I’ve been a big fan of Clive Barker for many, many years. I think I might be one of the only people alive that actually looks forward to the latest Hellraiser direct-to-dvd thriller (they’re hit and miss, but generally entertaining). So I approached this review with a fair share of bias, as well as very high expectations.
The physical book itself is a part of the story. The dust jacket is designed to look old and worn, with the edges singed. The paper that the book is printed on is brownish yellow and old looking. There is no copyright page in the front of the book. It just starts right in. The presentation is very much that of an old diary. (All of the copyright information and dedication, etc. are in the back of the book.)
“Burn this book,” are the first words we read. The first words spoken to us by Mr. B. Gone, a demon from the lower levels of Hell. Over the course of the book he tells us his story, from his life in Hell to how he ended up in the surface world, to his eventual entrapment within the confines of the book itself. All the while, the reader is entreated to destroy the book and give the demon a merciful death. As the novel progresses, the pleas become demands before descending into threats. This proved to be more effective than I anticipated, keeping me glancing over my shoulder for a demon primed to slit my throat.
The story builds to a climax centered on the invention of the printing press. Barker fantasizes that the creation of the press was a pivotal moment in the war between heaven and hell, where powerful words and ideas were argued over like a nasty divorce couple.
I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of the novel. I just love the way Barker writes. It’s very compelling and I found myself turning the pages and burning through the book (not literally). And I enjoyed the ending for what it was, I just wasn’t that satisfied with what it was. I found the inclusion of the printing press plot to be superfluous and I thought there were a few different directions Barker could have taken the story to really deliver a whollop of an ending.
Overall, I highly recommend Mister B. Gone for Clive Barker and horror fans. And pretty much anybody that enjoys really entertaining writing. But if you’re going to read a Clive Barker book for the first time, try Weaveworld or The Great And Secret Show.