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Books of Blood, Volume One

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The Books of Blood combine the ordinary with the extraordinary while radiating the eroticism that has become Barker's signature. Weaving tales of the everyday world transformed into an unrecognizable place, where reason no longer exists and logic ceases to explain the workings of the universe, Clive Barker provides the stuff of nightmares in packages too tantalizing to res The Books of Blood combine the ordinary with the extraordinary while radiating the eroticism that has become Barker's signature. Weaving tales of the everyday world transformed into an unrecognizable place, where reason no longer exists and logic ceases to explain the workings of the universe, Clive Barker provides the stuff of nightmares in packages too tantalizing to resist. Never one to shy away from the unimaginable or the unspeakable, Clive Barker breathes life into our deepest, darkest nightmares, creating visions that are at once terrifying, tender, and witty. The Books of Blood confirm what horror fans everywhere have known for a long time: We will be hearing from Clive Barker for many years to come. This first volume contains the short stories : "The Book of Blood," "The Midnight Meat Train," "The Yattering and Jack," "Sex, Death, and Starshine," and "In the Hills, the Cities."


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The Books of Blood combine the ordinary with the extraordinary while radiating the eroticism that has become Barker's signature. Weaving tales of the everyday world transformed into an unrecognizable place, where reason no longer exists and logic ceases to explain the workings of the universe, Clive Barker provides the stuff of nightmares in packages too tantalizing to res The Books of Blood combine the ordinary with the extraordinary while radiating the eroticism that has become Barker's signature. Weaving tales of the everyday world transformed into an unrecognizable place, where reason no longer exists and logic ceases to explain the workings of the universe, Clive Barker provides the stuff of nightmares in packages too tantalizing to resist. Never one to shy away from the unimaginable or the unspeakable, Clive Barker breathes life into our deepest, darkest nightmares, creating visions that are at once terrifying, tender, and witty. The Books of Blood confirm what horror fans everywhere have known for a long time: We will be hearing from Clive Barker for many years to come. This first volume contains the short stories : "The Book of Blood," "The Midnight Meat Train," "The Yattering and Jack," "Sex, Death, and Starshine," and "In the Hills, the Cities."

30 review for Books of Blood, Volume One

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Horror...gore...twisted, nightmare imagery...let's get under the covers and read something scary... There are some truly blood-chilling moments in this excellent collection. Barker has a very unique voice and I thought all of these stories were at least good, with several being remarkable 5+ star worthy gems. Deeply evocative with shocking depictions that will glue themselves to your memory. This is a worthy collection for fans of the genre or anyone who enjoys quality, creative writing and Horror...gore...twisted, nightmare imagery...let's get under the covers and read something scary... There are some truly blood-chilling moments in this excellent collection. Barker has a very unique voice and I thought all of these stories were at least good, with several being remarkable 5+ star worthy gems. Deeply evocative with shocking depictions that will glue themselves to your memory. This is a worthy collection for fans of the genre or anyone who enjoys quality, creative writing and isn't overly squeamish. Here are the stories: THE BOOK OF BLOOD: While a short story in and of itself, this really acts as the introduction to the series and ties the other stories together in a clever way. A good, solid story but worth reading more for its tie-in effect to the rest of the series (plus it is very short). 3.0 to 3.5 stars THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN: An excellent story that on the surface is suspenseful and well written, though a fairly standard horror story. However, below the surface is a superb and nuanced tale about the numbing horrors and oppresive pain experienced by normal people each and every day. Barker really layered this tale well and I thought it was excellent. 4.0 to 4.5 stars. THE YATTERING AND JACK: A comical story from Barker about a demon sent by Satan to drive a man insane. Worth reading but not one of my favorites. 3.0 stars PIG BLOOD BLUES: My FAVORITE story in the collection. A brilliant, brutal narrative about the "kill or be killed" nature of life. The imagery, the prose and the visceral, creeping horror are very unsettling. I will be thinking about the end of this one for a LONG, LONG time. A DEFINITE MUST READ!! 5.5 stars. SEX, DEATH AND STARSHINE:Good, solid story but not one of my favorites. Probably suffered by comparison to the previous story and the one that follows. 3.0 stars IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES: This was an amazingly imaginative story that left me WOWing and WTFing when the story device was finally revealed. Original and stunning and clear evidence of Barker's high level of creativity. I Don't want to give anything away, but this is simply brilliant and the imagery from this story will stick to your eyes long after you finish it. 5.0 to 5.5 stars. Overall, 4.0 to 4.5 stars and definitely the collection to try if you are looking to experience Barker's short fiction. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This may be the best book of horror stories ever written. When I read it thirty years ago, it convinced me that I could actually like a good horror story. When I read it again ten years ago, it was as fresh and scary as the first time. And last week, when I read it yet again, I took my time, and I finally let this superb book teach me what first-class horror is all about. You see, I have always been one of those guys who likes terror fiction better than horror fiction. I much prefer the ghosts o This may be the best book of horror stories ever written. When I read it thirty years ago, it convinced me that I could actually like a good horror story. When I read it again ten years ago, it was as fresh and scary as the first time. And last week, when I read it yet again, I took my time, and I finally let this superb book teach me what first-class horror is all about. You see, I have always been one of those guys who likes terror fiction better than horror fiction. I much prefer the ghosts of M.R. James, the mad gods of H.P. Lovecraft, and the metaphysical abysses of Thomas Ligotti to the more visceral chronicles of rape and torture, those more precise, less atmospheric accounts of the rending of bone and flesh. I still do. Clive Barker has not changed my preferences. But I think I now understand him—and his fellow writers of horror—better than I have ever understood them before. For the horror writer—and the horror reader—spiritual, psychological, and metaphysical terror are nothing but mere evasions, wishful projections. In the last extremity, all we human beings can relate with--and through--is our body, with its pleasures and pains. Our deepest fear—no matter in what rarified or abstract veils we cloak it--is the final extinction of the corporeal self: we watch, as--deliberately, methodically--each carnal pleasure is transformed, first into gross animal pain, then into nothingness. It is our body and its loss—not spooks or madness—that we fear the most. Barker keeps his six tales rooted in the privilege, pleasures, and pains of the body. This is true even of his two humorous pieces. The corporeal Jack (in “The Yattering and Jack”) exploits his ability to pass through certain boundaries that an unembodied minor demon like “The Yattering” does not share, and the most horrific revelation of “Sex, Death and Starshine” is rooted in how oral sex technques differ between the living and the undead. The connections of the other four more serious tales with the body is even more explicit. “Books of Blood” makes the body itself a text of horror; “The Midnight Meat Train”—my favorite—begins with a serial killer and ends with something much more basic (namely, dinner); “Pig Blood Blues” is all about the contemplation of bodies, whether it be the delicate beauty of an adolescent boy or the enormity of a commanding old sow; and that fantastic tale “In the Hills, the Cities” is a fulfillment of this theme, in which the individual bodies of citizens comprise the giant bodies of their cities, cities which, with their heads literally in the clouds, march forth into the hills to do battle for the honor of the whole. Like I said, I’m still a terror not a horror guy, and Clive Barker (although not in this volume) can occasionally be too explicit for my taste. But in everything he does, I can’t deny that he celebrates the totality of the human body—including its most excruciating failures and defeats.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tahera

    Terror fiction at its macabric high! And I say this even after skipping one short story (Pig Blood Blues) in this collection. I mean I can handle a lot of weirdness but a story with 'human eating' pigs.... *shudders*! Overall a good volume consisting of terrifying pieces of morbid deliciousness ☠️😁! Terror fiction at its macabric high! And I say this even after skipping one short story (Pig Blood Blues) in this collection. I mean I can handle a lot of weirdness but a story with 'human eating' pigs.... *shudders*! Overall a good volume consisting of terrifying pieces of morbid deliciousness ☠️😁!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edward Lorn

    I am not a fan of Clive Barker the Novelist . I'll read his novels from time to time, but I try to stay away from his fan's favorites. His books are some of the most overwritten literature I've stumbled upon. But the readers who enjoy him seem to like that aspect of his work. He reminds me of a present day Lovecraft without all the fish people, squid-faced gods, and bigotry. Meaning, I like the idea of Barker's work more than the execution. That being said, I am a fan of Clive Barker the Short S I am not a fan of Clive Barker the Novelist . I'll read his novels from time to time, but I try to stay away from his fan's favorites. His books are some of the most overwritten literature I've stumbled upon. But the readers who enjoy him seem to like that aspect of his work. He reminds me of a present day Lovecraft without all the fish people, squid-faced gods, and bigotry. Meaning, I like the idea of Barker's work more than the execution. That being said, I am a fan of Clive Barker the Short Story Author. He does big ideas and subtle horrors in small packages very well. This collection is a perfect example of that. Is it any wonder that the movies of his that have worked have been based on his short fiction and novellas instead of his novels? Probably not. Side note: I want a The Thief of Always movie, please and thank you. "The Books of Blood" is a rad way to start this collection. The idea that these stories were originally written on someone's flesh is an awesome concept. One of those once-in-a-lifetime ideas. I dig it. I only give it four stars instead of five because it doesn't work as a story. Nice idea, but it's more a creative introduction than it is a story. Four stars. "The Midnight Meat Train" is terrific. Even the film is great. One of the best (in my opinion) adaptations of Barker's work that I've seen. Stylistic and horrifying. But what I like the most about this story is how it ends. Barker always goes the road less traveled, and instead of writing your average serial killer fair, he gives us a fictional origin story for New York. Five stars. "The Yattering and Jack" is one of the stories I remember the most in this collection. I read this one almost twenty years ago, and the events of this tale are still clear in my mind. I almost didn't listen to it because they happenings remain so fresh, like wriggling fishies swimming around in my brain bucket. I'm glad I reread, though, because I think I liked it even more the second time around. One of my all-time favorite short stories. Five stars. "Pig Blood Blues" is a story whose title I cannot say without stammering. I don't know what it is about that three-word title, but it twists my tongue into knots. Anyway, I like this story because I like stories about creepy kids. The narration made Lacey all the more creepy. Funnily enough, the pig never bothered me. Four stars. "Sex, Death and Starshine" is my least favorite story in the collection. It's good, but that opening is everything I hate about Barker's long fiction. He drones on and on about shit that doesn't matter before getting to the actual plot. The next story suffered the same problems, but the payoff is much better. Three stars. "In the Hills, the Cities" is simply fucking cool. Weird and radical. I will say nothing of this story other than I loved it. Also, I don't think I read this one in when I originally went through this collection. I can't imagine why I skipped it. I'm usually obsessive when it comes to reading every story in a collection in first-to-last order. Anyfuck, I dug the hell out of this story. My second favorite after "The Yattering and Jack". Five stars. In summation: If you haven't read Barker, this is a good place to start. The guy's novels aren't for me, but he can write the fuck out of a short story. Definitely recommended. Final Judgment: Beautiful horrors. Spoiler Discussion: In which I spoil some scenes from the story in this book. If you'd like to discuss spoilers in the comments, please use spoiler tags. Tack!(view spoiler)[ The final blow job scene in "Sex, Death and Starshine" is foul. I think the reason it bothers me as much as it does is because Barker beats how cold she is into your head. I can't imagine maintaining an erection inside anything cold. The Fathers in "The Midnight Meat Train" creep me out. Love the end of that story. The descriptions of them made their forms crystal clear in my mind. I also dug the brutality of the story: the bodies dangling from the roof of the train car is just awesome. I have no idea why I enjoy "The Yattering and Jack" as much as I do. That story speaks to me in odd ways. I think because I was a very imaginative kid (I guess I still am that imaginary kid; it's that imagination that pays my bills), most people didn't trust the things I said. I lied all the time, especially when things broke in the house and it was obviously my fault. I used to blame ghosts and neighbor kids and even my German Shepard, Spot. It wasn't until my mother bought me a typewriter that I stopped lying and started writing all my stories down. Thanks for joining me. See you later. (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Nelson

    I listened to the audio version of Books of Blood volume 1 and while not being blown away by the majority of the narration, I thought four of the stories exceptional and the remaining two just didn’t do it for me but I guess you will always get that in most collections. Book of Blood 4* The first story follows a psychic researcher and a medium as they investigate a haunted house. This story was adapted to become part of the film the Book of Blood and visions of the highway of the dead. The medium I listened to the audio version of Books of Blood volume 1 and while not being blown away by the majority of the narration, I thought four of the stories exceptional and the remaining two just didn’t do it for me but I guess you will always get that in most collections. Book of Blood 4* The first story follows a psychic researcher and a medium as they investigate a haunted house. This story was adapted to become part of the film the Book of Blood and visions of the highway of the dead. The medium doesn’t fare to well, you see frauds very often don’t and his final thought may well have been along the lines of wishing this particular door to the dead stayed well and truly shut. Nevertheless he ends up with the stories from the books of blood carved into his dead flesh becoming the literal source of the tales. The Midnight Meat Train 5* This one was my favourite, loved both the film and the short story and it’s interesting to see how the film was padded out to increase the screen time. The Midnight meat train is a vessel used to transport food to the age old masters under the city, the food is those humans who are unfortunate enough to pick this particular train and at the same time be deemed fit for consumption. Mahogany is the train’s butcher, with no regard for human life and a bag of tools you’ll never want to see opened. The Midnight Meat Train on a subway to hell, a brutal harbinger of death and the one place on earth Kaufman shouldn’t have fallen asleep. The Yattering and Jack 4* A demon called the Yattering is sent by Beelzebub to haunt Jack, taunt him until his sanity breaks but it gets a little more than it bargained for. Its victim is frustratingly oblivious and seemingly unconcerned with the demons increasingly harsh course of harassment. The Yattering is luckily not too bright but can Jack turn the tide, or is it just a game with an assured victor. Demon or man? Pig Blood Blues 3* Couldn’t take to this story, I must subconsciously have something against pigs because when the sow in this story was described as being beautiful and alluring or words of that effect, I was lost never to recover. Sex, Death and Starshine 4.5* This tale starts of as an old fashioned theatre performance, the narrator put on a splendidly posh voice that was perfect for the setting and although probably not intended, I did laugh when he cursed and swore. Profanity in a posh voice just does it for me, don’t know why but I did laugh. On the whole though this turned into a chilling story of the dead come back to watch and star in the theatres last performance with a couple of disturbing sex scenes thrown in to add even more bite. In the Hills, the Cities 2.5* Mick and Judd, take a romantic but strained vacation in Yugoslavia and unwittingly find themselves in the middle of the strangest of wars. Couldn’t get into this story, thought it a bit strange at times and this was my least favourite. http://paulnelson.booklikes.com/post/...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Niki

    Honestly? This short story collection is flawless. Every single story in this was without fault. All of them were haunting and really, really well written, and get a full 5 stars each from me. The weakest one was, in my opinion, "Sex, Death and Starshine", but that just means that it was slightly worse than the others, not that it was leagues beneath. My favourite was possibly "The Yattering and Jack" because it was clever as hell, but honestly, it's really hard to choose. I've already started the Honestly? This short story collection is flawless. Every single story in this was without fault. All of them were haunting and really, really well written, and get a full 5 stars each from me. The weakest one was, in my opinion, "Sex, Death and Starshine", but that just means that it was slightly worse than the others, not that it was leagues beneath. My favourite was possibly "The Yattering and Jack" because it was clever as hell, but honestly, it's really hard to choose. I've already started the next volume.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The Book of Blood The Midnight Meat Train The Yattering and Jack Pig Blood Blues Sex, Death and Star Shine In the Hills, the Cities This is my favorite story from this volume. I found this image on deviant art, an awesome depiction of the giant made of people. The Book of Blood The Midnight Meat Train The Yattering and Jack Pig Blood Blues Sex, Death and Star Shine In the Hills, the Cities This is my favorite story from this volume. I found this image on deviant art, an awesome depiction of the giant made of people.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    3.5 Books of Blood, Volume 1 is an entertaining six-story anthology. As usual, I didn't love every story. The last two didn't do much for me. The Book of Blood The dead have highways and a team of three people is at Tollington Place 65 to witness one of those turnpikes and intersections. The Midnight Train Kaufman's love for New York is not as strong as when he came to live there. Someone is butchering people in the subway and he is going to get in the middle of it and learn some of the city's hi 3.5 Books of Blood, Volume 1 is an entertaining six-story anthology. As usual, I didn't love every story. The last two didn't do much for me. The Book of Blood The dead have highways and a team of three people is at Tollington Place 65 to witness one of those turnpikes and intersections. The Midnight Train Kaufman's love for New York is not as strong as when he came to live there. Someone is butchering people in the subway and he is going to get in the middle of it and learn some of the city's history and its dark secrets along the way. The Yattering Jack My favourite story. Hilarious. Yattering Jack is a lower level demon with a seemingly easy task to drive one man crazy. However, whatever he tries 'seemed to make no dent in his perfect indifference'. Pig Blood Blues I hate pigs so that only added to the horror. Very disturbing story of a former police officer who got a job at a Centre for Adolescent Offenders only to realize that something is not quite right with the place. Sex, Death and Shine A story of one last production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. People are too busy being horrible, petty and mean to notice anything weird around them. In the Hills, the Cities A couple is on a trip in the Balkan hills. They are just realizing how incompatible they are and how little they have in common only to stumble upon a weirdest battle anyone has ever seen.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bark | Ladies Of Horror Fiction

    I originally read this book when it was a brand new release and I was fourteen. I remember buying it with my allowance at the local drugstore. I'm betting most of it went over my head at the time but I have fond memories of scaring people away from speaking to me when reading this. I'm curious how I'll feel about it now that I'm no longer a tormented teen looking to hide from reality. The Book of Blood After recently seeing the movie adaptation of this short story, which was dreary, sexualized and I originally read this book when it was a brand new release and I was fourteen. I remember buying it with my allowance at the local drugstore. I'm betting most of it went over my head at the time but I have fond memories of scaring people away from speaking to me when reading this. I'm curious how I'll feel about it now that I'm no longer a tormented teen looking to hide from reality. The Book of Blood After recently seeing the movie adaptation of this short story, which was dreary, sexualized and not too bad even with some cliches thrown in, I was impelled to revisit this novel to see how the film matched up. Much was changed, of course. This “Book of Blood” is actually the introduction to all of the stories that follow it. The movie stands alone and is quite a bit different. The dead have highways and at one of these intersections sits the house at 65 Tollington Place. It looks like any other home but stay there too long and you’re sure to leave much different than when you arrived. A trio of paranormal investigators are successfully documenting the goings-on of the place but more is going on than meets the eye. The young medium that secretly lusts for fame and fortune and will do whatever must be done to acquire it is keeping secrets. Secrets that are enraging the dead. His beatific smile easily wins over Mary Florescu whose life’s work has been documenting paranormal events. She should know better but is overcome with desire and is blind until it’s too late and the dead have their way with him. Now he’s no longer beautiful and she must translate the stories the dead have written upon his skin. No one does dread and dank atmosphere like Clive Barker. The Midnight Meat Train Kaufman once adored the idea of New York until he lived there and saw the ugliness up close. Now New York is just another city and has lost its allure. A brutal string of murders in the subway system further sickens him in this city whose streets are awash with fresh blood. A man thinking himself a night-stalker and taking his job seriously preys the underground in search of a body whose flesh is worthy of his skill. Kaufman will discover he knew little of the true atrocities carried out in the city until he rides the subway one dark, lonely night . . . This story is gory, gritty and gives you something to think about. The Yattering and Jack This story was made into a super cheesy "Tales from the Darkside" episode. I watched it recently on the Chiller channel and am curious to see just how much they ruined the original story. This is a surprisingly "lighter" and slightly humorous story from Barker. The Yattering is a lower devil demon ousted from Hell to torment a human named Jack Polo. He doesn't know why and is thoroughly frustrated with his inability to drive the boring human into a raving lunatic. No matter how desperately the Yattering tries to upset Polo he remains unmoved. When Polo's daughters come for a visit the Yattering ratchets up his fright-fest. There's a funny scene involving the Yattering and his genitals that I didn't see in the televised version, hmmm. . . Needless to say, in the end, Polo isn't as dense as Yattering assumes. This version, of course, was much better than the cheesy Tales from the Darkside episode. Pig Blood Blues This one is dark and bloody and has the sexual undertones that color much of Barkers work. Redman, a former police officer, has been hired to teach wayward adolescents at a juvenile detention center. He quickly takes pity on a youth named Lacey who is continually the victim of bullying and offers him protection. As he gets to know the boy, he tells him a bizarre tale about the farm on the property involving suicide and a hungry pig. This one is strange and haunting. Sex, Death and Starshine Barker never pretties up his dead. Oh sure, they may have a facade of skin over their rotting corpses but you always know what they truly are the moment they enter the story and step out of the shadows. His dead are always putrefying, raw and terrifying but they’re quite often more classy than the living. I believe this is what has always drawn me to his work. This little story is about a theater's last production of Twelfth Night and the drama that ensues behind the scenes. While the temperamental theater folks are busy stabbing each other in the back over silly jealousy and pettiness some major drama is about to happen upon the scene in the form of a creepy stranger and his beautiful wife who wants the starring role. This wasn’t one of the best stories in the book but it highlights Barker’s love for his dead and his knack for embodying them with a dark grace. The humans come off as vulgar and petty and lacking in morals while the dead are much more refined even though they’re decaying corpses. In The Hills, The Cities Mick doesn’t discover that his lover is an obnoxious political bigot until he’s stuck with him on a trip to Yugoslavia and nearly bored to death by his tedious opinions. While Judd thinks Mick is an airhead who is content to keep his head in the clouds. It was supposed to be their honeymoon but apparently they should have spent some together before embarking on their trip. The only thing they have going for them is attraction. But in the hills hides the greatest wonder of the world. Within the hills its citizens are preparing an ancient ceremonial battle that pits city against city. Mick and Judd who are busy bickering and traversing these endless roads haplessly stumble upon something they were never meant to see. And of course they can’t look away when they should . . . This was a very original short story, unlike anything I've read before or since, but considering what happens Barker doesn't stay focused on the gore as he easily could have but more on the reactions of the two who witness this bizarre event. Funny, I remember this book as being shocking and horrifying and terribly gory but I didn't think it was any of those things the second time around. Guess I'm just too jaded now.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*

    Reflecting back after 14 years, Barker writes: "I look at these pieces and I don't think the man who wrote them is alive in me anymore.... We are all our own graveyards I believe; we squat amongst the tombs of the people we were. If we're healthy, every day is a celebration, a Day of the Dead, in which we give thanks for the lives that we lived; and if we are neurotic we brood and mourn and wish that the past was still present. Reading these stories over, I feel a little of both. Some of the simp Reflecting back after 14 years, Barker writes: "I look at these pieces and I don't think the man who wrote them is alive in me anymore.... We are all our own graveyards I believe; we squat amongst the tombs of the people we were. If we're healthy, every day is a celebration, a Day of the Dead, in which we give thanks for the lives that we lived; and if we are neurotic we brood and mourn and wish that the past was still present. Reading these stories over, I feel a little of both. Some of the simple energies that made these words flow through my pen--that made the phrases felicitous and the ideas sing--have gone. I lost their maker a long time ago." It’s been so long since I’ve read these that reading them now is almost like experiencing them for the first time all over again. Having a shoddy memory mainly sucks, but in the case of book re-reads, it holds its gifts. I do remember some things though – like when this came out, Barker was making his way on the horror scene big time, heavily endorsed by King himself, who said: “I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker.” This quote was even used, with an actor voiceover, for the Hellraiser’s trailer years later. It is used, of course, on the Books of Blood as a selling point. Barker has since demonstrated extreme versatility in genre and form; you’re more than likely now of days to find his imaginative tombs lining the shelves in a fantasy section rather than a horror one. When he erupted onto the scene he did so with big bangs – the Books of Blood series being one of the biggest. Immediately it’s clear Barker possesses a beautiful and poetic prose. If you asked me what stood out the most about this anthology, I’d answer that first: writing style. Altering rhythm to fit the story and not become repetitive, there’s emphasis where there should be, distance when that fits, all the while weaving both sides together naturally. The opening story, ‘The Book of Blood,’ is almost indecisive on where it wanted to go, but ultimately the end is a horrific, well-written arrival. Twisted, surreal, somewhat mystical, the tone for the rest of the anthology is accurately set. Basically the dead have highways by which they travel, and on one of these highways, at an interval, is a house. Inside that house is a poser boy pretending dangerously to be something he isn’t, joined by a paranormal investigator who goes in being duped but leaves exalted. And of course the dead are there. They’re ready to share their stories, how they ended up on this particular path, their personal damnations, so won’t you listen? 3.5/5 In the Midnight Meat Train, Kaufman ends up traveling a dangerous path of his own. The man has loved, cherished, and longed for New York city from afar his entire life, but now that he’s finally planted his roots in the Big Apple, he finds only bitter tastes. Kaufman soon discovers a hidden aspect of the city; apparently one man’s horror is another man’s paradise. It’s grim, it’s brutal, there are gory details but nothing just for cheap shock value. Tension is severely taut in this one. I was chewing my lip and sitting wide eyed at a particular scene at the end. Dark and gritty finale - some disturbing stuff and interesting too. 4/5 The Yattering and the Jack is whimsical and mildly amusing. The story shows the POV of a lower-level repulsive type of demon who is trying to ruin a man’s life and break him in the process. To his annoyance, this man seems to have no breaking point. There were amusing areas but I didn’t outright laugh. Que Sera, Sera…3/5 ‘Pig Blood Blues’ starts off reminding me of those redundant school type movies that glorified in teen rebellion in the 80’s and 90’s. You know, the one where a decent person starts at a new school, wanting to teach and do well, but the kids are hellions and the governing figures don’t seem to give a damn. Then the other adults start getting a bit too out there with some of the kids, and flashes of the Wicker Man start burning in my head. Finally it just ends up leaving me with the memory of those nasty little pigs from that Hannibal scene in the movie. Quite disturbing. 3/5 Sex, Death and Starshine is my personal favorite. It revives the old magic of the theatre, a love which apparently transcends death for the dearly departed. I give little thought toward theatre, but Barker is a fan in real life, and it shows through his words as he convincingly weaves his web on yours truly. I also ended up feeling the nostalgia, the magic. There’s some cheesiness I’d like to dust off from the second half, but the story shines the strongest because of a subtle, still eeriness that one can’t put into effective words. 4/5 For the last offering, ‘In the Hills, the Cities,’ I liked the beginning banter between the two mains but became bored after. I dug the unique plot creation and the sociological, potent basis of it, but couldn’t hold focus in between that. 2/5 Overall this anthology is the ideal length – a groovy, gory intro story followed by five tales that offer disturbing doses of disturbed reality in completely different ways. This anthology deserves to be read and known, Barker did a great job creating unease and clearly has a poetic license to boot.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Vacca

    The first volume of Books of Blood is an excited debut that gushes with inventiveness the way the titular fluid leaves a severed artery. As gleefully moribund as they are perverse, each of the six stories collected here are elaborately conceived phantasmagorias that offer a reckoning for its protagonists who take the banality of existence for granted. For Barker, abandoned houses can be way stations on the highway of the dead; the subway can serve as a banquet cart for the underground rulers of The first volume of Books of Blood is an excited debut that gushes with inventiveness the way the titular fluid leaves a severed artery. As gleefully moribund as they are perverse, each of the six stories collected here are elaborately conceived phantasmagorias that offer a reckoning for its protagonists who take the banality of existence for granted. For Barker, abandoned houses can be way stations on the highway of the dead; the subway can serve as a banquet cart for the underground rulers of the metropolis above their hoary heads; a thanksgiving dinner can be terrorized by a neurotic minor demon; a pig of behemoth proportions can rule a reform school like a mad queen; a failing theater house can experience a return to form thanks to an undead starlet; entire populations of cities can come together to form sky-high gods with nothing but ropes, straps and their willing bodies. Written with a sly sense of humor, Barker’s deranged tales delight now the same as they must have on first publication, when they gobsmacked readers like Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell.

  12. 5 out of 5

    RJ from the LBC

    Clive "the future of horror" Barker's first published work was the six volume "Books of Blood," a collection of horror short stories. Barker's creepy prose can be graphic at times yet provides its scares by creating a great sense of unease within the reader through wildly imaginative concepts that border on absurdity. See ratings for individual stories below along with, as usual, song lyrics that you may find useful, or insightful, or amusing. Or not. The Book of Blood - 5/5 - no new tale to tel Clive "the future of horror" Barker's first published work was the six volume "Books of Blood," a collection of horror short stories. Barker's creepy prose can be graphic at times yet provides its scares by creating a great sense of unease within the reader through wildly imaginative concepts that border on absurdity. See ratings for individual stories below along with, as usual, song lyrics that you may find useful, or insightful, or amusing. Or not. The Book of Blood - 5/5 - no new tale to tell twenty-six years on my way to hell The Midnight Meat Train - 5/5 - mental wounds not healing, life's a bitter shame The Yattering and Jack - 4/5 - I'm not crazy, you're the one that's crazy Pig Blood Blues - 5/5 - pigs in zen Sex, Death and Starshine - 3/5 - in touch with some reality beyond the gilded cage In the Hills, the Cities -3/5 - we built this city

  13. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars This is one of the most unsettling, stomach-turning things I’ve ever read. The titular framework story, “The Midnight Meat Train,” and “In the Hills, the Cities” are all incredibly disturbing, and gross in various ways. I’m pretty sure “The Midnight Meat Train” is the first thing I’ve ever read that made me feel physically sick while reading it. I found “Sex, Death, and Sunshine” both overly sexual and bland. “The Yattering and Jack,” however, was a delight. That particul Actual rating: 3.5 stars This is one of the most unsettling, stomach-turning things I’ve ever read. The titular framework story, “The Midnight Meat Train,” and “In the Hills, the Cities” are all incredibly disturbing, and gross in various ways. I’m pretty sure “The Midnight Meat Train” is the first thing I’ve ever read that made me feel physically sick while reading it. I found “Sex, Death, and Sunshine” both overly sexual and bland. “The Yattering and Jack,” however, was a delight. That particular story reminded me of Zelanzy’s A Night in the Lonesome October in tone, and I thought it was intensely charming. It took me forever to read this, despite its brevity. While Barker is a great technical writer, the content was just too dark to be enjoyable. I don’t think I’ll be reading any further volumes in the series.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Obsidian

    So I have been meaning to read more of Clive Barker's stories this year, so I hope to get to the rest of the volumes before Halloween. Volume 1 showcases how the books of blood were created (a creepy origin story) and we have one of the characters who starts to read the stories that were left behind. I had some favorites, and some that I scratched my head at and moved on. I should maybe have given it 3 stars, but heck it's Clive Barker so I rounded it up to 4 stars. "The Book of Blood" (5 stars)- So I have been meaning to read more of Clive Barker's stories this year, so I hope to get to the rest of the volumes before Halloween. Volume 1 showcases how the books of blood were created (a creepy origin story) and we have one of the characters who starts to read the stories that were left behind. I had some favorites, and some that I scratched my head at and moved on. I should maybe have given it 3 stars, but heck it's Clive Barker so I rounded it up to 4 stars. "The Book of Blood" (5 stars)-Apparently faking psychic phenomena is not a smart thing to do cause sometimes the dead come knocking. The story itself reminded me a little bit of Hell House though what comes after is pure Barker. What was really cool about this story though is that it is the origin of all of the stories that come after. What happens to the fake psychic is that his own skin is literally used by the dead to tell their stories. And all of the stories afterwards are stories that are written on his skin. "The Midnight Meat Train" (5 stars)-Can I say that I saw the movie a few years back and loved it? I was happy that the movie/book differed slightly, but I enjoyed both of them though. A regular office worker named Leo who comes to New York is slowly becoming dissatisfied by what he sees around him. While that is going on, there are reports of a butcher in New York killing people on the subway. The story then transitions to a man named Mahogany who is definitely not a nice guy at all. We get inside his head a bit and the racism that lives there was enough to make me go ick a few times. I did not feel bad at all with what happens in the end. Certain parts of the story are really gross though. "The Yattering and Jack" (4 stars)-I was so confused by this story at first. It takes a while to get going. But you have a man named Jack that the residents of Hell are very interested in claiming. "Pig Blood Blues" (2 stars)-I didn't like this one at all. I re-read it twice too, but I feel like I was missing some important context. I also am now kind of scared of pigs. So there's that. "Sex, Death, and Starshine" (3 stars)-There needed to be more set-up for this one. I want to know how some of the characters even came to be, why the heck they were so focused on acting, and why in the world would the dead even be interested in a play. It was a strange story, just needed a bit more oomph to it. "In the Hills, the Cities" (1 star)- I really could not get into this one at all. It was so strange and bizarre. I think it sort of reminded me a bit of Nightbreed, but that was about it. I I don't get why two cities would combine into two separate beings, and I don't get why one would then go mad. How did no one hear the thing moving or see it? It was a let down as the final story in this volume.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    My first Barker. Generally I'm more a fan of terror, the unknowable and otherworldly cosmic horrors from the likes of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, than mainstream horror fiction. Yet, I found more to like here than I was expecting. More than anything, this is a book of bodies. Murdered bodies, dead bodies, bloody bodies, human bodies, animal bodies, giant monster bodies. The title story is setup as a kind of framing device on which these tales of bodily horror are etched. The stories are de My first Barker. Generally I'm more a fan of terror, the unknowable and otherworldly cosmic horrors from the likes of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, than mainstream horror fiction. Yet, I found more to like here than I was expecting. More than anything, this is a book of bodies. Murdered bodies, dead bodies, bloody bodies, human bodies, animal bodies, giant monster bodies. The title story is setup as a kind of framing device on which these tales of bodily horror are etched. The stories are designed to shock, not with their depravity but rather with their absurd twisted realities where there's something lurking, just out of sight, that shouldn't be possible in a sane world. The real highlight for me, and what seems many other reviewers as well, was "The Midnight Meat Train". A chilling tale of an unsuspecting victim turning the tables on his would-be attacker only to become ensnared in a dark conspiracy upon which the city is founded. I love stories about New York City, and especially the deep, dark secrets lurking below. "The Yattering and Jack" is an amusing tale of a mild-mannered, meek little man, seemingly imperturbable to the ghastly and absurd torments of a lesser demon sent to claim his soul. "What chance did a Fury have with a man like that? To a creature trained to put its fingers into the wounds of the human psyche, Pollo offered a surface so glacial, so without distinguishing marks so as to deny malice any hold whatsoever." "In the Hills, the Cities" is as absurd and ridiculous as it is chilling, if not more so, and oddly enough reminded me of some of the humorous stories in The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John

    Stories - 4.2/5 Narration - 5/5 It's Clive Barker, so what's there to say? Recommended Stories - 4.2/5 Narration - 5/5 It's Clive Barker, so what's there to say? Recommended

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kaustubh Dudhane

    "Every body is a book of blood; Wherever we’re opened, we’re red." I have heard and read about Clive Barker that his writing is brutal, scary and full of gore. Moreover, my expectations rose when the introduction was written by Mr. Ramsey Campbell. And... There are five short stories in the book - The Midnight Meat Train; The Yattering and Jack; Pig Blood Blues; Sex, Death and Starshine and In the Hills, the Cities. Let's do it in an organized way by taking one story at a time in the order the "Every body is a book of blood; Wherever we’re opened, we’re red." I have heard and read about Clive Barker that his writing is brutal, scary and full of gore. Moreover, my expectations rose when the introduction was written by Mr. Ramsey Campbell. And... There are five short stories in the book - The Midnight Meat Train; The Yattering and Jack; Pig Blood Blues; Sex, Death and Starshine and In the Hills, the Cities. Let's do it in an organized way by taking one story at a time in the order they come up in the book. The Midnight Meat Train: The story is truly horrific and have a bit of acceptable gore. It is more of a thriller than a horror story. If you cannot stand in a slaughterhouse or in a butcher shop to buy mutton, you will find difficult to stop your bile rising in your throat. Story: 4/5 Horror quotient: 4/5 Climax: 5/5 The Yattering and Jack: This is my favorite story because it stumped me completely. Nothing to write more. If you insist (view spoiler)[this is a hilarious story. The author intended it to be a comic story and not a parody of some other one. (hide spoiler)] Story: 5/5 Horror quotient: 100/5 Climax: 4.5/5 Pig Blood Blues: This one is based in a juvenile detention center and it has a weird feeling about it. Moreover, there are creepy and bullying teenagers. And the surprise element is superb here. Story: 5/5 Horror quotient: 5/5 Climax: 5/5 Sex, Death and Starshine: I did not find this story as exciting as others. I have felt that the story was dragged a bit and could have been ended earlier. Now, it is one of least favorite stories. Story: 2/5 Horror quotient: 3/5 Climax: 3/5 In the Hills, the Cities: It is creepy, gory, bizarre! That's it! Go! Read it! Story: 4.5/5 Horror quotient: 4/5 Climax: 4.5/5 All the ideas in the stories are imaginative and super creative. Although the stories were written in 1980s, they are still fresh. And I believe Mr. Clive Barker is really underrated in India at least.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Lennon

    I've tried reading Barker a couple of times and given up. MISTER B GONE and SCARLET GOSPELS are two that spring to mind. Now I know that Barker has some hardcore fans and they're always shocked when I say I haven't liked anything I've read.When I tell them the titles I tried they are never surprised. It appears I picked two of his weakest.... Anyway, the one recommendation that always comes up is BOOKS OF BLOOD.I had a voucher for a free audiobook so thought I'd give this one a go. SOOOO happy I d I've tried reading Barker a couple of times and given up. MISTER B GONE and SCARLET GOSPELS are two that spring to mind. Now I know that Barker has some hardcore fans and they're always shocked when I say I haven't liked anything I've read.When I tell them the titles I tried they are never surprised. It appears I picked two of his weakest.... Anyway, the one recommendation that always comes up is BOOKS OF BLOOD.I had a voucher for a free audiobook so thought I'd give this one a go. SOOOO happy I did! This is the Barker I always hoped to find when I read his work. The guy that I know created Hellraiser and Candyman! I really, really enjoyed it. Some stories more than others, but that's normal. End result anyway is, I will definitely be trying out more Barker.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    To my total surprise I am giving this collection of stories four stars. :) One of the things that I struggle with with horror is that it can be incredibly predictable. Not so with this book. Barker does a phenomenal job of making his stories unique and original. There was only one story that I felt was same ol' same ol'. The Yattering and Jack was my favorite, but I also really enjoyed In the Hills, the Cities. To my total surprise I am giving this collection of stories four stars. :) One of the things that I struggle with with horror is that it can be incredibly predictable. Not so with this book. Barker does a phenomenal job of making his stories unique and original. There was only one story that I felt was same ol' same ol'. The Yattering and Jack was my favorite, but I also really enjoyed In the Hills, the Cities.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Petry

    This is the second time I’ve read Vol. 1 all the way through since I was thirteen. And man does it hold up. This time around my favorite stories were: Midnight Meat Train (of course) The Yattering and Jack In the Hills, the Cities I can't wait to re-read the other volumes. This is the second time I’ve read Vol. 1 all the way through since I was thirteen. And man does it hold up. This time around my favorite stories were: Midnight Meat Train (of course) The Yattering and Jack In the Hills, the Cities I can't wait to re-read the other volumes.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Currently, I'm reading Books 1-3 contained in a single volume, but I wanted to review each book individually. So far, I am quite impressed by Clive Barker's collection of short macabre horror stories. I was a bit skeptical of reading them because I had watched a Hellraiser film (which he directed) and had thought that it was very poor in quality, story and acting. Luckily, I can say that his writing is much better. The book starts with a terrifying statement: "Everybody is a book of blood. Wherev Currently, I'm reading Books 1-3 contained in a single volume, but I wanted to review each book individually. So far, I am quite impressed by Clive Barker's collection of short macabre horror stories. I was a bit skeptical of reading them because I had watched a Hellraiser film (which he directed) and had thought that it was very poor in quality, story and acting. Luckily, I can say that his writing is much better. The book starts with a terrifying statement: "Everybody is a book of blood. Wherever we're opened, we're red." Get it? Red, read? The first story serves as the introduction to the series. It's aptly named "The Book of Blood." It starts of with a really gripping opening sentence: "The dead have highways." This deals with a woman investigating just that, a highway of the dead, or a haunted house of some sort. The story involves the dead doing very gruesome things to the living. (I won't spoil it.) This serves as the introduction to the upcoming stories. Let me say that the method which he does this reminds me a lot of Douglas Clegg. The second, Midnight Meat Train, doesn't disappoint. It is somewhat of a murder mystery about a serial killer in New York. While it sounds like your average slasher story, the ending is somewhat disturbing and quite unexpected. The ending, reminded me a lot of Douglas Clegg's The Halloween Man. Once again, I refuse to give away details. In any case, it’s a very suspenseful story that is captivating and exciting. The Yattering and Jack was a very entertaining story about a demon trying to torment a man named Jack due to some sort of wrongdoing that Jack’s mom did before she died. The demon is metaphysical, intangible and, I believe, invisible within the household, but he can still find ways to torment the householders in various ways such as killing his cats and bringing the Christmas turkey to life. (I found that scene really funny and entertaining.) This one is entertaining throughout and has a fairly happy ending. It wasn’t scary or disturbing whatsoever, but quite an enjoyable read. Pig Blood Blues is a bit duller than the previous two, but still manages to thrill. It involves a cop named Redman and trying to find a missing boy named Hennessey, who is assumed to be dead. The title is ironically named because pig becomes the name for the cop, while there is an actual pig in the story. This story isn’t very scary or thrilling until near the end, but the ending is satisfying, if predictable. Sex, Death and Starshine is the fourth story and probably the worst in the whole book. It starts off with an oral sex scene. I don’t know why authors feel the need to add so much sex into their books. It seems redundant and unnecessary at some points, especially when your story is starting off with one. This story was about actors and actresses in a theater which is scheduled to be closed down in soon time. It involved a lot of drama and dialogue between the characters trying to salvage the theatre and perform their last show. Sadly, very little of this detail was interesting or entertaining. There was a brief horror scene at the end, but at that point, I had trouble paying attention to it because I was glad the story was over. To me, this is the only bad story within the first book and it is totally skippable. The last story is In the Hills, the Cities. This name may not make sense at first, but it will become clear after reading it. To me, this story is another great example of horror writing at its finest. There are several passages that are intentionally vague so that the reader can ruminate on who or what Popovac and Pudojevo are. Reading these passages raises many questions and vague notions within the reader’s mind and the answers are equally fascinating and disturbing. This final story is a very odd one, but also does a fine job of shocking the reader. Once again, this is my first time reading Clive Barker. I picked up Books of Blood because I’ve heard some good praise for it. So far, I can say that I am enjoying Clive Barker’s writing style and methods of suspense-building. I’ll be looking forward to the next two books for sure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Addy

    I finally finished this and was sorry I waited because the last 2 stories I really enjoyed. Especially the one about the giant human mass which was just genius! Just picturing it in my head was so much fun! Mick and Judd were very likable characters too. My other favorites were The Yattering and Jack and Pig Blood Blues. Highly recommend even if u are not a Barker fan. I'm so glad I have part 2 and 3. I finally finished this and was sorry I waited because the last 2 stories I really enjoyed. Especially the one about the giant human mass which was just genius! Just picturing it in my head was so much fun! Mick and Judd were very likable characters too. My other favorites were The Yattering and Jack and Pig Blood Blues. Highly recommend even if u are not a Barker fan. I'm so glad I have part 2 and 3.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sumaiya

    Not for the faint of heart and imagination. Graphic and macabre but not distasteful. Barker knows how to tell a story.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kleine

    CLIVE BARKER’S BOOKS OF BLOOD: 1 is one of the more interesting books I have read this side of 2012, and I’m not even talking about the horror stuff… While some authors are known for their prose, dialogue or surprise twists, Clive Barker just really knows how to write a good story, offering just enough detail but never revealing too much. The text itself contains a meager five (technically, six) stories but for what it lacks in length, it certainly makes up in substance. THE BOOK OF BLOOD ** Even CLIVE BARKER’S BOOKS OF BLOOD: 1 is one of the more interesting books I have read this side of 2012, and I’m not even talking about the horror stuff… While some authors are known for their prose, dialogue or surprise twists, Clive Barker just really knows how to write a good story, offering just enough detail but never revealing too much. The text itself contains a meager five (technically, six) stories but for what it lacks in length, it certainly makes up in substance. THE BOOK OF BLOOD ** Even though the BOOKS OF BLOOD are basically glorified anthologies, Clive Barker actually makes the effort to mask that sort of superficiality and attempts to engross us in his own little twisted world of horror and gore (and Barker is exceptionally gifted when it comes to doing that: creating amazing, but believable imaginary worlds of horror.) A quick summary would describe this tale as a sort of origin-story, shedding some much-needed light on the foundations of the text and the name itself: BOOKS OF BLOOD. While it starts off in an interesting manner and actually does this fantastic thing with halos, molecules of oxygen, auras and other finer elements, Barker’s soi-disant chef-d’oeuvre reads like an early draft (of the beginning) for the first Hellraiser film. The story itself actually gets 2.5 stars simply because it is still quite imaginative and told in an excellent manner but compared to the other stories in the book, it just lacks the style. THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN ** Another story that really had a lot of potential but then sort of fell flat toward the end. I mean, yes, it is one of those stories that seems to end in the usual and expected way but just when you think it’s all over, something even more sinister happens… In the case of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, that sinister something just felt like a major let down for me since I really didn’t find the conclusion all that original but in all fairness, I will add that this story might have sold well and seemed much more shocking in the 80s and early 90s, certainly, but with shit like HOSTEL and the SAW series now, I’m afraid to admit that perhaps, we have become desensitized creatures. THE YATTERING AND JACK **** THE YATTERING AND JACK is “man versus demon, in a black comedy of lunatic violence…” I always love a good demon story and this one ranks as one of the best, truly the first good story of the text. For those who enjoy twists, get ready for the ending because this one’s quite special actually. What fascinates me about Barker sometimes is the way you can tell by reading his stuff that he already knows that several horror tropes exist but every time he writes a story, he manages to do something new and imaginative with the genre. PIG BLOOD BLUES *** PIG BLOOD BLUES takes a very familiar premise and sort of flips it on its own head. Think juvenile detention center/school for kids and throw in the obligatory new teacher, a retired cop, but now, flip that on its head and throw in a mysterious farm on the campus grounds. Obviously, there’s something wrong with that farm but nobody really wants to talk about it. This one does a good job with creating a creepy atmosphere/vibe using the element of the unknown. SEX, DEATH AND STARSHINE *** If there’s something else I really like about Barker, other than the way he writes, it’s his ability to really switch it up with every single story. From abandoned houses and farms to underground trains and New York City, SEX, DEATH AND STARSHINE is about theatre. The story itself is pretty straightforward: director struggles with new stage play featuring popular soap-opera actress who can’t act, director is also having an affair with soap-opera actress, director is eventually visited by strange man who proposes to replace soap-opera actress with his own wife, man’s wife is dead, director refuses… What makes the story so interesting is that so much is actually going on off-stage: sex, alcoholism, and death, to name a few things. It’s really quite entertaining to try and guess what will happen next. And the main character, the director, is actually quite comical, in a sort of cynical/self-loathing way. And the ending, though not one of the best in the book, still offers something rather unusual. IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES ***** A PERFECT FIVE STARS for the best story in the entire book. “There are monsters nobody has ever dared imagine before; vast enough to take your breath away. And they’re waiting in the hills…” Saying anything about this story would be giving it away but know this: it’s about a gay couple traveling by car through Yugoslavia. What they see in the hills is something that cannot be unseen. Even after having read the story, I still can’t shake the images from my head. Honestly one of the most authentic horror stories I have ever read. A masterpiece of contemporary fiction in the purest sense. One of those stories I think everybody should read at least once in their lifetime. Overall, a nice introduction to the author (since this is the first time I have read Barker) which has actually pushed me to purchase volumes 1-3. Recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Occasionally I try to read some horror that is not written by HP Lovecraft. When I do, I am invariably reminded that I am not a horror fan, I am a Lovecraft fan. I think reading this, in High School, was the first time I had this experience. Actually, if I recall, I had already read the first story, "The Book of Blood" (which serves as a kind of "wraparound" to this volume) in Omni magazine. It was better as a standalone, actually. Overall, the stories focus on pain and gore (and the painful asp Occasionally I try to read some horror that is not written by HP Lovecraft. When I do, I am invariably reminded that I am not a horror fan, I am a Lovecraft fan. I think reading this, in High School, was the first time I had this experience. Actually, if I recall, I had already read the first story, "The Book of Blood" (which serves as a kind of "wraparound" to this volume) in Omni magazine. It was better as a standalone, actually. Overall, the stories focus on pain and gore (and the painful aspects of gore), and argue that pain can be a transcendental state, all pretty much standard Barker themes as I understand it. Two stand out for me: "The Midnight Meat Train" was interesting because so many of my own nightmares take place in the NYC subway system, and "Sex, Death, and Starshine" which is a title that burnt itself into my brain so that I can never forget it, although the only part of it I ever can remember is the first few lines - it's the combination of words in that order that I remember, like the guitar riff of a classic-rock song whose name you've never caught. Overall, I think the association between Barker and classic rock is pretty appropriate - neither really has anything to say, but you can't avoid them, and they are often better than the alternative when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing else for company.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    Clive Barker's "Books of Blood" was an eye-opener for me when I first read it in high school. Besides being the first book I read that included a graphic gay sex scene (which may not seem like a big deal now, but for a pretty naive kid living in an ultra-conservative community, it seemed pretty subversive and taboo, which is, of course, why I loved it), it was also one of the first horror short story collections which straddled the lines of the horror genre and literary fiction. Barker's just a Clive Barker's "Books of Blood" was an eye-opener for me when I first read it in high school. Besides being the first book I read that included a graphic gay sex scene (which may not seem like a big deal now, but for a pretty naive kid living in an ultra-conservative community, it seemed pretty subversive and taboo, which is, of course, why I loved it), it was also one of the first horror short story collections which straddled the lines of the horror genre and literary fiction. Barker's just a damn good writer, and this collection of short stories (which has kind of taken on cult status among horror-philes) is probably his best example of his horror fiction. Most of his later works would delve into more dark fantasy and science fiction, which is also very good, but this book is where it's at in terms of his balls-to-the-walls blood and gore stuff. Many film adaptations (both good and bad) have their inspirations from these short stories: "Rawhead Rex", "Midnight Meat Train", and "Hellraiser", just to name a few.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    The Books of Blood are probably the best things Barker has ever written. These stories are not just (or always) scary, but extremely imaginative. In this collection, the story "In the Hills, the Cities" certainly stretched my brain. "The Yattering and Jack" is also memorable, as a tale of a demon trying to trap a soul, that verges on the slapstick. The Books of Blood are probably the best things Barker has ever written. These stories are not just (or always) scary, but extremely imaginative. In this collection, the story "In the Hills, the Cities" certainly stretched my brain. "The Yattering and Jack" is also memorable, as a tale of a demon trying to trap a soul, that verges on the slapstick.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Jandrok

    Wanting to get a short-story collection into my Autumnal fascination with darker and more horrific fare, I chose to pick out an old paperback off of the shelf. It was the first Berkley printing of “Volume One of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.” First published in 1984, this paperback edition came out two years later, in 1986. It came to market with some heady recommendations. “He scares even me….What Barker does in the BOOKS OF BLOOD makes the rest of us look like we’ve been asleep for the last te Wanting to get a short-story collection into my Autumnal fascination with darker and more horrific fare, I chose to pick out an old paperback off of the shelf. It was the first Berkley printing of “Volume One of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.” First published in 1984, this paperback edition came out two years later, in 1986. It came to market with some heady recommendations. “He scares even me….What Barker does in the BOOKS OF BLOOD makes the rest of us look like we’ve been asleep for the last ten years. Some of the stories were so creepily awful that I literally could not read them alone; others go up and over the edge and into gruesome territory...He’s an original!” - Stephen King Kind words indeed from the man who had been scaring the rest of us silly for the previous decade or so. I’ll admit that I really didn’t catch Barker when this anthology first hit the shelves. Like a lot of folks, Barker first captured my attention with a film, “Hellraiser.” Released in 1987, “Hellraiser” was a blast of fresh air in what was becoming a stale cinematic horror scene. It was a joyously gruesome riff on a classic theme updated with punk style and sexual energy. The imagery of the film was startling, with fresh villains and an intelligent vibe. After learning that Barker, who both wrote and directed the movie, was also an author…..well, that certainly sent me off to the bookstore to see what I could find. What I ended up with was the very book I am reviewing here, the first in a six-pack of paperbacks that would end up being republished in various formats as time went on. Comprising a grand total of 30 stories, the “Books of Blood” would go on to be one of Barker’s most enduring and popular works. I seem to remember having a hardback volume that had at least the first 3 books anthologized, but I could be wrong. I somehow parted with that tome at some point, but all is well. To be perfectly honest, I rather enjoy the old Berkley paperback pressings more than the later editions that brought the whole series together. I can remember thinking this was a pretty scary set of stories the first time I read them back in the day. Splatterpunk was a new thing back in the grand old '80s, and Barker was very adept at seeding his writing with lots of gore and buckets of blood. He also had a tendency to sprinkle some reasonably graphic sex into the mix, and that was a pretty big recommendation for his style as well. I was really hoping that the tales would stand the test of time. Classic horror, when you can find it, is like running into an old friend. I can read Lovecraft and Bloch and Howard anytime. Even stories that I have read several times will still seem vital and alive to me. Would Barker be able to elicit the same reactions on a second go-round, or would the writing feel dated or tired? The answer to that, I think, will have to be told story by story. There are a couple of yarns here that do indeed seem to be molded in that “classic” style, but there is also one story that just comes across as being somewhat silly, and another that feels oddly incomplete. Overall, though, this is a really good introduction to Clive Barker as an author. Younger readers would do well to find this as a starting point for his oeuvre. He has gone on to become one of the best known names in horror and fantasy fiction, and he has produced a large output of novels and other short-story collections over the decades since the “Books of Blood” were published. If you enjoy fantastic fiction, then Barker certainly deserves a place in your library. “The Book of Blood” - This serves as a set-up story for the rest of the tales in the series. A young and fraudulent psychic sets out to fool a research scientist and gets more than he bargained for. Holed up on the upper floor of a supposedly haunted house, the bogus ghost whisperer finds himself a living canvas for the damned. The stories written into his skin comprise the “Book of Blood.” This short prelude is continued by the 30th story in the collection, “On Jerusalem Street.” Those two tales provide a foundation on which the collection stands. They were eventually adapted into a stand-alone movie, surprisingly called “Book of Blood.” “The Midnight Meat Train” - A New York City office worker falls asleep on a subway train. He awakes to find himself trapped by a serial killer who has been practicing his craft of human butchery in the adjacent car. He manages to kill the killer in a heated struggle, only to find that his waking nightmare has only just begun. One of the better and more “classic” of the stories, this one had a serious Lovecraftian sort of vibe to it. Plenty of blood and guts to be had, but Barker wisely leaves the ultimate scares to the reader’s imagination. “Midnight Meat Train” was later fleshed out (see what I did there?) and made into a film. “The Yattering and Jack” - A lesser demon called the Yattering is assigned to harass mild-mannered gherkin importer Jack Polo to the point of insanity. The shade uses his best tricks and most effective haunts to no avail, Polo shrugs them off with nary a hair out of place. It’s like he doesn’t even notice the poor demon. But he does, and it turns out that Jack is playing a very dangerous game with the little devil, trying to entice it to go beyond the boundaries of its carefully constructed magical rule book so that he can capture it and make the Yattering do his bidding. This game of cat and mouse assumes an ever greater threat when Jack’s two daughters arrive for the holidays. Who will prevail in this match of wills? Beware the turkey. This story was one of Barker’s rare forays into outright comedy. “The Yattering and Jack” was adapted into an episode for the television series “Tales From the Darkside,” with Barker himself authoring the screenplay. “Pig Blood Blues” - Retired police officer Neil Redman takes a job as a shop teacher at a reform school for boys. He is almost immediately drawn into confrontation with his new students when he notices a schoolyard altercation while talking to one of the school psychologists. The brawl is broken up, but not before Redman comes to the attention of one of the combatants, a youth called Lacey. Lacey has issues, deep seated issues, which only serve to confound Redman as he attempts to form a bond with the outcast boy. The story morphs itself quickly into a mishmash of ghosts and possession and a large, unusually clean pig. There are all sorts of strange sexual subtexts going on here, as Redman finds his new job to be not so much to his liking. I found myself wanting a LOT more exposition from this story. If any of his short fiction needed to be expanded to novel length, “Pig Blood Blues” is certainly a good candidate. As it stands, it’s little more than a scattered bit of fright that just never comes together for me. “Sex, Death, and Starshine” - POSSIBLY my favorite story in Volume 1, and certainly the tale that is most heavily rooted in classic horror tropes. The theater has always been a fine venue in which to place a scary tale, and this one does not disappoint. Told with beautiful pacing and a true depth of characterization, “Sex, Death, and Starshine” almost reads like a piece of prose-poetry. If ever one of Barker’s stories was meant for repeated readings, this is the one. There are all sorts of things to be found here that will make more beautiful sense on the second, or even third, run through. Much like a script, this story reveals its genius as the layers are pulled away, the lines practiced with different inflections and cadences. Damn good stuff. “In The Hills, The Cities” - This is the last story in volume 1, and to me it seemed like it was a tale that just didn’t stand the test of time. It crosses more into the realms of fantasy than any of the others in the collection, and it just didn’t catch my fancy as much as it did on the initial reading. What you have here is a tale of two men, uneasy lovers, who are on a vacation honeymoon to the back roads of Eastern Europe. Setting a vacation in Yugoslavia (remember that this was written in the mid-'80s, prior to the dissolution of the country) might seem an odd choice, but I guess that the relative remoteness of the region served Barker’s premise well. Our couple stumbles upon a battle between rural cities, one that occurs only every 10 years, and one which has a high level of ceremony attached to it. But this is no normal fight between friendly adversaries, but rather a continuation of a ritual war that has caused the cities to become ever larger and larger conglomerations of citizens strapped together to function as living, breathing giants. It’s a premise that sounds cool, and it kind of is, but on the second reading it also came across as a bit silly. I’ll give it an extra point for originality, though. I can’t think of any other author who would be bold enough to take a flight of fancy this far into the extreme. I got a vague whiff of The Wicker Man while rummaging around in this story, but it was only a fleeting impression. Again, “The Books of Blood” is a great place to begin your journey with Clive Barker, assuming that you are just now discovering him. For older fans like myself, these are fine comfort food scares that will satisfy the craving for metaphorical blood on the palate. Barker never rises to the level of his closest analogue, Neil Gaiman, but when he’s good, he’s damn good. You need these stories in your collection if you want to call yourself a horror fan. One other quick note: Barker is British, and he has a habit of slipping into common Britspeak even when a story is set in another venue. His use of the word “tannoy” in “The Midnight Meat Train” is a perfect example of this. Certainly no one in New York City is using British slang for “loudspeaker,” but Barker employs it nonetheless. Maybe only something a word freak like me might notice, but at least be aware of it. Take the dark trip with Clive Barker! You will enjoy it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jean-marcel

    Comments on the entirety of the series, followed by some thoughts on the stories in this individual entry: When I first read these books -- all of them, within a short space of time -- way back in 2002, I admit to being slightly biased against them. I'm not totally sure what it was. Maybe I was just too obsessed with Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Arthur machen, and thought Clive Barker was some tepid mainstream nonsense by comparison. I remember having a friend in the 90s who spoke very disp Comments on the entirety of the series, followed by some thoughts on the stories in this individual entry: When I first read these books -- all of them, within a short space of time -- way back in 2002, I admit to being slightly biased against them. I'm not totally sure what it was. Maybe I was just too obsessed with Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Arthur machen, and thought Clive Barker was some tepid mainstream nonsense by comparison. I remember having a friend in the 90s who spoke very disparagingly of his work, too. I did enjoy the Hellraiser film though, and that was probably the only reason I shoved my and ploughed ahead with him. I also remember reading some Stephen King around the same time, and not feeling too much snobbery. So I'm actually a bit hard-pressed to explain why I was a little self-conscious about reading these, like they were the sort of thing I'd want to hide under my desk as the schoolteacher walked by. Well, it's now fifteen years later and I have, shall we say, quite a bit more reading experience. While he may at times be unsubtle, ole' Clive isn't really all that trashy, except when he wants to revel in it. Yeah, most things are "signposted", and the gore, and even the sex, is a little over-the-top at times, but he's not without a literary bone or two and when he goes extravagant, he does it with a big, completely self-assured grin on his face. Lest you doubt me, the epigraph at the beginning of the first volume is a goddamn pun! No kidding. In these stories, spread across six volumes, you'll find tales of depravity, madness, vengeance, ancient evil, sexual psychosis and -- lots and lots of meat! Human meat, rotting meat, maggoty meat, delicious meat. What is it with Barker and meat? Is he a vegetarian, I wonder? Actually though, it's a pretty good "horror subject", for quite a few reasons, when you think about it. And strange as it may seem, amongst all this craziness, you'll also find beauty, and even happiness. Not only that, but there's a real sense of -- I guess you could call it "justice" -- in Barker's work. Unlike with "true horror", the awful people here often do get the payback they deserve; the wronged people go through horror and hell but usually end up in some way free of their former tethers. It might not be true horror, but it's pretty satisfying most of the time. "The Book of Blood" here we set the scene. it's like one of those introductions to a great work of literature, only its gory and, I guess, hinting at metafiction. It's a framing device for the entire series of six little books, which only returns at the very end. Not very important (you can read any of these in any order you choose, skipping around as you like) but still, rather neat. "The midnight Meat Train" This one was made into at least one film recently. It's one of those stories that is supposed to make new Yorkers feel terrible about their city. There's something old and stinking and rotting beneath the conduits and tunnels and sewers. It's a dark megapolisomancy at work, I tell you! A likeable story, this one, even though it lacks the kind of character development necessary to suggest how Kaufman transitions from timid and slavish office worker to ... butcher. He seems to accept everything rather quickly, even without any aforementioned taste for the macabre. By the way, not that it matters much, but i don't think Clive is terribly convincing at writing Americans, at least not at this point. And I sure as shit never heard a yankee say "tannoy". "The yattering and jack" Ok, this didnt' quite play as I remembered. For some reason I had it in my head that Jack spent the entire story apparently in a state of breezy obliviousness, until the last moment revealed his cards. It isn't like that; the story makes pretty clear early on that jack knows exactly what is going on with the yattering. A fun story, but somehow the fact that the ending wasn't a surprise twist after all disappointed me this time round. Interesting how over the years we can remember stories differently than how they were written. I did feel sorry for the yattering, though. "Pig Blood Blues" The scariest story in volume 1? Definitely. There's definitely a tradition of evil "swine things" in horror fiction, isn't there? I guess if you can picture William Hope Hodgson crashing into Stephen King, something like this might come out. I rather like this one, but I don't want to say too much about it. It's best if you just come to it unprepared. "Sex, Death and Starshine" Well now, this is a heart-warming tale. I mean that very seriously. It's macabre, not horrific, unless you are of a particularly delicate dissposition or something. It's really a feel-good yarn for the disenfranchised: the theatrical dead. Who says lichs and ghouls shouldn't have fun? Haven't they earned it? "In the Hills, The Cities" I'm going to be bold here and say that if Clive Barker was to be remembered for a single short story, it should probably be this one. It's no wonder that Ann and jeff Vandermeer selected this for inclusion in their huge and encompassing The Weird anthology. Is it a horror story, or something altogether stranger and more esoteric? When I read this in 2002, this one stood out to me as something special; something mysterious and altogether alluring in its breathtaking strangeness. Even the title is oddly enchanting. And for all that "otherworldliness", there is about it the suggestion of very real, contemporary concerns: the great diaspora of peoples, the nebulous and mutable concepts of homeland and place in the world. It all manages to be terrible and beautiful at the same time, in a way that few people other than maybe Arthur machen or Angela Carter could manage. Really extraordinary, and while it's sad that I don't think anything else in the entire Books of Blood series comes close to this, at least we have this monument.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Corey

    4.5/5 stars. Full review coming soon.

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