In the Flesh by Clive Barker

In the Flesh

Terrifying and forbidding, subversive and insightful, Clive Barker's groundbreaking stories revolutionized the worlds of horrific and fantastical fiction and established Barker's dominance over the otherworldly and the all-too-real. Here, as two businessmen encounter beautiful and seductive women and an earnest young woman researches a city slum, Barker maps the boundless...

Title:In the Flesh
Author:
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Edition Language:English

In the Flesh Reviews

  • Fabian

    The manifestation of evil, "in the flesh" is the theme that unites all 4 novellas in this early Barker work.

    The highlight here is, undoubtedly, "THE FORBIDDEN". This is the basis for what is perhaps the MOST UNDERRATED HORROR FILM OF ALL TIME: Bernard Rose's "Candyman." The story itself, 60 pages that really do chill the blood, I've penciled in on a list of the best short stories ever. It is melancholia wrapped in detective noir, supernatural urban legend; a human investment into something large

    The manifestation of evil, "in the flesh" is the theme that unites all 4 novellas in this early Barker work.

    The highlight here is, undoubtedly, "THE FORBIDDEN". This is the basis for what is perhaps the MOST UNDERRATED HORROR FILM OF ALL TIME: Bernard Rose's "Candyman." The story itself, 60 pages that really do chill the blood, I've penciled in on a list of the best short stories ever. It is melancholia wrapped in detective noir, supernatural urban legend; a human investment into something larger than the self. Helen, the doomed protagonist, looks for an interesting thesis in walls exploded with urban symbols: graffiti. The residents of a dilapidated city complex are all in on a secret conspiracy. The killer mesmerizes, comes from the realms of hell, literally. The personification is so complete in this study on urban decay. The myth baring a hook is more effective than Pinhead! The last paragraph plagues the reader with worry: it seems so possible that evil exists, is indeed a human disease made up of interior and exterior traumas. I almost cried for Helen.

    I read "The Forbidden" and felt immediately that Horror is alive and well (true-this comes to us from the 80s... but one has the instinct to hope). Stephen King's constant praises for the British author are not without substantiation. Barker can write circles around King: he practices brevity, brings out strong sexual themes (which of course soon delve into absolute terror), has an outright, singular poetic penmanship. The other stories are pretty good, too. The story about the Candyman, a must read for all aspiring writers, was an A+. The rest involve a doorway to hell in a prison with no relatable characters (B), a sick gender-bending misadventure in a satanic spa (B-) and bizzarro geriatric oracles in Greece (C+).

  • Traveller

    This has been my first Clive Barker read, and I was very pleasantly surprised by it.

    From what I had heard of Barker before, I had assumed his work was in the gory blood porn genre. As such I was never very interested in trying out any of his work, since the more trashy kind of cheap thrills that Stephen King used to grind out in his earlier years, really never did sit well with me. Neither does the kind of horror that features sexy teenagers being systematically mangled by homicidal maniacs (us

    This has been my first Clive Barker read, and I was very pleasantly surprised by it.

    From what I had heard of Barker before, I had assumed his work was in the gory blood porn genre. As such I was never very interested in trying out any of his work, since the more trashy kind of cheap thrills that Stephen King used to grind out in his earlier years, really never did sit well with me. Neither does the kind of horror that features sexy teenagers being systematically mangled by homicidal maniacs (usually with very long butcher's knives) .

    On the contrary, the volume I’ve just finished is a small collection of short stories that is intelligent, imaginative and satirical dark fantasy, the likes of which you see in the work of authors like Ray Bradbury and Gene Wolfe, with just a touch of a Lovecraftian sense of the macabre and a dollop of Kafka’s sense of the absurd.

    A trademark feature seems to be that the stories start off with a very commonplace scenario, where everything is sane and normal, and as commonplace as the routine you or I experience every day as we set off to work or school.

    Gradually a sense of weirdness starts to encroach as the stories progresss;- in some cases it works well, though in

    it did not work for me at first. At first glance it seemed like a childish attempt at painting a horror figure, and I think this is a clue as to how the picture of Barker as a cheap thrill goremonger might have evolved.

    However, after reading the rest of the stories, I realised that Barker’s works work on two levels. Despite throwing in a few bones for the cheap thrill junkies, (some of them being decidedly gore-less, nevertheless), there is a lot of social commentary and satire going on in the background.

    I had a squiz at the plot of the movie

    which was based on

    , and there it was obvious to me that the hidden theme was distorted and ignored in the film – its maker opting to put it into the slasher genre. (I’ll bet they made more money that way).

    The actual theme originally intended by Barker, (besides a bit of a poke at the snobbish one-upmanship always to be found in intellectual/academic circles) seemed pretty obviously to me, to be a working of the theme that there is nothing worse for the human psyche than to be ignored, impotent, ridiculed, and/or nondescript, since everybody needs their existence validated somehow. For some the issue is important enough as to even draw attention to themselves in negative ways, as long as it means they get attention, of whatever kind.

    The Candyman is a symbol of the allure of fame or notoriety, and Helen withstands this allure for a while, though she succumbs at the very end. Earlier in the story, other characters also succumbed to the Candyman, by telling sensationalist lies and …*censored for spoilers*.

    The story also offers an effortless juxtaposition of the contrasting worlds of people living on the edges of society, with that of snobbish university circles.

    Barker delivers his double message cleverly enough camouflaged that sadly, a lot of people probably do dismiss works like The Forbidden as simply being of the horror “slasher” genre.

    is a wonderfully imaginative tale of ambiguity, which touches on relationship and gender issues, but overall delivers a delightful sense of the weird and macabre that only a Kafka or Lovecraft can match, yet delivered in pleasantly muted tones which makes it an enjoyable read.

    is a delightful little comic satire displaying Barker’s disdain for world politics.

    was probably the story that touched me the most deeply and remained with me the longest, even managing to find it’s way into my dreams. I found myself identifying and empathizing with the characters in this one. Some of the story actually seems to have come from a dreamworld itself, and is guaranteed to please lovers of dark fantasy who enjoy exploring the landscapes of dream and psyche.

    My interest has definitely been piqued, so I will be reading more Barker soon.

    EDIT: (later) After reading some earlier Barker, I wasn't quite as impressed. It seems that his later, more mature works are definitely an improvement on his earlier fare.

  • Marvin

    This was the American edition of the last tales of the Book of Blood. Barker managed to keep the quality high right to the end. After this, he concentrated on novels until he gravitated from horror to fantasy. I prefer these early works to anything later. There is a deep dark and very visceral feel to these stories.

  • Sarah Mcleod

    Probably my favourite part of all the books of blood, they seem to get better as they go on

  • Tobin Elliott

    I'm still finding the quality increases as I work through the volumes. But I have to say, though it doesn't say much, there was one quote that I found quite chilling, from the story

  • Wendle

    The second story was the one i’d been waiting for–The Forbidden. Much of it was familiar to me, having seen the Candyman film enough times. The creepy vibe of the film, and the Candyman himself in particular, came through in satisfying ways. But the story created even more, i think, than the film. The eerie, isolated feeling of the housing estate and the peculiar social structure are such banal things, but increase the macabre feeling in the story intensely. It draws on similar themes to

    The second story was the one i’d been waiting for–The Forbidden. Much of it was familiar to me, having seen the Candyman film enough times. The creepy vibe of the film, and the Candyman himself in particular, came through in satisfying ways. But the story created even more, i think, than the film. The eerie, isolated feeling of the housing estate and the peculiar social structure are such banal things, but increase the macabre feeling in the story intensely. It draws on similar themes to

    , but with more of a horror twist and i loved it.

    With not one story i didn’t enjoy, compared to the 700+ novel that failed to engage me, it’s clear Barker is a far, far more accomplished short story teller. While i’m unlikely to pick up one of his novels, i won’t hesitate to jump into another of his short story collections.

    A longer review can be read at my book blog:

    .

  • Chris_P

    This was the first Barker for me and, simply put, I liked it a lot. I always kind of thought that Barker was all about extreme gore which isn't quite what I ask of horror literature but since this book happened to come to my possession, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did because my initial impression couldn't be further from the truth.

    This volume consists of four dark and atmospheric stories. Atmosphere is definitely a key word here. Barker takes his time building it before he takes the

    This was the first Barker for me and, simply put, I liked it a lot. I always kind of thought that Barker was all about extreme gore which isn't quite what I ask of horror literature but since this book happened to come to my possession, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did because my initial impression couldn't be further from the truth.

    This volume consists of four dark and atmospheric stories. Atmosphere is definitely a key word here. Barker takes his time building it before he takes the final blow rewarding the reader for the lack of purely scary stuff. I think that that's what makes a horror story good. It doesn't necessarily have to be scary in a raw way. As long as the plot develops in the right manner with respect to the reader, avoiding what I call convenient improbabilities, it's succesful as far as I'm concerned. Of course, I don't mean to say that these particular stories aren't creepy (they definitely are) or that they didn't send shivers down my spine (they did). What I mean is that, short as they may be, they certainly are complete. They're not meant to simply make you feel disgust or shocked, but they are rather character-driven.

    Comparisons with Stephen King are inevitable and although there are some obvious similarities, Barker seems to have developed a unique style of his own, equally haunting and riveting. This is obvious in all four stories, all of which I almost equally liked. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say

    which is one of the best horror stories I've ever read in general.

    So, first contact with Barker was succesful and I'll most likely be coming back for more.

  • Δημήτρης

    Έχοντας διαβάσει μόνο το Hellraiser μέχρι στιγμής από τον Clive Barker, αποφάσισα να βρω κάποιο από Τα Βιβλία του Αίματος που ξέρω ότι θεωρούνται εξαιρετικά. Πράγματι η γραφή του Barker είναι πολύ καλή και καθηλώνει, γι' αυτό άλλωστε τελείωσα αυτό το βιβλίο σε μία μέρα. Οφείλω να πω επίσης πως όλοι οι χαρακτήρες που παρουσιάζονται είναι πολύ καλοδουλεμένοι και ας έχουν χώρο δράσης 50 σελίδες πάνω-κάτω στην κάθε ιστορία.

    Αλλά! Υπάρχει ένα αλλά. Αν και διάβασα ευχάριστα τις ιστορίες οι 3 από τις 4

    Έχοντας διαβάσει μόνο το Hellraiser μέχρι στιγμής από τον Clive Barker, αποφάσισα να βρω κάποιο από Τα Βιβλία του Αίματος που ξέρω ότι θεωρούνται εξαιρετικά. Πράγματι η γραφή του Barker είναι πολύ καλή και καθηλώνει, γι' αυτό άλλωστε τελείωσα αυτό το βιβλίο σε μία μέρα. Οφείλω να πω επίσης πως όλοι οι χαρακτήρες που παρουσιάζονται είναι πολύ καλοδουλεμένοι και ας έχουν χώρο δράσης 50 σελίδες πάνω-κάτω στην κάθε ιστορία.

    Αλλά! Υπάρχει ένα αλλά. Αν και διάβασα ευχάριστα τις ιστορίες οι 3 από τις 4 δε μου προσέφεραν κάτι. Ειδικά η 1η και η 3η. Η 2η είχε κάποιο ενδιαφέρον αλλά και πάλι μέχρι εκεί.

    Και ξαφνικά σκάει η 4η ιστορία, η "Με Σάρκα και Οστά" και λέω εδώ είμαστε. Πραγματικά ήταν μια εξαιρετική ιστορία ανάμεσα στη ζωή και το θάνατο και στον ύπνο και τον ξύπνιο που σε αρπάζει και δε σε αφήνει. Αν ήταν μόνο αυτή η ιστορία θα έβαζα ένα ολοκάθαρο 5.

  • Mohammed

    مرة أخرى مع الشيف المتمكن كليف باركر وسَلَطة رعب تحتوي على جميع عناصر أدب الرعب الحقيقي، لا أعتقد أنها ستخيب ظنك.الغموض موجود، التشويق كذلك، شيء من الرمزية، رشّة أفكار مبتكرة وكل ذلك على طبق من الأجواء الكابوسية القاتمة. تحتوي المجموعة على أربع قصص مروعة:

    المُحرّم: عن قاتل شبه بشري يفتك بالأطفال والكبار على حد سواء. يتجنب سكان الحي الحديث عنه ويخشونه كما يخشون الشيطان ذاته. أثرت فيّ أجواء الرواية التي تدور في حي رث، حيث الشُقق المهجورة والإشاعات المتوجسة وثمة كتابات على الحائط تلمح إلى شيء أقل من

    مرة أخرى مع الشيف المتمكن كليف باركر وسَلَطة رعب تحتوي على جميع عناصر أدب الرعب الحقيقي، لا أعتقد أنها ستخيب ظنك.الغموض موجود، التشويق كذلك، شيء من الرمزية، رشّة أفكار مبتكرة وكل ذلك على طبق من الأجواء الكابوسية القاتمة. تحتوي المجموعة على أربع قصص مروعة:

    المُحرّم: عن قاتل شبه بشري يفتك بالأطفال والكبار على حد سواء. يتجنب سكان الحي الحديث عنه ويخشونه كما يخشون الشيطان ذاته. أثرت فيّ أجواء الرواية التي تدور في حي رث، حيث الشُقق المهجورة والإشاعات المتوجسة وثمة كتابات على الحائط تلمح إلى شيء أقل من إدراكك وتحكي أكثر مما تود معرفته. سبق أن شاهدت فلم "Candyman" المبني على هذه القصة، وكاد أن يكون رائعا لولا أنني لم استسغ الممثل الذي أدى دور القاتل، لا من ناحية المظهر ولا من ناحية الأداء.

    السيدة: يظن سمسار العقارات بأنه سيحقق صفقة العمر ببيعه مجمّع مسابح قديم لمستثمر سيء السمعة. يوشك الأثنان على الوصول لاتفاق مُربح لولا تلك الفتاة التي يلمحها المستثمر في ظلمة المبنى العتيق، فيقرر العودة لوحده كي يبحث عنها. تنهار بعد ذلك أحلام صديقنا السمسار فلا يسلم من غضب المستثمر ولا من لعنة المسبح. عشاق الرعب سيجد خيالهم المضطرب سلامه المنشود في الممرات الحلزونية المعتمة لمبنى المسبح، وسيتنصب شعرهم من الويل المتواري في المسبح الكبير.

    أبناء بابل: تنويع على نظرية المؤامرة والتساؤل العبثي: من يحكم العالم ويصوغ كل هذه الصراعات العشوائية والتحالفات الكاذبة؟ تتوه السائحة في جزيرة جميلة فتجد نفسها في معتقل من نوع خاص، تحرسه راهبات لهن شوارب ولحى، ويقدمون فيه للنزيل بيتزا طازجة وعلى رأسه مدير ودود يقدم لضيوفه شوكلاتة سويسرية. المهم ألا تسول لك نفسك الهروب من ذلك السجن وإلا فلا تلومن إلا ذاتك.

    الكيان: هذه المرة يحبسنا باركر بين أربعة جدران حيث يٌكلّف السجين المخضرم بحماية "العود الطري" الذي وفد حديثا، ستحترم السجين القديم وتتعاطف مع الآخر المستضعف حتى تكشف الأسرار المدفونة في مقبرة السجن، عندها ستتعاطف مع الأول ولن يكون شعورك محددا تجاه الثاني. تتضمن القصة فكرة النبؤات المفزعة عن طريق الأحلام، واستحضار الموتى البائدين طلبا لمعونتهم. قصة تجثم على النفوس، لأن المصائر الفظيعة فيها حتمية، وخيارات الشخصيات محدودة أو معدومة.

    لقارئ الرعب الذي لم يقرأ شيئا لباركر حتى الآن: أنت تفوت على نفسك الكثير من الفزع!

  • Niki

    Surprise surprise, another 5-star read from mr. Barker to me.

    What was a surprise, though, was "The Madonna", the first story in the entirety of "Books of Blood" (that I've read so far; I still have volume 6 to read) that I found to be an anticlimax. The buildup was amazing, the elements were all there, but then it just... deflated when The Madonna herself made her appearance. (Also...

    Ugh) Hey, just one story out of the 25 in the five volumes is an amazing ra

    Surprise surprise, another 5-star read from mr. Barker to me.

    What was a surprise, though, was "The Madonna", the first story in the entirety of "Books of Blood" (that I've read so far; I still have volume 6 to read) that I found to be an anticlimax. The buildup was amazing, the elements were all there, but then it just... deflated when The Madonna herself made her appearance. (Also...

    Ugh) Hey, just one story out of the 25 in the five volumes is an amazing ratio. I'm cool with it.

    So my least favourite was "The Madonna", and my most favourite would have to be "The Forbidden". It was SO GOOD.


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