Synopsis: Frank Cotton's insatiable appetite for the dark pleasures of pain led him to the puzzle of Lemarchand's box, and from there, to a death only a sick-minded soul could invent. But his brother's love-crazed wife, Julia, has discovered a way to bring Frank back, though the price will be bloody and terrible . . . and there will certainly be hell to pay.
I have officially completed two Clive Barker books (the Books of Blood Vol. 1-3 omnibus and the book I am reviewing today), and I can now color myself a true Barker fan. The man's horror tales get under my skin in a way completely unlike any other horror author's work, which is a good thing — a well-told, scary tale populated with intriguing characters is always the goal of any author dabbling in the dark fiction realm. And Clive Barker certainly succeeds here.
The basis for the Hellraiser movie series, this is a slim novel that might be short on character development but makes up for that with intense, frightening sequences. Plenty of blood and brains splash the walls, and there are copious of bouts of paranoia to be found here. Like most Barker tales, The Hellbound Heart deals a lot with sex, obsession, and demonic spirits — and often the three are intertwined. The conceit of the story (which I won't say much of, aside from it deals with sexual pleasure to the extreme — lots of sadism going on here) is one that wouldn't work in the hands of most writers, but Barker pulls it off phenomenally.
This is a very short book, so I am writing a pretty short review. If you've read Clive Barker before, you know what to expect here — a fantastically written tale that will jangle the nerves and most likely shatter your expectations. The characters were interesting, but the simply doesn't see enough of them. The story could have been padded out with another fifty pages or so and I wouldn't have complained one bit — though, I suppose, that's a victory on Barker's part . . . always leave the reader wanting more? The relationship problems between Rory and Julia were intriguing, and I would have also liked to have spent more time with Frank . . . what, exactly, led him to the puzzle? Characters' motivations are briefly sketched out but never fully formed.
The Hellbound Heart is, overall, a winner and is definitely a good place to start with Barker. Within it is everything his readers love so much about his work, and it is highly effective as a scary story to boot! It's a quick read — one could probably get through it in a couple of hours — so what are you waiting for?