Much has been written in the press and by longtime fans of Clive Barker about The Scarlet Gospels. Not all of it has been good, either. In fact, this novel has been met mostly with cries of disappointment and sometimes even anger. I have never read anything by Barker before so I went into this with an open mind. Whilst I am not familiar with the books, I am familiar with the Hellraiser movies and the mythos created by Barker.
The Scarlet Gospels is a curious novel and it is one that I’m not entirely sure knows what it wants to be. Is it a horror novel? Yes, and there are many scenes of horror as the Hell Priest (Pinhead) embarks upon a quest to rule Hell, flaying all who cross his path, even Satan’s own. But, on the other hand, The Scarlet Gospels has much in common with the works of dark fantasy. The characters have a sort of comic book like feel to them and some of the world-building is very fantasy-esque. There is a definite cinematic feel to it that I get with a lot of fantasy books, too.
The two main characters are (obviously) the Hell Priest and supernatural detective, Harry D’ Amour. The Hell Priest is great and if you’ve seen the movies there will be an instant connection to Doug Bradley’s portrayal. He is ruthless and sadistic. Sadly, D’Amour is a little two-dimensional as is everybody else given time on the page, but hey! I came here for people to be eviscerated and tortured beyond belief, and I was pretty stoked with what I got.
Overall, I think the pacing was great. Things start off well and continue on an upward trajectory throughout. Pinhead (I’m done with writing Hell Priest), steals every scene and though his final battle is a little underwhelming, generally, I really enjoyed everything else.
I can’t make the comparison to Barker’s previous books because I haven’t read them. I thought the writing was good, without ever being spectacular and to be honest if it wasn’t for the name on the cover, one does wonder if the book would still garner as much attention, after all, war in Hell is hardly anything new for the average horror reader. The Scarlet Gospels is a fun read, full of gore, demons and quite often some cool dialogue. It isn’t mind-blowing, but then I didn’t expect it to be either.
3.5/5 spilled organs from the Grim Reader.
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