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The hellbound heart is a novella by England's best horror writer, Clive Barker. It is a relatively short work with a memorable plot device and antagonists that would go on to inspire an entire film franchise. Barker is, as the New York Times has noted, far more than a genre writer. This is not my favourite work of his, but word for word, you'll not find anything as powerful.
The main premise of the book revolves around Frank, a Hedonist addicted to pleasures and sensations, no matter how exotic or depraved. Legal or otherwise. Now in his thirties and bored by everything he has experienced, he is hungry to experience more. Rumours of Lemarchand's puzzle box, the Lament configuration reach him on his travels. A gateway to a realm of indescribable carnal pleasure. It becomes his reason for being.
At the start of the novella, he has found it. Locked in the attic room of a house his brother has bought, but not moved into yet, he constructs a shrine of flowers, dove heads and urine. Hours pass as he unlocks the box designed to trap those just like him. And the little room that is his realm is visited by inhabitants of quite another.
It is not a plot spoiler to say that not only are the hideously disfigured Cenobites, members of the order of the Gash not what he had in mind, they are utterly unable to distinguish extreme pleasure from extreme torture. Their "gifts" are experiments conducted with a horrific combination of both. And twisted Frank, their ideal lab rat. They accept the latest supplicant even as he screams to be free, but this bargain is one struck for eternity.
Awhile later, Frank's brother moves into his house with his new bride Julia. Unbeknownst to Rory, Julia and Frank had an affair a week before their marriage and Julia, a foul person still fantasises of renewing her acquaintance with Frank. Before long, the shredded remnants of Frank manage to escape to the attic room. Will Julia be willing to commit multiple murder so that Frank can consume bodies to repair his own?
As a Novella, you will finish this one quickly, and be left hungry for more. But that is all there is on paper. His books of blood series are probably the closest thing he's done since. It speaks volumes (sorry!) that Barker has not revisited this world a number of times, cashing in on the concept's popularity. There are a number of differences in the Novella compared to the film that it inspired. But this work is ultimately scarier. Barker would go on to write two most excellent novels above all his others, Imajica and Weaveworld. Neither of which are Horror books per se.
The HellBound Heart is probably one of Clive Barker's most infamous works, mainly because it formed the basis for the popular 1987 horror movie Hellraiser. The book tells the tale of a mystical device known as Lemarchand's box, a beautifully crafted puzzle rumoured to be the key to a dimension of infinite pleasures. After a great deal of effort Frank, an immoral hedonist, has finally managed to track down the box, and is eagerly awaiting his carnal reward. It wasn't exactly what he expected. The box opens a schism to an alternate dimension, a dimension ruled by the grotesque Order of the Gash. Unfortunately for Frank the Cenobites, a group of horrifically mutilated sadomasochists, do not believe there is a distinction between pleasure and pain, and drag him into the schism to suffer an eternity of torture. After all, nobody said whose definition of pleasure it had to be, did they?
Several months later Franks brother Rory, along with his adulterous wife Julia, have moved into his grandparent's old house. Unbeknownst to him this was very place that Frank met his unpleasant demise, and the remains of his soul are only a few drops of blood away. Using Julia as an accomplice Frank slowly starts to piece the remnants of his savaged body back together, consuming human sacrifices to escape from the Order of the Gash. However, they are not unsuspected. Rory's friend Kristy stumbles across Frank and Julia's murderous scheme, and is determined to do everything she can to bring them to justice, even if it means putting herself within the Cenobite's grasp.
The Hellbound Heart is not a very long story, originally being a novella in Dark Harvest's Night Visions anthology, but Barker makes every single word count. Like many of his other works the Hellbound Heart has a visceral and gory style, whilst twisting common narrative devices to suit Barker's dark needs. Although the story can be somewhat stomach churning, it still manages to leave certain things to the imagination. You often only get to see the aftermath, rather than the event itself, leaving you to wonder what nameless horrors were unleashed to cause such a gruesome result. Although Hellraiser is a very faithful adaptation it doesn't manage to visually encompass the true visceral ferocity of Barker's creations, or the unbearable suffering brought upon their victims.
The Hellbound Heart is a very intense, and often disturbing, read. Clive Barker doesn't so much as raise the bar as catapult it into orbit, making one of the most influential and downright nightmarish books of the modern age. I only wish there was more writers out there with his talent.
This really is one of the oddest little books I have read.
I picked it in ASDA for £1 and thought that it looked ideal for going on holiday as it only had 128 pages - so was an ideal size to stick in your pocket whilst waiting at the airport.
This is the book that the film Hellraiser is based on, which Cliver Barker also directed. The first chapter of the book is really hard to read and I thought taht if the whole book was similarly written that I wouldn't be finishing it. This chapter is about FRank who opens a box but it is close to being Pandora's box. This chapter has a very dark and occult feel has some very disturbing characters who are horribly disfigured and have many piercings with hooks and cunjure up some weird images in your mind. The box is supposed to bring Frank unknown and total pleasure but in the end he seems to reach ecstasy but will have a price to pay.
This chapter is really hard to follow because the writing is not very descriptive and the reader is forced to fill in much of the detail themselves.
But I persevered to chapter two and thing certainly improved. The rest of the writing is much lighter both in style and the images it is trying to portray - but it is still not very descriptive. I found it really hard to see and image of the main characters because I didn't feel that the author ever gave me any indication of their stature, hair colour or anything else.
This chapter starts with newly weds Rory and Julia and their happiness really comes through the pages. They set about decorating the family house and we find that Frank in the first chapter is Rory's brother and that just before they got married Julia had a torrid hour of passion with Frank. He epitomises to Julia everything that Rory isn't and she longs for the excitement again.
One of the rooms in the house gives Julia a strange feeling and we ultimately find that Frank is behind the wall. the only way he can escape is if he is fed blood through the floorboards. The book then has Julia on a downwards spiral with her killing several men who she picks up in a bar and brings home.
The book gets darker and darker again as it progresses to its climax. I won't spoil the ending for anyone but all I will say is that the body count just keeps increasing and as with everything in this book - happens suddenly.
If you like books that develop the charcters and the story slowly this is not teh book for you. I don't think that there is a supurfluous word in the whole of the book. It really is minimalist. I prefer to at least have a picture of the character in my head when I am reading but it was very hard to do that with this book.
I don't think that I'll read this book again I just didn't enjoy it very much.