Friday, September 16, 2011

Abarat by Clive Barker

In anticipation of September 27, which, you know, is actually a little bit of an exciting day for fantasy publications, mostly because Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight is coming out in paperback and I’ve been staring at the hardcover for about a year now, wishing that it would come out in paperback because every single other Terry Pratchett book that I own is in paperback and at this point in time, it’s sort of good to keep the pattern, BUT, in anticipation of the release of Absolute Midnight, the third book in Clive Barker’s Abarat series for young adults on September 27, I’m going to talk about the very first one in that series, titled, sort of simply, Abarat.

My knowledge of Clive Barker comes from a few different encounters and sources, but he was kind of an author that I greatly underestimated the breadth of work for, because the first book that I read by him was his novel for young adults. It wasn’t until I was working at a secondhand bookstore that I started seeing a ton of his books coming through to the horror and genre paperback section and realized, “Oh wow, so Abarat. I guess that was just one of many.” Later, I read his introduction to one of the Sandman volumes by Neil Gaiman, and then I saw a movie that was adapted from one of this books, and it slowly all came together and gave me this picture of Clive Barker, a sort of, “Well, this is what he’s like. All of these pieces here, they fit together and give you a pretty good idea of his work.”

But Abarat was my first encounter and I absolutely loved it. It is a thick tome that contains Barker’s own artwork throughout, large oil painting that have been reproduced for the novel. They are grotesque and beautiful and horrifying (particularly one of Christopher Carrion, a man who surrounds himself with nightmares), and more than anything, they help bring Barker’s fantastical world to life.

Because Abarat itself is a world built from Barker’s imagination. It consists of twenty-five islands, each of which inhabits a different hour of the day (except for the twenty-fifth island, an hour unto itself). It makes for vivid settings, especially when you see the way that Barker himself conceives of each hour of the day when he begins to flesh it out into an island, its inhabitants, mood, and atmosphere. The reader encounters this new world at the same time female protagonist Candy Quakenbush does. After lighting the lamp in the lighthouse at the edge of Chickentown, her home, Candy summons the Sea of Izabella from the parallel world of Abarat and journeys there by ship. She’s given an introduction to the islands and then the book is set up for her exploration, one that she shares with readers.

Abarat was followed up by Days of Magic, Nights of War, and now, seven years after that publication, the third book is being released (Barker has mentioned before that there will be five books in the series). And it was kind of a long wait.

When that third book comes out, I’m kind of looking really forward to it. And there will definitely be a review on here. Between the writing and the images, there’s really nothing but stunning imagery throughout. And there are still a few weeks to catch up before the new one gets here.  

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