Mister B Gone by Clive Barker
|Mister B Gone by Clive Barker|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A demon reluctantly testifies to what he found when he crossed Europe in the middle ages. A great conceit, but a bit of a mixed bag otherwise.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 2007|
|External links: Author's website|
There are two elements to this book. First, the story told by a demon who travels with a friend in the middle ages, finding a great invention and world-shattering truths. The second element is when I sat on my front room couch yesterday and read it all.
To begin with, then. Jakabok Botch is a bit of a lesser demon, to say the least. With none of the incendiary skills of those demons of higher breeding, closer in bloodline to the First Fallen, he lives with his vicious father and family on the ninth circle of Hell. He's unremarkable, apart from the rare fluke of having two tails, and being horribly scarred from when his father dumped him into a fire in the back garden - close to the rubbish tips.
One day, however, he enacts the complete opposite of a fallen angel, when he becomes a risen demon. Surfacing somewhere in Europe in the 14th century he finds the people responsible not exactly friendly (although they do speak perfect twenty-first century English). Luckily he can despatch one of them with enough gore to remind one you are reading a horror book.
After some nookie (not for him) and some blood-letting (some of his, some by him) Jakabok finds the mysterious Quitoon, and the two form a brilliant friendship. They agelessly travel the continent for a hundred years or more, killing and maiming, and with Quitoon living out his hobby of observing the human race through all their scientific discoveries and inventions. The most earth-shattering of which (while completely guessable) leads to a great untold truth about Life being revealed.
But to the second element, and while I wouldn't normally describe my reading the book - it stands as given surely that I read it all before submitting anything to this website - it has to be said it is completely contrary to the actual novel.
For, you see, Jakabok himself is the narrator, and a most reluctant one at that. Indeed he starts, finishes and interrupts his novel with pressing demands for us to burn the book - torch it; tear it up and let it meet a match. At times he is gruesomely committed in pestering us, at other times promising delights if we only play along. I, then, didn't.
It is this conceit of the book that is truly unique. I can't think of any other novel that talks to the reader in such a straightforward, chatty way and describes how much it doesn't want to be read. It might sound all post-modern and unnecessary, but trust me it is a great device.
Especially when it has to be said a lot of the rest is merely quite good, or fair to middling. To be generous, a few scenes - the ascent, the climactic encounter with he who changes the world - are quite memorable, but the writing isn't of exactly a glorious standard. The jokes are good but very forgettable, and on reflection the main plot that Jakabok is so reluctant to divulge can come across as either a few well-linked short stories, or just meandering along in a light fantasy way with occasional drops into gore.
Yes, Jakabok promises he isn't a story-teller, or a liar, and that he can't give anything a pat ending, but we never find out why Quitoon is around and takes Mister B along with him, and other strands, characters and elements also leave us with unanswered questions.
There are more heinous sins elsewhere, however. The book has been dreadfully proof-read. Lightning features, I think, four times, and is spelled lightening three of them. Bits some sentences read with a word too many as if a correction was added rather than properly made, and characters are given both definite and indefinite articles (see what I did there?). Errant punctuation and just dodgy syntax really quite painfully drag you away from the story at times and into the real world. Considering this book is mostly about the power in words, whether good or evil, and that Jakabok has waited over five hundred years for this story to come out, it just isn't on.
What should dump you in the real world is the voice of Jakabok narrating the story as you read along, and his vicious threats are quite spooky in a fun way. They are why I would recommend this book to any horror fans as it really is a USP that demands a look. And why they have to be taken with a pinch of salt - we can't believe he will successfully stop his story with even fifty pages left any more than you can believe I read this book on *your* yesterday - they are great fun.
The rest of the book is a reasonable tale, with a few elements of horror, a couple of laughs and a good fantasy feel, but nothing matches the enjoyment of defying Jakabok. A recommendation, then, but not a wholehearted one. I would still like to thank the publishers for sending the site a copy to read, but slapped wrists - if they had spent as much time on the proof-reading as the sleeve they would have had a whole half a Bookbag star more.
For those wanting to read a different approach to the evil-in-words theme, more gory horror can be found here.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mister B Gone by Clive Barker at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mister B Gone by Clive Barker at Amazon.com.
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Sandra Cooper said:
I didn't enjoy this book at all and found it juvenile and badly written. But......is it at all possible that all the punctuation mistakes and syntax errors etc. could have been Clive Barker's last joke? Maybe these errors were a symptom of the book being daemon possessed? Jakabok Botch was, after all intrinsic to the ink and print itself? Just a thought- still didn't like it! Sandra Cooper