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Review: The Hellbound Heart & What I Got From The Charity Shop

April 29, 2009

I went into town yesterday, an expedition that led to the purchasing of three books. They are:

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

I’m a fan of Barker’s highly-imaginative, sometimes sexually-charged, inventive horror/fantasy. He has a marvellous way with words, his prose is wonderful in it’s ability to turn the grotesque into something operatic, something that you can’t help to read on.

Whenever I see a Clive Barker book in the charity shop, I buy it. It used to be very difficult to buy his books (it’s better now, although his publishers really should re-publish his books in swanky new covers (at the moment, the covers for his books are ugly, the kind of thing you would expect to see on cheap, knocked-out-in-two-days, dungeons & dragons-esque novel by a hack).

I bought and read The Hellbound Heart in the same day. It’s a novella: 128 pages, very slight for a Barker book. If anyone has seen Hellraiser, the film based on the novella, then you know what to expect here. It’s the same apart from a couple of instances. Surprisingly, this is one of those less-than-frequent times when a film is better than its source material.

It seems that Barker, when he wrote and directed Hellraiser, took away all the things that made the novella, well, naff. It all comes across as a bit trite, and not particularly scary (unlike the film). The depiction of the Cenobites is mostly laughable; they come across as shockingly civil and friendly. In the film, and I don’t like comparing a book and a film but in this instance it is hard not to, they are relentless, unremitting, inhuman. In the book they’re more like “well tally ho, we’ll just put some hooks into you eh boyo!”.

Also, Pinhead isn’t in it. Well, he is but he isn’t named and is very inconsequential. He does have the two classic lines “…tear your soul apart” and “no tears please it’s a waste of good suffering”. Of course it sounds much better in the film; Pinhead is quite a charismatic figure, apart from the whole tearing you apart for pleasure/pain and the increasingly daft sequels that rendered him a shell of his former self.

Edit: Is it even him who says those lines in the book? I can’t even remember it now.

It doesn’t have the “Jesus wept” line which is pitch-perfect in the film. Instead Frank says “fucking bitch” which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Anyway, it wasn’t bad and perhaps I would have enjoyed more if I hadn’t watched the film first. I don’t know. It wasn’t very good, probably the worst by Barker.

My other two books I got are:

Boiling a Frog by Christopher Brookmyre

I’ve read All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye and I’ve been meaning to get some more of his. His style is very funny, very knowing and almost movie like, but in a good way.

A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

I actually got this for my mother, it’s a three-in-one book consisting of Sunset Song, Cloud Howe, Grey Granite making up the A Scots Quair trilogy, she’s read Sunset Song so I thought I would buy her it. It does look quite good so I might read it myself.


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