Drifting among the waves of terror

It was on October two years ago when I decided to familiarize myself with Clive Barker’s works, especially since I thoroughly enjoyed his graphic novel Tapping the Vein. I thought he had a very eloquent prose that fits his gothic and horror themes, so I was more than happy to pick up Everville in one of the secondhand bookstores I go to. As soon as I was done with re-reading some favorite chapters in Les Miserables and The Hobbit in preparation for the film viewing of these two, I went straight for Everviile, eager to devour the contents since the writer was a promising one. On one hand, it was one of the most magnetic and exquisitely realized stories I’ve ever seen in print. On the other, my enjoyment of this novel also depended on my mental preparedness and attention and in that regard, I somehow lost track and found the reading experience tedious since my focus is not entirely on this book. This may make my review slightly evasive but I will try my best to illuminate the good parts of this story as well as the overall great quality of the novel.

First off, Everville was a sequel to The Great and Secret Show. About a hundred pages in, I was beginning to suspect that I was missing some ingredients about the story so I googled it and saw that it was supposed to be the second book of The Book of Art series, which is probably the reason why I can’t seem to grasp everything that easily. However, this book can be enjoyed by itself but I think I would advice that one must read the first book since it can enhance one’s appreciation for the adventures and subtle character dynamics present in Everville. My breaks in between reading the book was also a factor to consider. It always takes me a whole week before I could get back to reading, and this even made my understanding of the subplots and characters shamefully inconsistent. Take away all the struggle to squeeze this book into my hectic college calendar, and I could confidently say that this book is one of the strangest yet intensely captivating stories I have read in a while. It’s a breathless fantasy story that mingles horror and romance in the most sensual way and in a span of chapters was able to blend of eroticism and terror in the kind of prose that makes Barker’s narrative style definitively enigmatic.

There are many sublots that are entangled between and among each other so I really advise that your breaks between reading this book are not as long as mine in order to sustain your grasp on the stories and characters and you’ll be more enthralled with the conflicts that follow after in doing so. There is a lot of groundwork to be established in the beginning five to six chapters or so, but Barker introduces and fleshes out the main players seamlessly enough especially since these characters are integral to the events that are about to transpire. The setting alternates between Everville and Quiddity, locations that harbor a history of secrets and power which eccentric individuals who travel from one to the other are in search for their own destinies or are caught up in a meaningful tapestry that unfolds before their eyes. Both places are born from dreams, made real by being shaped from certain desires and longing, and they converge through humanity’s consciousness. The central plot is confounding but with an elusive mythology that I find charming and deceptive as I read on. At some point in our lives, we travel Quiddity but only three times: when we are born, when we first love, and when we die.

Memorable characters were Tesla Bombeck, Owen Buddenbaum, Nathan Grillo and Phoebe Cobb. Numerous minor characters who interact with these major ones provide the subplots with more intrigue, suspense and drama as many revelations become more and more transparent halfway through the book. The pacing was evenly distributed among the most important subplot and character although the quantity of such subplots and characters can be actually become tad underwhelming in some chapters. The mythos and overall atmosphere of the novel reminded me of HBO’s short-lived but equally brilliant series Carnivale which dealt with the same elements of mystic forces making up the fabric of a society that is on the verge of mass destruction. There are also Christian elements on the novel that translate well as effective contrast to the almost blatant paganism of the characters from Quiddity. The themes of the novel dealt on the exploration of the concept of destinies, deities, faith in forces beyond human comprehension, and humanity’s ability to transform dreams into concrete people and places.

I truly liked the book. I’m going to look for a copy of The Great and Secret Show when I find the time. I think there is a lot to the story I wasn’t able to digest well, especially since the characters featured are admirably depicted, thanks to Barker’s lavish but not excessive style of characterization and descriptive narrative. I think it could be remedied when I’m able to read the prequel.

RECOMMENDED granted you also read the first book: 8/10


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