I had an interesting Twitter conversation with friends last week about Stephen King and Clive Barker. Most of the conversation revolved around a friend who wasn’t very familiar with Barker’s works, and where he should start. I was a little surprised to see that more than a few of my friends weren’t really familiar with Barker, outside of having seen Hellraiser back in the day. Clive Barker has always been my favorite modern horror writer, and Stephen King was the gateway through which I found him.
It was Stephen King’s longer works that I never really got into, despite several attempts. While I always loved the characters he created in his longer works, I felt like the worlds themselves weren’t as interesting to visit.
I think one of Barker’s books that really encapsulates why I love him is The Thief of Always. Published in 1992, The Thief of Always is a great introduction to Clive Barker for those that aren’t familiar with him. The story is described by Barker as a fable, and its intended audience is both children and adults. It follows a ten year old boy named Harvey Swick who is bored with his life. He meets a man who tells him about a special place called Holiday House, where kids can find anything they dream of. Harvey visits Holiday House and finds out that what the man told him is true, but Holiday House is also a place that harbors a great evil, which Harvey must confront.
I won’t spoil any more of the details, except to say the story is an equal mix of the fantastical and the horrific, and a perfect example of what I love about Clive Barker. Kids will find it to be a creepy and entertaining story, while adults will likely want to start checking out more of Barker’s more mature horror stories.
I’ve said before that H.P. Lovecraft is probably my favorite horror author of all time. He, like Clive Barker, created visions of worlds that were so alien that you wondered where his inspiration came from. Clive Barker does that as well, but while Lovecraft’s worlds always created a feeling of dread, Barker always mixes in a healthy dose of wonder, and sometimes, even whimsy. In my mind, that’s what sets him apart from most.