Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Clive Barker's First Tales

This book contains a short story and a short children's fantasy novel written by Clive Barker when he was around seventeen years old. I went into this knowing that I'd be reading juvenilia, knowing that I likely wouldn't like this very much. I was right. I didn't. I read this because it was written by Clive Barker. I'm a Barker completist and I'd recommend this only to other Barker completists.

"The Wood on the Hill" is a simplistic fairy tale. A snotty aristocratic woman is warned that bad things will happen if she goes through with her plan to hold a ball in some ancient woods. She ignores the warnings and bad things happen. That's it. And the bad things that happen really aren't that interesting.

The Candle in the Cloud is pretty much just a condensed and watered-down cross between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings. Three kids are transported to a fantasy world and soon learn that they are the only ones who can save the world by transporting a magical artifact to a deep dark pit.

I expected to be disappointed by these stories. I read them to see if I could find a spark of Barker's genius in his early works, and I was able see some of that, just a glimpse near the end of The Candle in the Cloud. And, truthfully, few writers wrote anything half as good at seventeen.

No, the thing that really disappoints me about Clive Barker's First Tales was a bit more unexpected; the fact that the publisher didn't bother to clean the manuscript up prior to publication. This book was poorly proofed. If they'd printed a disclaimer at the beginning of the book stating that they wanted to show these early works untouched and raw, so as not to tamper with the curiosities presented therein, I might have given them a pass. But they posted no such disclaimer, and they put out a fairly shoddy product.

In addition, the product description for this work is misleading. Crossroad Press claims that The Candle in the Cloud is "a novella of dark fantasy" when clearly it is fucking not. Dark fantasy and children's fantasy are two very different things. It's a matter of public record that Barker wrote this book for children. To try to peddle this as dark fantasy is pretty shitty.

No comments:

Post a Comment