Friday, January 8, 2016

Weaveworld - Clive Barker

    1987; 704 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Epic Fantasy; Horror.  Laurels : Nominated for the 1988 World Fantasy Award (Best Novel).  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Calvin Mooney has caught a glimpse of Wonderland.  Funnily enough, it was as he was climbing a wall while chasing down one of his errant pigeons.  He glanced down at an old, threadbare carpet that a couple of movers were taking out of an empty house.  The vision was only there for an instant.  After the blink of an eye, it returned to being just an ordinary carpet again.

    So maybe it was all in Cal’s head.  A trick of the eyes, an overactive imagination, a short-lived hallucination, or something he ate for lunch that disagreed with him.  Yeah, that’s probably it.  The movers who took the carpet away certainly didn't see anything unusual, other than a crazy man chasing a bird.

    Except, then why are a pair of strangers pursuing him so diligently and so ruthlessly, demanding that he tell them where he’s hid the carpet?

What’s To Like...
    Weaveworld is an interesting blend of fantasy (hidden worlds, magic powers, giddy fruit) and horror (monstrous beasties, evil spells, undead spirits), with a bit of romance thrown in, but only a bit.  At first glance, this would appear to be a difficult mix, but Clive Barker makes it work.

    The story is set in Liverpool – the author's home turf – and several other areas of central England.  I particularly liked Barker’s ability to paint descriptions of both the real world and the fantasy one.  Yeah, one person’s “flowery” is another person’s “vivid”, but I found it captivating.  I also liked the book’s structure – there are sections (13 of them) which contain chapters, which in turn contain sub-chapters.  It was nice to be able to easily find a convenient place to stop at just about point while reading this 700-page opus.

    Our two protagonists, Cal and Suzanna, at first seem overmatched against some rather formidable baddies, but that’s how horror stories are supposed to work.  Both sides gain some friends and allies along the way, and that keeps the storyline fresh.  Quite a few characters get killed, so don’t get too attached to any of them.  But cleverly woven into all the action and bloodshed are some serious topics – the dangers of blind faith, the interdependence of belief and reality, and of course, the strength of love.

    The tension builds nicely to a great good-vs-evil ending, although it is stutter-step in nature.  Onr first ending comes about 500 pages in, another at page 690, and a third one – short but critical – finishes off the book as a 10-page epilogue.  This is a standalone novel, and lots of R-rated stuff – cussing, sex, and bloody deaths.  But hey, isn't horror supposed to be that way?

Kewlest New Word...
Bowdlerize (v.) : to edit (text) by removing or modifying passages deemed to be vulgar or objectionable.
Others : By-blow (n.; Britishism); Louring (v.; Britishism); Incantatrix (n.; Latinism)

    It was not an empty sleep; far from it.  There were dreams.  Or rather, a particular dream which filled both their heads.
    They dreamed a noise.  A planet of bees, all buzzing fit to burst their honeyed hearts; a rising swell that was summer’s music.
    They dreamed smell.  A confusion of scents; of streets after rain, and faded cologne, and wind out of a warm country.
    But most of all, they dreamed sight.
    It began with a pattern: a knotting and weaving of countless strands, dyed in a hundred colors, carrying a charge of energy that so dazzled the sleepers they had to shield their minds’ eyes.  (pg. 128)

    It was just before eight in the morning when Cal got off the bus and began the short walk to the Mooney residence, and everywhere along the street the same domestic rituals that he’d witnessed here since his childhood were being played out.  Radios announced the morning’s news through open windows and doors: a Parliamentarian had been found dead in his mistress’s arms; bombs had been dropped in the Middle East.  Slaughter and scandal, scandal and slaughter.  And was the tea too weak this morning, my dear? and did the children wash behind their ears?  (pg. 298)

“Serves us right for trusting weavers.  Clever fingers and dull minds.”  (pg. 135)
    Weaveworld is a good book, but not a perfect one.  There are some spots where the plotline drags, particularly the chapters where Cal and Suzanna are on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.  The main storyline is pretty straightforward and untwisty; you can see what it’s building to from a long way off.  And the intricate world-building was a mixed blessing – I really felt “immersed” in the worlds Clive Barker created, yet it made for a lengthy read.

    But I quibble.  Overall, this was a witty and entertaining read, with fantasy and horror blended in just the right proportions.  This was an early Clive Barker book effort, and AFAIK, he didn’t set any of his subsequent stories in this fascinating world.

   Which is quite the pity.

    8 Stars.  This was my introduction to Clive Barker, and the word is it’s one of his tamer and “lighter” efforts.  I think I may have to pick up some more of his books.

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