The Scar­let Gospels

Pin­head comes home

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

360 pages | Hard­back/ ebook Au­thor: Clive Barker Pub­lisher: St Martin’s Press

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Pin­head, like many mon­sters be­fore him, had a tor­tured up­bring­ing. Birthed by a cre­ator who un­der­es­ti­mated his power, he was sold as a slave to a se­ries of new guardians, each more ir­re­spon­si­ble than the last, who weak­ened his po­tency ev­ery time they pa­raded him be­fore di­min­ish­ing crowds. Now the mas­ter has his hand back on the leash of his most recog­nis­able cre­ation, but is it too late?

Split into four dis­tinct “Books” sand­wiched by a pro­logue and an epi­logue, The Scar­let Gospels reads like a twisted hy­brid of The Hell­bound Heart ( the novella ver­sion of Hell­raiser) and the Books Of Blood. Harry D’Amour, the mys­ti­cal de­tec­tive who first ap­peared in Books Of Blood Vol­ume Six, is our main pro­tag­o­nist, with the open­ing Book so fo­cused on him that Pin­head devo­tees might find them­selves feel­ing dis­ap­pointed.

Dur­ing this in­tro­duc­tory stage, as D’Amour moves down the path tak­ing him to the main plot ( D’Amour’s ghost- see­ing friend gets in trou­ble, and he de­cides to help) the Ceno­bite is barely a pres­ence. But then Book Two be­gins with a lo­ca­tion change, and things tran­si­tion into the nar­ra­tive fans have al­ways ( bad) dreamed of.

Those hard­core fans will know that Pin­head was al­ways in­tended as a movie vil­lain. Barker wrote The Hell­bound Heart as a film pitch, then, af­ter his di­rec­to­rial de­but, only re­turned to this world to crit­i­cise the se­quels, and to oc­ca­sion­ally con­trib­ute to the Ceno­bite’s comic- book in­car­na­tion.

Both el­e­ments are in­flu­ences here. Gospels starts more comic­book than char­ac­ter- study, with D’Amour lurch­ing from set­piece to set­piece. It oc­ca­sion­ally reads more like Stephen King than Barker, par­tic­u­larly when ( richly- drawn) sup­port­ing char­ac­ters are in­tro­duced.

But then the nar­ra­tive tan­ta­lis­ingly opens up into the grand­est Hell­raiser movie never made. It’s ex­cit­ing, vivid and bru­tal. At one point, Barker de­scribes a col­lec­tion of – well, let’s just call them “adult toys” – as “Rang­ing in scale from in­va­sive to in­con­ceiv­able” and that’s a good way of de­scrib­ing the vi­o­lence he un­leashes.

Fast- paced, fun, but not for the faint- hearted or prud­ish, Pin­head’s home­com­ing is a de­fin­i­tive end­ing for the char­ac­ter, and one hell of a read. Sam Ashurst Barker has been vo­cal in his ha­tred for the Hell­raiser se­quels ( par­tic­u­larly In­ferno and Rev­e­la­tions) and ig­nores their events here.

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