50 Scariest Books: #16 – Books of Blood by Clive Barker

I will always remember this grisly trilogy for inspiring one of my more horrifying dreams.

Clive Barker is most salient in people’s memories as the dude who wrote and directed Hellraiser, a movie my grandmother claims is the scariest movie she’s ever seen (and my grandma knows from horror).

I will confess here and now that I’ve never seen Hellraiser, but it’s such a boil on the butt of pop cultural consciousness that I feel like I’ve seen it.

I actually own all the volumes separately in paperback (and they’re pretty sweet) but they’re currently out on loan to a very slow reader. 

The stories in Books of Blood are like Thomas Hobbes’ description of prehistoric human life: Nasty, brutish, and short. To be frank, I hated them.

I’m not one to demand my horror come with a happy ending, but there is such a bleakness ingrained into these stories that even reading them left me feeling unshowered. There are no thrills or fun to be had on this literary journey, just page after page of nauseating plotlines and hideous characters.

The framework threading the stories together is this: A phony psychic in an attic gets more than he bargains for when he finds himself at an intersection of a supernatural highway and the tormented souls decide to use his skin as a canvas for their stories. That’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t really affect the impact of the stories one way or another.

There is one story I enjoyed, so I will talk about that.

I first read In the Hills, the Cities in The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. It delighted me as an odd story that seemed to be a grisly mashup of The Wicker Man and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. In it, a couple navigating turmoil in their relationship stumble upon an ancient tradition between two towns that ends in an horrific accident. It’s a garishly creative and unexpected story, a standout among so much muck.

*bloody extras

  • There is a film based on the books. Book of Blood (2009). It has a 5.3. rating on imdb.com. 
  • The story that gave me a nightmare was Rawhead Rex. I dreamed the titular character came into my place of work and started killing people. I did what any sensible person would do: I grabbed my Mom and my dog and got the heck out of there.


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