Saturday, November 5, 2011

Beautiful and grotesque

What can you expect from someone who came up with a character such as Pinhead in "Hellraiser"? Why a wonderful book filled with otherworldly characters of course! And it's been a while since Cliver Barker wrote something wonderfully strange and horrifying. His most recent adult fiction, Mister B. Gone, was just so-so; it's quite difficult to imagine that it's the same person who wrote The Books of Blood, Cabal, Imajica, and The Damnation Game (which inspired the movie "Hellraiser"). Mister B. Gone totally came from left field that I felt cheated.

It's a good thing though that Barker has a series (a quartet?) for young adults that is just as deliciously strange as his adult fiction. And third book in the series, Abarat: Absolute Midnight, doesn't disappoint.

Because this is a work from the twisted imagination of Barker, the characters range from the divine to the damned. Mater Motley, the book's primary villain, is a crazy old crone who wears a dress weighed down by the souls of the tormented. Motley is constantly surrounded by other monstrosities, and Barker's description of these is fascinating. The only "normal" character is Candy Quackenbush, the heroine of the series, who is still at the mystical land of Abarat.

To imagine Abarat, you will have to suspend all disbelief. It's a place, terrible and wonderful at the same time, that is made up of islands. Each island corresponds to a particular time of day. So there are islands who are bathed in sunshine at all times, and those that are perpetually clothed in the nighttime, such as Midnight where Mater Motley resides. In book 3, Mater Motley comes up with a plan to bring eternal midnight to the whole of Abarat, and it's only Candy who can stop her.

Barker doesn't come out with an Abarat book every year. Why? Each book has hundreds of paintings, which are all by Barker himself, that go hand in hand with the story. (And I'm guessing that it does take some time to paint.) Barker's style is what I would consider as grotesque; it complements his monsters.

Here are some of my favorite images in the third book:

With all the young adult fiction featuring vampires, zombies, werewolves, fairies, and other usual boring supernatural characters, Barker's Abarat comes off as refreshing. In a way, Abarat reminds us of the monsters that we expected to come slithering out of our closets at night when we were children. I can't wait for book 4 to be published!

Read this book if:
  1. You feel a strange affinity toward Pinhead.
  2. You love monsters.
  3. Your favorite time of the day is midnight.


Tin said...

I love the fantasy genre and it looks like I'm going to enjoy Abarat. Is it just the hardback that contains the illustrations? Or is it some sort of special illustrated edition? :)

Peter S. said...

Hi, Tin! Yes, the hardback contains the illustrations. There's no special illustrated edition. You're gonna love this!

Anonymous said...

Do you think they will publish again the first 2 books of the abarat (the illustrated one) which was stopped a few years ago? Im really looking forward to have one..