Finished Clive Barker's Abarat 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War yesterday, after having re-read the first part, and... ::conflicted sigh:: I generally love Barker's writing, and as with the first part, the artwork alone is worth buying the book, but it's impossible for me to appropriately review a children/young adults' book in the way it deserves to be reviewed; I can't help my age... much of what I might say would effectively come down to complaining that it isn't an adult novel. (Or, more precisely, that it isn't the third of the Books of the Art, which I really, really wish he'd get around to writing some day, and which I feel the world of the Abarat is perhaps closest to.)
I liked reading it, but only towards the end was I really drawn into it; then again, at thirty-two I'm obviously not part of the target audience. None of the characters so far have really fascinated me, or made me care for their fate, with the exception of Christopher Carrion. As a rule, I'm not automatically drawn to the villains of any given book, but he is by far the most psychologically complex and most interesting character here, and the only one to evoke any real sympathy in me. Not that I expect a happy ending for him (indeed at this point I'm hoping that Barker has not, in fact, already killed him), but I kind of wish he might be granted a Barker-esque final moment of insight and be allowed to see beyond the limitations imposed by his mind and his pain. On the other hand, Finnegan, for all we're being told what a wonderful a man he is, so far has left me singularly cold, and I can't help wondering whether Barker will maintain his interest in the Finnegan/Boa-Candy romance any more or any longer than in the Howie/Jo-Beth romance of The Great and Secret Show, thoroughly de-constructed in Everville. Somehow I doubt the final book will end with wedding bells.
But in spite of all this, one thing I always admire in Barker's writing, apart from its genuine spirituality, is the sheer scope of imagination, the careless ease with which he breaks through all conceivable boundaries: of life and death, imagination and reality, gender and species. I'm very simply in awe of the infinite variety of shapes and colours of the worlds he creates, because this kind of imagination is something my mind totally lacks; I'm thankful I can at least appreciate it. My mind (by nature, through education, or both) works along too rigidly logical, too scientific lines. I've never really been tempted to write fiction of any kind, and in the one or two cases where I played with a fanfiction scenario in my mind, it was because a character's psychology or the psychology of a relationship, insufficiently explored by the show, fascinated me: and there's the analytical approach again. I can't seem to escape it.
On a side-note, Barker will know best what he's doing, but personally I can't even begin to imagine how this will translate into a Disney movie, of all things. The criticism of capitalism, sterile rationalism, uniformity and death of imagination personified by the book-burning Rojo Pixler, who is presented as a worse threat to the balance and continued existence of the Abarat then Christopher Carrion's plots for eternal midnight... And in view of the climate prevalent in the US today, I certainly don't envy him the decision and struggle with the Disney executives of whether or not to include not only an explicitly (rather than subtextual) gay character, but a practically married gay couple. I wonder, what, if any, photograph, Two-Toed Tom will be allowed to show in the movie...