Clive Barker still has it (was there ever any doubt?). The Scarlet Gospels, the last chapter of Pinhead the Cenobite’s story, has him face off against Harry D’Amour, his old foe. His ambitions are small – destroy the world and rule over Hell. That’s not too much ask, is it? The Hell Priest does have his trusty hooks, but uses them in the beginning to desiccate the most powerful magicians to gather their secrets, then does not rely on them so much for a lot of the novel. Barker succeeds in asking us what we are most afraid of, and then exponentially expanding it until we cannot even comprehend the terror we are reading. What can you expect when our setting is a desolate New York, followed by a journey through actual Hell?
Twenty years later, the Hell Priest, is still written with the tiniest spark of humanity, his underlying motivation, it seems, hidden even from him. You almost root for him to feel something, and you want to tell him that just his interaction with Norma, or his stalker-like obsession with D’Amour, means he feels something, no matter how much he “doth protests.” He wants to possess all of the knowledge, and go to Lucifer himself, whether to serve or take over – you’ll have to read to find out. D’Amour is key to this plan, and Pinhead needs him to say yes. Is Pinhead crazy? Well yes. But besides that, why would D’Amour say yes? He barely says yes to people who are his actual friends, let alone this fiend from Hell. The Cenobite’s response is to steal blind Norma, who is pretty much the person Harry cares most about in the world. Her ghost whispering won’t help her out of this though.
The book is descriptively disgusting. The imagery is so vivid, I cannot unsee it, and these are words! Words that paint such horrific portraits, I actually had to turn away from a BOOK! Check out this small example:
“Thus, the seed lodged between the demon’s fingers had brought forth a crop of new fingers, all of which possessed their own beckoning life. And the seed beside the demon’s mouth had created new mouths, all of which gaped, many-toothed, within his cheek and his neck. All these anomalies were humbled, however, by the work a seed lodged in his left eye had done, multiplying the number of eyeballs so that from his brow to his cheek were bunches of wet, lidless eyes, their yellowish corneas dissected up, down, and sideways.”
I have never read anything like that before. And as much as that description makes me shiver, I cannot wait to see what a graphic novel artist will do with that eventually. It does not stop there. There are all manner of hell creatures, landscape, and architecture, that get that same wordsmith treatment.
Who will prevail? How many of Harry’s ragtag rescue group will die along the way? And how? Will they save Norma? Will Harry fulfill his own mission, or Pinhead’s mission for him, or both? Gotta read it!
The Scarlet Gospels takes readers back many years to the early days of two of Barker’s most iconic characters in a battle of good and evil as old as time: The long-beleaguered detective Harry D’Amour, investigator of all supernatural, magical, and malevolent crimes faces off against his formidable, and intensely evil rival, Pinhead, the priest of hell. Barker devotees have been waiting for The Scarlet Gospels with bated breath for years, and it’s everything they’ve begged for and more. Bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed by the epic, visionary tale that is The Scarlet Gospels. Barker’s horror will make your worst nightmares seem like bedtime stories. The Gospels are coming. Are you ready?