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BOOK REVIEWS: January 2000
By Paula Guran

THE ESSENTIAL CLIVE BARKER
Clive Barker (Foreword by Armistead Maupin)
HarperCollins/ $27.50/ 608p.
ISBN: 0060195290

book cover There will be some who will question this volume's necessity. They will not quibble about Barker's unique genius, his exotically dark imagination, his ambitious and extraordinary literary skills. But they might feel that those previously unacquainted with Barker's work should read entire novels and not just snippets; that the author's fans will have read nearly everything in the book in its original context. This may be true, but they are missing the point.

This is not a retrospective, or a sampling, or a "best of." After an introduction in which he offers truths about himself and eloquently advocates what he refers to as "the fantastique," Barker presents more than 70 excerpts from his novels and plays as well as four complete short stories. By setting them side-by-side in 13 author-introduced thematic sections, he makes fresh connections and provides insightful new paths through his far from complete literary journey. Nor does he expect readers to progress from page one to page 567, but to wander instinctively in non-linear passages of their own making.

Barker has been called "a mapmaker of the mind, charting the farthest reaches of the imagination...." In THE ESSENTIAL CLIVE BARKER the master cartographer devises a new map from his previously charted, but always bizarre, dileneations. In this unconventional volume the real and unreal, the mundane and the miraculous, the physical and the metaphysical are all very close indeed. That, perhaps, is the true essence of Clive Barker: He is an extraordinary visionary who takes us farther than we thought we could go while still making us look more deeply into ourselves than we previously imagined possible.

OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ace/ $21.95/ 400p.
ISBN: 0-441-00684-1

book cover The adventures of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter have become a quiet addiction for a lot of people. The secret of the books' popularity lies in the author's invention of intriguing over-the-top characters who arouse genuine reader empathy. Set on an alternate earth where magic co-exists with natural law making supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves quite natural, the series also creatively combines fantasy, horror, violence, science fiction, detective mystery, humor, and erotica. Anita herself has evolved into a women full of contradictions. She raises the dead, but is intensely alive; she legally executes vampires but one of her lovers is a vampire; she's no slut, but she does have another lover who is a werewolf; she's a sincere Christian, but blows away bad guys without hesitation. Anita is one tough hot babe, but she still can blush. OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY, the ninth in the series (and first in hardcover), finds Anita deliberately separated from both her lovers, celibate, and sorting her lovelife out. She goes to New Mexico to assist Edward, a human killer so cold-bloodied he's known as "Death." But Anita owes him a favor, and she's (of course) an honorable woman. She can accept helping him solve some particularly gory murders, but she has trouble accepting that this ultimate assassin has become involved with an innocent widow and her two children. As concerned as Anita is about this situation, there's a nasty mystery to solve and she and Edward get to work. Aztec pseudo-mythology, vampires, an evil dwarf magician, good cops and bad cops all somehow enter into the plot and Anita handles it all -- as well as the attentions of a variety of males -- with aplomb. All great fun that leaves you looking forward to Anita's next outing.

DARK DETECTIVES: ADVENTURES OF THE SUPERNATURAL SLEUTHS
Edited by Stephen Jones Fedogan & Bremer (F&B Mystery)/ $29 / 395p. ISBN: 1878252356

book cover Adventures of supernatural sleuths? Have we finally gone one step over the anthological thematic line? In lesser hands this would never have worked. We'd have had a hodgepodge of hack writers and a few decent ones mired in an uneven muck of clever and not so clever takes on phantom fighters, ghost busting and psychic investigations. But here, once again, master-editor Stephen Jones uses his phenomenal knowledge of the field and inventive intelligence to select classics both old and new. From William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki (1913) to Brian Lumley's Titus Crow to Clive Barker's Harry D'Amour to Neil Gaiman's semi-poetic take on lycanthropic private eye Lawrence Talbot combatting the Elder Gods -- the world is saved, over and over, from the forces of evil and the powers of darkness. Interspersed between the dozen noirish tales is an engaging episodic novella, "Seven Stars," by the ever-dazzling Kim Newman. Newman borrows fictional and historical elements to trace the history of a malevolent alien stone that, yes, is a threat to all humankind. In addition to the fine content, Les Edward's exquisite jacket and Randy Broecker's perfectly atmospheric interior illustrations make this Fedogan & Bremer publication bliss for any book-lover.


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