Mister B. Gone

Mister B. Gone (Audio Book version)

by Clive Barker

New horror from Clive Barker — one of my very favorite writers — and it’s called Mister B. Gone. Now, I think Barker is one of those writers who can do no wrong — I would read his cookbook should he write one, although I imagine most of the recipes would probably call for things left over from a crime scene. And his last few books have found him moving away from the buckets of gore that initially made him famous, and writing for young adults — YA, it’s the new black. His Abarat and its sequel were gorgeous fantasies about the adventures of a teenaged girl in another, most peculiar world. I get the impression Clive’s friends may have given him a little bit of a hard time — where’s the unspeakable horror, Clive? Where are the unforgivable crimes against all human flesh? Well, Mister B. Gone answers those imaginary critics with a vengeance.

This one doesn’t have the world building grandeur of Imagica (my personal favorite) or the intricate plotting of The Great and Secret Show, but it is a bloody (very bloody) good story. Mister B. Gone recounts the life of Jacabok Botch, minor demon, and his travels in the human realm. He tells us that he likes to call himself Mister B. Gone because that’s the cry humans raise when they see him: “Be Gone!” And it’s usually the last thing they ever say.  The story is framed by Botch making a simple, frequently repeated request — burn the book. He’s been trapped inside the volume for hundreds of years, and you are the first person to lay eyes on him in all that time. Have pity on him, end his centuries of suffering, set him free, burn the book. Honestly, it’s pretty creepy to be addressed directly, and if Botch was even a little more sympathetic, I’d have been more inclined to help him out. But he is a thoroughly unpleasantly demonic creature. You know how writers, who always love their bad boys and girls, go out of their way to make a demon attractive — even beautiful? Well, Botch is no Heathcliff. He’s ugly and vain, petty, mean, cowardly, simpering, and he delights in the nastiest behavior — but he does tell a compelling story. We follow him from his horribly abusive childhood home in Hell — 9th circle — to his ascent to the human world, to his meeting another of his kind, and here is our Heathcliff; the demon Quitoon.

Quitoon becomes Botch’s platonic life partner, and if he has any redeeming qualities, I guess his unrequited and unwavering love for his beautiful, cruel companion casts maybe a flickering, dim light of mercy on him. Botch and Quitoon travel a mostly recognizable medieval world, looking in on what humans have invented. Quitoon loves new things, because mostly what mankind creates helps hurry along their ultimate demonic goal: the damnation and suffering of all humans. And in scenes that reminded me of a gorier Monty Python, they encounter peasants and bishops, shopgirls and soldiers, all looking for the exact same thing. Quitoon has heard of an invention that will change everything, and the demons and the hosts of heaven all converge on a little town in Germany and on the inventor, each with their hand out to get a piece of the potential future. I won’t tell you what the invention is, but it all makes perfect sense.

I can’t say I made friends with Mister B.; he was an uneasy companion at best, what with his frequent threats as to what would happen to me if I didn’t honor his request and burn the book, but the telling of the story is seductive, even if the teller is not. Clive Barker as always loves his words, and always seems to find a new way to say things. His gift, I think, is to create beauty from darkness, and make you want to spend a few hours with a demon — even one as irredeemable as Mister B. Gone.

Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

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