Sunday, April 13, 2008

Clive Barker: Mister B. Gone

Mister B. Gone, the latest dark offering from Modern Day Master of Horror Clive Barker is a short novel in which the main character, an ages-old demon named Jakabok Botch, speaks directly to the reader. He offers a bargain that is difficult to resist: anything you want in exchange for one simple favour. "Burn this book!"

Jakabok Botch is a gruesome character. He is burned beyond comprehension, which affords him the ability to walk about in the human world without being recognized as a creature of demonic origin. Botch receives his first searing at the hands of his own father, a cruel and merciless figure who schools him in the art of distrust from a very early age. In the midst of a harrowing escape from the tyranny of his parents, Botch is literally fished from the depths of hell and finds himself in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by bloodthirsty mortals.

Jakabok finds salvation in Quitoon, another demonic creature he meets along the way. Quitoon provided Jakabok with not only companionship, but also with a future. Together, they made plans to see and do great and devious things, and Jakabok was willing to follow his new friend to the very edge of existence. In many ways, their relationship is like a love story: the heinous reject finds his soul renewed and his faith restored by an intriguing and powerful stranger.

Barker has hinted that this book is somewhat autobiographical in nature, being that he feels that Jakabok Botch is representative of his dark half. While Barker has painted a a portrait of his demon complete with all its snarls and scars, the resulting image is really more piteous than it is fearsome. While Botch may be cruel, and hateful, and blasphemous, and a liar, he is also a tragic creature who appeals to the sympathetic nature of anyone who has ever been persecuted, or felt wretched, or alone.

Jakabok Botch's account of how he is able to survive in the mortal world becomes a tale of the quest he and Quitoon embark upon in search for a device which has been reported by angels and demons alike to possess the power to change the world forever. While Jakabok hasn't much interest in the world, he goes along with his volatile friend, leaving a path of bloody destruction in their wake.

The two demons are separated after Quitoon threatens Jakabok, taunting him with his impressively violent abilities. Jakabok feels betrayed by Quitoon, and begins to question whether the emotional bond that exists between them is entirely mutual. Each of them sets off alone, Quitoon in search of the mysterious device, and Jakabok Botch in search once again for meaning.

The pair are reunited in Germany, in the midst of an epic struggle between the forces of Heaven and Hell. It is here where Jakabok becomes imprisoned within the very book which tells his story. Again, the demon pleads (as he does throughout the course of the novel) with the reader to burn the book in order to end his misery. Or perhaps... to set him free?

While this novel makes for a delightful, short read, many aspects of the book seemed unfinished to me, or at least not fully realized. As always, I immensely enjoyed reading Barker's rich depictions of gory encounters, and as such, I certainly would have preferred Mr. B. Gone to have been at least twice its actual size. The concept of the novel, it's driving force (the demon speaking to you from the pages of the book, cunningly convincing you to do his bidding) is such a fresh and inventive one that I would have liked to see it explored more thoroughly than the novel's 240 pages allowed.

3/5 Kitty Skulls = Wait for this book to hit the Bargain Bin.

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