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Something Like a Review – The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

I have been a fan of horror since the first time a book gave me chills and I spent much of the night watching the shifting shadows. My love of horror movies came second, but only because I wasn’t really allowed to watch them. (In a mark of the lost art of parenting, or perhaps a bit of said parenting done to the extreme, I led a sheltered movie/TV life for a long time. A long time.) When I watched something scary, it was because my parents had gone out for a while and my sister was in bed. I could read scary books without being chastised, and my mom supported my habit every spring when she’d take me to the used bookstore to load up for the summer. I’m sure that what I was buying mattered less to her than the fact that I was a good kid, I was reading and this would keep me entertained and quiet while my parents were working.

When I walked out with my brown paper grocery bag of books, I can assure you there was no happier kid in the world. I’d dig in voraciously at first, then start to pace myself since I knew they had to last three whole months. Did I mention that I was a compulsive reader even then? Even then, nothing was better than hunkering down with a book that gave you goosebumps in spite of the summer heat, or one that made the slow gathering dusk a torture of fearful anticipation.

I wish I’d read this book way back then, but I probably would have passed it up because it’s such a slim book. (I was totally a size queen when it came to books. Page count meant a lot – the more pages, the longer it would take, the more I’d get out of that one book, leaving so much more room for other books!) I’m glad I found the recommendation…wherever it was that I saw it. While I have less consideration for the size of the book (beyond whether it would be a better dead-tree purchase worthy of occupying shelf space, or more comfortable to lug around in an e-reader), I’m not sure this would have caught my eye if I’d seen it on the shelf. The length of the story, however, belies the quality of the story within it.

This book is analogous to the puzzle box within it; it is the gateway between worlds, bridging the gap between the horror novel(la) and the horror movie. What impressed me about it the most was the crisp visuals, cinematic style, the tight narrative and how closely it was followed when “Hellraiser” was created. It almost seems as though this book may have only needed formatting changes to create the script, and that’s part of the reason why I enjoyed it so much. The caveat of this is that I could be bringing prior knowledge to the table when reading this story. There is history with the movie I can’t entirely disengage from my understanding of the story, so the reader who’d never been exposed to the Hellraiser movies might find contention with the story’s deceptively sparse style. I can’t be sure I wouldn’t have thought the same way back before I’d become acquainted with Pinhead and his cohorts.

This was a quick, grim, sordid little tale that whetted my appetite for more Clive Barker. I’ve read a couple of stories of his before (I think), but usually in anthology form where my brain tends to shift into neutral when it comes to remembering which story belongs to whom. I can tell you about them, just not from which pen they flowed.

All in all, for the horror buff, for the 80’s horror movie fans, I’d highly recommend this book. For those who just want a scary story, I’d recommend it, but understand that if you’re not familiar with the franchise, you could be disappointed because it is quick and short.

Medium: Dead-tree version from… umm… somewhere? Maybe Amazon? Maybe a brick and mortar? I can’t remember.

Other: Multiple versions also available from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 4 stars

Potential re-read: Probably. It’s so skinny, I could read it on a free Sunday snuggled in bed with a cuppa.

Dead-tree worthy?: Yes. Sometimes, I just go with my gut and snag the dead tree version even if I’m not 100% sure about the story. This is one of those times I was right. Go me!

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