by Clive Barker

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Abarat by Clive Barker.

If I were to mention Clive Barker, probably you’d think of Pinhead and the Hellraiser series of moves — all very scary stuff (except for Hellraiser Bloodlines, which as we know was never made). But Clive Barker thankfully ignores the labels of the horror genre. Over the last decade he has moved out of the bloody pigeonhole of works like The Hellbound Heart and created some very dark, very adult fantasy. (And by the way, a solemn vow from me to you right now regarding the phrase ‘bloody pigeonhole’: never again. Swear.)

So we’ve got a guy who writes about the erotic pastimes of the gods, the suffering of mortals, and the meaning of art. Time to write a children’s book! After all, Madonna did it.

Clive Barker’s Abarat is the first in his series about pre-teen Candy Quakenbush. To her, like most kids, home is the most boring place in the world. She’s an outsider at school and at home, Daddy drinks. So it’s lucky that an ocean rises in the middle of the Minnesota prairie and sweeps her to Abarat, a chain of islands where each represents an hour of the day. There’s still horror — the evil Christopher Carrion feeds on nightmares, and then there’s this terrifying ad campaign featuring something called The Commexo Kid, who’s like Bob’s Big Boy only a zillion times creepier if you can imagine that. There are talking cats and many headed heros, and goddesses who save the day. And best of all, Mr Barker has painted a book full over over 100 illustrations to go along with the story, and he’s as luminous a painter as he is a writer.

Abarat is aimed at the Harry Potter crowd, but it’s certainly sophisticated enough for their parents.

*Update: The sequel to Abarat, called Days of Magic, Nights of War is out, and continues the adventures of Candy in the magical island chain of Abarat. More of her destiny is revealed, and she must make the biggest choice of all — go back home to the ‘real world’, or stay in Abarat. There is plenty of Barker’s favorite imagery: floods, cats, goddesses, and more of his gorgeous paintings. My advice is to get the highest quality edition you can, the artwork is amazing. Barker is truly a uniquely talented individual — you can find out about his work in books, movies, his scripts for the stage, and his artwork — and apparently a line of stuffed animals — at www.clivebarker.com.

The book is Abarat by Clive Barker, and I am gushing fangirl Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

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