Book Review: Cabal by Clive Barker

Cabal (Clive Barker, 1991) – Revelations of blood on his hands drive Boone into a quest for Midian, a sanctuary to the Night Breed of his dreams. Includes stories from the final volume of Books of Blood.


What’s below remains below. Before The Scarlet Gospels, we revisit the grim surrealism of the darkly bewitching Midian.



Tomorrow, Harry D’Amour will make his anticipated return at last as the last chapter of the Hellraiser mythos finds its way onto our shelves. Before The Scarlet Gospels arrive, we Clive Barker fans have a dozen of horrifically enthralling works to tide us over. To sate my need for a good read, I have chosen my personal favourite Cabal, a rare novella I find myself revisiting from time to time.

With vast imagination, Barker has such sights to show us. Weaving several fantastical worlds of immense scope, his writings open our eyes to wondrous places far beyond the fifth Dominion. To Everville, Abarat, and the depths of Hell we have thus far travelled. In Cabal, Midian draws us with its compelling exploration of the demons that reside in the hearts of men.

The butcher had created a vile resemblance. Here were the same liplessness, the same eyelessness. Born from different parents, they were siblings in death, destroyed by the same hand. And am I their father? Boone found himself thinking.

Demons take the form of torturous guilt for Aaron Boone, whose deceptive memories convince him of innocent blood on his hands. With no recollection of his alleged actions, his slipping grip on his own past torments him. An unreliable (and unstable) narrator’s perspective puts the reader on the edge of lasting uncertainty.

The nightmarish story of a sympathetic killer then takes another intriguing turn the moment he leaves his lover Lori. We now see through her eyes as she traces his footsteps with valour. Perilous secrets are uncovered by the heroine, in her engrossing pursuit after the hidden world of Midian, or the sanctuary for the Night Breed.

“All darkness was one darkness in the end. Of hearts or heavens, one darkness. Even now, in Midian, they’d be dragging back the doors of the mausoleums, knowing the starlight would not wither them.”

Casting a light on the tragic, Midian is a world for the unwanted, lonely and abandoned. Delineating the prosecution of margin groups, the monsters are persecuted victims of exile. They seek vindication, but earn no reprieve from unjust retribution. Harsh realities where fiction draws from, are extant for those who know where to look.

The vast cemetery allures with provocative truths in the guise of fantasy, seductive in all its savagery and madness. Adept prose and rich empathetic perspectives bring their residents to life. Musty smells of decay escape and unsettle from Barker’s powerful words that make one ponder upon the human condition.

Also included are four haunting short stories from the Books of Blood: The Life Of Death, How Spoilers Bleed, Twilight At The Towers and The Last Illusion. While each on its own no doubt impress to both horrify and linger, the six unique volumes deserve to be read in its brilliant entirety.


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