Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Clive Barker
Published by HarperCollins
It’s been a while since Clive Barker has put out anything in written form that wasn’t Abarat, so let me tell you it was a thrill to find out that not only did he have a new book on the way, but it was going to be a short one and his return to adult fiction, as it were.
Mister B. Gone is the autobiography, of sorts, of one Jakabok Botch (or Mister B for short), a demon from the ninth circle of hell who manages to get caught by a fisherman (!) and hauled up to our world. We’re told the trials of his upbringing, which included an incredibly abusive demon father, and how he became covered in burns on over 70% of his body. We’re told how he met his traveling companion and how the two of them became inseparable, committing all manner of horrific mischief on our planet’s surface for well over a century. And we’re told, over and over, to burn this book.
You see, Mr. B isn’t happy with being alive anymore. Centuries before you, the reader, picked up this infernal book, the demon became trapped inside it and is now stuck between its pages with no hope of escape other than the sweet oblivion that would come with incineration. So while he’s more than happy to tell you a tale or two of his rather interesting life, it’s all done with the promise by you, reader, to burn the damn book when the tale is at an end.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never read anything by Barker quite like this before and it was very refreshing. While at times he tends to get a bit too vague with his narrative voice, because of the very nature of Mister B. Gone said voice is crystal clear. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a fair amount of humor and light-heartedness, either.
It’s a damn quick read, too, making one wonder how so many years of being a evil, vile beast roaming the wilds of our planet could be so easily condensed in such a scant run time. Of course, the skillfulness with which the tale is told and its ability to draw you into this fascinating new vision of reality make you wish the tale would go on and on. Surely there must have been more to this demon’s life than these brief highlights?
Truly that’s the only complaint I can level against this book, too, save for one other thing. Throughout Mister B Gone, the title character hints at a secret we will eventually learn about, but man, when it hits, it’s about as disappointing as you could ask for. In fact, the whole last chunk of the book gets a bit derailed because of this discovery.
I don’t want to say it falls apart, because the observations Barker makes about the holy and the unholy and how the two relate to and deal with one another is pointed, at best, which makes the last section of the book a pretty funny chunk all things considered. But it did feel rushed in some spots, as if he had a specific deadline or page count he didn’t want to exceed, but that could just be my personal tastes.
The version of reality Mister B Gone is set in is fascinating, as well. We learn early on that the Above world has been plundering the Underground for all manner of demons for years, some for their skin, some for their horns or tails, and still some for humans’ love of sport. Hell has nine circles, each more disgusting and vile than the last, so the place Mister B comes from is obviously the worst, a world littered with garbage and the most vicious of all demons, another great twist on classic ideologies that helps set Mister B Gone apart from other books on shelves.
How does any of this tie in with The Scarlet Gospels, the book Barker’s been working on for years now to tell the final tale of Pinhead? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard there are hints here and there to events that go on in Gospels throughout Mister B Gone; I guess we’ll have to wait for the new book before we know for sure. And man what a long wait it’s been!
Mister B Gone is like no Clive Barker book that has come before and for that reason alone I can’t recommend it enough. The story has just the right balance of horror and humor, elation and sinking depression, so that you’re virtually guaranteed a good time from start to finish!
4 out of 5
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