinhead's "kingdom" was superb, describing sights, creatures, and events that were truly gruesome, which I liked because it's certainly not a place to add to your vacation list.
The novel was fast-paced, entertaining (in a macabre way), and certainly puts a spotlight on Barker's flair for setting scenes with his elaborate descriptions that will leave your cringing. On one hand, you have to wonder, as the reader, what in the world possessed Harry that he would even think he could take on Pinhead on his own turf? Talk about being outmatched and out of your league, and that's where he finds himself throughout most of the novel. Pinhead has ascended in hell, and when you're in his backyard, you've already drawn the short straw.
It sounds like I really enjoyed it right? I did. Then why didn't it get a higher rating? I'll tell you. Barker has been teasing this entry for the better part of 20 years, providing fans with snippets of what he was working on. At one point, the story was twice as long as the published version, so much was edited and cut out. For me, I would have enjoyed a longer and more stylized epic journey through the world, and I just didn't get it. What I did get was great, but I wanted even more. So if the length is my only real reason for knocking the rating down, that's not really that bad after all.
Again, I will state that this book is not going to be for everyone...it's a niche genre in horror that is very adult in content and graphic. But if that doesn't bother you, then open that puzzle box of your mind, step into the library, and checkout a copy of this book.