solitary_summer: (collar ((© clive barker)))

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.)

The problem thing is, however colourful the worlds he creates and the creatures he peoples them with, in all of Barker's novels his philosophy, or worldview, whatever you wish to call it, is very much in the foreground: it dictates his plots and he arranges his characters accordingly. As a consequence, there are quite a few archetypes, varied to a greater or lesser degree, and in the Abarat books, which to a certain extent lack the details and psychology of his adult novels and in comparison occasionally appear a little sketchy, almost rushed, this is more readily apparent. It's delightful to read, but there are many echoes, a recurring sense, not quite of déjà vu, but something very near. Not so much in the physical aspects of his world-building, though at times one is reminded of the worlds of the Imajica or the Books of the Art, but on the spiritual level.

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...
solitary_summer: (Default)

For many, many years he had been unable to open his mind fully to any man or woman at all, and at times it seemed to him that candour was as essential as food or affection: during most of this period he had used his diary as a kind of surrogate for the non-existent loving ear - a very poor surrogate indeed, but one that had become so habitual as to be almost necessary. He missed it now, the close-written coded book, and having stared at the fire for a while he turned full to the table. His indifferent eye fell on the note, addressed in that familiar hand, and he drew a sheet of paper towards him.

'If I no longer love Diana,' he wrote, 'what shall I do?

[Stephen in O'Brian's The Fortune of War]

"And so do you really think they're still out there, loving each other, and then being separated, and him finding her again, only to be separated again?"

"Yes. I do," Finnegan said.

"What a terrible way to live."

Finnegan considered this for a moment. "Love makes its demands, and you listen. You can't bargain with it. You can't fight it. Not if it's really love."

[Clive Barker, Abarat 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War]
solitary_summer: (candy (© clive barker))

That's all I have to do, she thought to herself. All I have to do is open my eyes.

The idea was so simple it made her weep. She could feel the tears pressing between her locked lashes and running down her cheeks.

Open your eyes, she told herself.

Clive Barker, Abarat, & probably not making much sense out of context.
solitary_summer: (Default)

[ profile] 50bookchallenge: #1: Clive Barker, Abarat
(a more formal and spoiler-free review for 50bookchallenge)

However much I love Barker's writing, in some respects it's difficult to talk about a children's / young adults' book and really do it justice, when you're past the intended age-range and have been for quite some time...

For perhaps about the first half of the book I couldn't really shake off the uneasy feeling that this was too much of an edited-for-children, simplified version of the other magical worlds Barker has created - the quiddity from The Great and Secret Show / Everville and the five dominions from Imajica. The heroine's transition from a dreary 'normal' life to some magical universe where she (re-)discovers her identity, destiny and strengths: there is, of course such a thing as an author's personal mythology, but the resemblances were a little too close for my taste. But as the world of the Abarat unfolded, the story developed a life of its own and drew me in.

It has all the things I usually love about Barker's books: the creation of a magical dream-world that isn't derived from pre-existing mythology (like Tolkien's universe) or all-too-obviously based on some historic period, like so many Fantasy worlds are; with creatures that defy species, rationalism or probability, without even trying to explain or justify this to the reader. This may sound strange coming from my mostly very (too?) rational self, but to me there's always something wonderful and inspiring about Barker's way to imagine worlds that break boundaries without even trying and defy about everything possible: laws of physics or biology, social conventions of gender roles or traditional definitions of good and evil (the latter without ever drifting off into nihilistic immoralism).

So many colourful details, such beautiful creations here... John Mischief and his brothers, Malingo, the telepathic binocular squid Squiller (:: sniff ::)... Speaking from a woman's point of view it's also extremely gratifying to have a female saviour-to-be/heroine.

Sadly it's a WIP, so to speak, barely setting the stage for Candy's adventure and introducing the protagonists. Not that I'm exactly on the edge now, waiting for the the next volume, because it's well worth reading for itself, but still... September 2004. Ah well.

Taking an educated guess at this point Candy is the reincarnation of Princess Boa, but knowing Barker, it isn't going to end with anything as straight-forward as a happy re-union with the lover of her former life, even though this is a children's book. Being familiar with Barker's work one can also tell from the beginning before it's actually being pointed out to Candy by Jimothy that the true threat isn't Christopher Carrion, disappointed, bitter and twisted by self-hatred, but ultimately capable of love (at least once) and feelings, part of the balance between light and dark, but Rojo Pixler with his ambition to define everything in terms of buying and selling and his intent on erasing the magic from the Abarat.

The book is worth buying for the artwork alone, which is simply awesome, each picture a joy too look at in its own right, not just as an illustration to the story....


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March 2013

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