on April 16, 2009
the dead letter room in the middle of Omaha, Randolph Jaffe has stumbled upon a secret. At first, the secret isn't clear, just vague references to something called the Art. The Art begins to consume Jaffe, taking over his life. Its secrets continue to elude Jaffe until he cracks part of the code.
The Art are laws governing an alternate reality called Quididdty. Quididdty is the dream see, the dreamscape, the magic that runs through all our fantasies. Jaffe can think of nothing else except the Art and becoming a master of it. Quididdty is his for the taking.
Taking a scientist named Fletcher under his wing to further his growing evil, Jaffe hopes to get one step closer to mastering the Art. Fletcher creates a transforming drug they call Nuncio, which uses the principals of the Art. What they don't realize is that it will become their undoing.
Fletcher realizes that Jaffe is evil and attempts to stop his plans by destroying the Nuncio. He knows that the drug is capable of transforming anyone into what ever they are most on the inside. Good becomes great. Evil becomes more so. Except, the Nuncio has other plans. It transforms Fletcher and then Jaffe into Demigods. Not content to let the other live, (after all, good must always triumph over evil) Fletcher and Jaffe engage in a battle that brings them to Palamo Grove, a small town and an ideal place to hide and rest in the earth while regaining the energy to continue fighting.
Years pass. Then something unthinkable happens. Four girls, dubbed The League of Virgins, become pregnant after swimming in a river that appeared on the edge of town. When the girls start talking of being raped in the river, gossip in the small town grows to an all time high. No one knows the truth, however, no matter how crazy the rumors.
Jaffe and Fletcher have impregnated four women in hopes of producing offspring to continue the battle they began so many years ago. Fletcher knows that he cannot allow Jaffe to gain access to the Art, to Quididdty; otherwise, it could mean the end of the world, and dreams, as we know it...
What Barker does here is create myth and he does so beautifully. It's a difficult thing to create an epic myth from the ground up, but Barker does so in "The Great and Secret Show" with such skill and mastery that you know he has a gift. The plot mentioned above doesn't even begin to describe the plot for this book. It is a big, wonderfully sprawling dive into wonderland.
What I love about books by Clive Barker is that they are usually character driven. This is also the case here. While there is a lot of focus on myth and legend here, Barker also focuses on the people filling his tale. It's a good thing he does - there is a cast of hundreds here and we get to know almost all of them through out "The Great and Secret Show". What's wonderful is that this is actually the first novel in a trilogy, The Books of Art.
I devoured this book. Quididdty now floats through my dreams and haunts my waking hours. This is an amazing book. It's a big one, but it's worth it. An amazing piece of literature, a great beginning to an epic fantasy, any way you look at it, this is an amazing read.
on November 11, 2003
This is the third book I've read by Barker. The last one, Damanation game I really did not care for, But the Thief of Always I loved. This falls somewhwere in the middle. The imagery and fable like quality of storytelling work well here. Just like almost every other Barker book, it has a healthy dose of sexuality mixed in with gore. Barker fans know what I'm talking about. First timers may find it a bit much.
Creating your own mythology is hard to pull off. Barker manages better than most who have attempted it. He slowly explains his concepts letting the reader digest what he is trying to get across one small portion at a time.
However, the characterization is hit and miss. Jaffe, the antagonist is fully developed and Barker really makes the ambiguity of the character tangible and you feel for him. But you don't realize the "true" protagonist until a good third into the book because they do not show up until then. When it does happen, the revelation seems whimsical and I found it difficult to accept. Especially when he does such a great job with Jaffe.
There is a Shakespearian element to this book that works very well and should have been the dominating element to this story. I think readers would have been satisfied with that. The love triangle and the events that led up to it are fully realized. He had enough to propel his grand scheme with just that. But the additional characters, such as the reporter and his friend were gratuitous. Maybe they play a bigger part in the sequel called "Everville."
I can see why people love this book and I can see why people hate it. Some great stuff but it's unbalanced.
on March 31, 2003
This is the fourth book I've read by barker and I think I've figured out why I haven't turned into a fan. But before I get into that, let me say that "The Show" is so far the best clive barker Book I've read (out of Imajica,Damnation game,Inhuman Condition). It is NOT the best book ever as some people on the site claim but it is good. I admit ,the simple parts of the story keeps you interested and makes you beg for more . (Good Vs.evil) (dreams vs. fears), but clive complicates things to the ninth degree with useless Sci-fi, fantasy imagery. This story like Imajica , is full of complex but underdeveloped themes. That's when I figured out why I'm not a fan.
I truly feel that great forms of art are born from simple, basic and minimal ideas that have room to grow and develop. I personally get more involved with characters and plots that develop through-out the book. The books I've read so far by Barker have themes that seemed to be complete and complex before you start reading. They don't develop, they just simply exist and you are force to accept them. Both Imajica and The Show are identical is this way. I would love for barker to take a simple premise like "envy" and develop it into a complete and concise novel. But from past experience I now know that barker would rather take "Envy" and match it up with the 4 dimensions, the end of the world and a land called Rezirdan that you can reach through sex. Lol.
With that said. I will still probably read everville but maybe not until next year sometime. I just need some simple depth out of my novels for a change.
on March 19, 2003
This is definitely an interesting book but, then again, that probably depends on what interests you. For Clive Barker fans, the story largely fits into the thematic structures he often puts to writing (notably in works like "Weaveworld" and "Imajica"). For those new to Clive Barker, his are books that you have to give a chance. Go along for the ride and realize that if you are confused by what is happening, so often are the main characters. In fact, that is often the point. Everything is not wrapped up into a nice little bundle, certainly not right away. You are given hints. You are given threads of the story along with the characters and, along with them, you will unravel those threads to get at the core elements.
The overall story uses fantastical elements (the dream-sea, called Quiddity; loops in time; a mysterious cult that worships something called the Art) but in doing so what the story is really highlighting is the secret lives that people lead and how ephemeral those lives can be, particularly when those lives are based on the superficial and fleeting pleasures (whether that be fame, money, or sex). The events in the book speak to people's deepest fears and their secret desires and how those fuel an odd melange of dreams and nightmares and how those dreams and those nightmares can define who we are and who we become. The ideas in this book flow pretty fast and furious and yet all are logically connected in my opinion. While the concepts are fantastical, the mundane setting they are placed in serves as a wonderful contrast to the events that eventually take place. The ideas behind the Quiddity and the Art that allows access to it may not satisfy fans of more science-fiction novels but, on the other hand, the elements of an odd cult, an ancient enemy and the means by which tears in the fabric of reality can bring those things together are not really in the true horror genre either. So the book sort of straddles a few elements from various literary genres and weaves what I think is a very compelling story.
If you decide to give this book a try, understand that you are getting into what is (at the time of writing this review) a two-book series. (The second book is "Everville" and a third book is ostensibly planned, although there is some debate on that, most notably from the author.) However, do not let that daunt you. The current book actually can stand on its own quite well if you decide to venture no further into Clive Barker's portrait of humanity and what might lie at right angles to reality and just beyond the veil of our dreams.
on February 10, 2003
When Randolph Jaffe applies for a job in the "Dead Letter Office" in Omaha, Nebraska he has no clue of what kind of world he is about to enter. Most of the lost letters that are brought to his office are of no importance - unless they contain money, of course. But once in a while the content of a letter suggest more than a common human will ever be able to understand. They talk about crossroads between worlds - thin spots in the fabric of reality. It doesn't take long before Randolph is totally hooked. But when he is about to be fired, a murder changes his plans completely: he now must find a crossroads - even if this means losing his life.
There is only one word strong enough to describe this book: masterpiece. Clive Barker is admired for his fantastic stories, interwoven with ... suspense, darkness and pure horror. This book is certainly no exception. But what makes this one so special is its vastness. Even when you only read the first pages, you know for sure that this is story huge - nothing less than epic; you realise immediately that you are on the verge of a mind-blowing experience.
This book is the first part of three. The second book - or The Second Book of The Art - is already available: Everville. As with The Great and Secret Show, it is an absolute treasure. Sadly enough, the third volume is not planned for the near future. Clive has explained in an interview that the third part is a real struggle: it has a tendency of growing bigger that part one and two together. This could only mean more joy, of course! So, please Clive, don't let us wait any longer!
This book should be on the shelf of every fantasy and horror lover.
on May 9, 2001
I don't believe words alone can do justice to not only this novel, but the man responsible for its making. I read a Clive Barker interview several years ago where he says he loves working with big canvases- the bigger the canvas, the more possibilities there are to create, and create he does!
There is a big, sprawling canvas set out before you here when you read this book. The characters pull you in with them, making you feel what they feel, see what they see, hear what they hear. The description of the other worlds, and the mysterious sea of Quiddity really hooked me.
Perhaps its most redeeming value is the fact that so many different strands of ideas are tossed in and jumbled up that you think he will screw up, you think there is no possible way of ending this, not without calling for a Deus Ex Machina- but he has an ace up his sleeve that he lets slide out at the perfect moment, bringing the First Book of the Art to a close.
What is very upsetting, though, is to know that Everville, the second book, is no longer in print. Which is why I am thankful I have found it through a used book dealer. The only other negative aspect of all this is to wait for the third installment to come out...and when it comes out, knowing that there won't be anymore of it.
on November 30, 2001
Like most of Barker's works, "The Great and Secret Show" is not an easy read, and is not recommended as an introduction to the fantasy/horror genre. For those who have the requisite mindset, though, this book is a jewel.
Randolph Jaffe's corruption by the Nuncio, Fletcher's pitiful attempts to stop him, Jo-Beth and Howie's ultimate star-crossed love, Tesla, Raul, Kissoon, the terata and Lix... they're all burned into the reader's mind by the force of Barker's writing. The concepts embodied in TGaSS are mind-blowing: more than once since my first reading of this book and Everville, I've found myself thinking of "the past, the future, and the dreaming moment between, all one country living one immortal day."
Barker's unconventional treatment of Christianity and homosexuality will doubtless offend some. For the more open-minded, and those with a bent for truly fantastic writing, "The Great and Secret Show" is an absolute treasure.
on July 4, 2001
In The Great and Secret Show: The first book of the Art, Clive Barker demonstrated amazing talent, from the paradoxical love between Jo-Beth and Howie, to Tesla's seeming Shaman qualities and the entirely separate meanings of Trinity. I found the book impossible to put down once I got past the first section, concentrating on the nation-wide battle between the Jaff and the Good Man Fletcher. Barker held my attention, as undevided as it could be, in the palm of his hand through the tragedy of the League of Virgins, the meeting and uniting of two people born for the purpose of continuing their fathers' life-long hate, and all the catastrophic events stemming from their meeting, until the final Show at the home of a famous comedian. I can't wait to read Everville, and greatly anticipate the publication of a third book.
on November 17, 2001
Like an old friend you will want to see this novel again and again and again even if it is only to rehash old stories. this book is truly exceptional. Not many writers can actually make you visualize settings with only words. the story, the plot or your own desire to read the novel will compel you to stay with it. Not this novel, the magic Clive barker performs by actually letting you be in the novel and feel for these characters will drag you through to the end. when you do finally complete this book you will wish that it goes on for another 1000 pages. It is truly a wonderful novel and something that will stay with you for years after you read it.
I read this book when I was in High School and I never will forget it.
READ IT AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!! You will not regret it.
on May 2, 2003
GSS is a compelling mixture of stories that only a master like Clive Barker could pull together.
Among the many stories a lucky ready will find in this book are star-crossed lovers (ala Romeo&Juliet), clashing forces of magic vs. technology, believeable characters with everyday concerns overcome by extraordinary events, "sins of the fathers", self-immolation, visits from ethereal porn stars and just to finish things off in style, a minor apocalypse that destroys the sunny California suburb of Palomo Grove. (By the way, this brief synopsis doesn't begin to cover a fraction of the characters and events in this book!)
GSS is a challenging, thought-provoking book that will definitely appeal to people who love horror stories with substance.