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The Great and Secret Show
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 1999
This, simply put, is one of the best books ever written. The characters are well drawn out, the plot never stops twisting, and there is more imagination put into the inventions in this book than in any other two. It is not a hardcore horror novel but there are some interesting, cerebral scares nonetheless. Clive is able to create other worlds and conventions so efforlessly that concepts like The Art, The Shoal, and Quiddity seem commonplace once you are done the book. The characters got to be so familiar that I couldn't wait to read Everville (also mind-bogglingly amazing) so I could revisit old friends and places. If you want to introduce yourself to Barker or are already familiar with his work and haven't read this novel, you WILL buy this book.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2010
Quite simply the best book I've ever read. Admittedly, it's my first Barker book, but as a huge literary horror fan (lovecraft, matheson, young koontz, etc), I found myself absolutely redefining my expectations of what the genre of horror fantasy can be. Clive paints uniquely searing, vivid, and psychedelic events and unforgettable characters, combined with a relentless pace that kept me absolutely obsessed for 658 pages. Clive's ability to tell a sweeping, encompassing horror-fantasy epic in such an easily readable, yet profoundly moving and contemplative way, is testimony to the fact that he is eons ahead of any other horror and/or fantasy writer today, and has truly earned the title the back of the book praises him with, a master storyteller. The only drawback to this book is for those unfamiliar and uncomfortable with Clive's style of unapologetic in-your-face descriptions, including: erotica, love, horror, incest, murder, bestiality, gore, dreams, nightmares, etc. If, however, you are ready to hear one of the greatest stories of good and evil ever told without averting your eyes, it's a crime not to read this book. A timeless classic that trumps any other story I've ever read. On to Everville!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2005
This is a masterpiece of imagination from Barker. Randolph Jaffe was a failure post office employee who wanted to be big, but ended up small. Along with his co-workers he started opening mail and, in doing so, found a secret that another world existed besides ours. Thus, he went to find this world and with it the power to rule. Not learning anything from his own miserable life, he mistreated the power to create evil. Thus he opened the gates to our own world and created a battle of chaos. Superb.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2005
This story is truly brilliant in so many parts, and I've read a lot of stuff-Thomas Hardy, Margaret Atwood, Mary Shelley, yadda yadda. I've read a lot of crap too. But The Great and Secret Show stands out in ways that have stayed with me ever since I read it. He's no Lord Byron (duh, who the hell is) but he's a damn fine writer, and his works are rarely boring. The man has ways of conjuring up images and elements and ideas that, no matter how bizarre or trivial, flow together seamlessly with all the horror and the macabre. The ideas of the dead-letter office, the deserted crossroads, the hole beneath the lake where this inhuman battle is raging (and where the young girls go to swim, being watched by the boy) are all mysterious and give rise to these inexplicable feelings of lonliness, poignancy, and a violent clash of nature's beauty, innocence, and mankind's potential for unimaginable violence and destruction. I loved the way it all came together. I really loved the idea that a "loop of time" had been created in the desert through an old atomic bomb test, and this, along with certain other elements, were only available to certain souls with certain ways of seeing. The pastoral and quiet suburban subdivisions that are teeming with evil and violence underneath almost bring elements of David Lynch's Eraserhead and Blue Velvet to mind. And last but not least, with evil being represented by "mountains and flies"...and the way that this all is described in a way only Barker can think up...it's all simply beautiful.

As a side note: Barker sometimes gets criticized for having homosexual characters in his books, a large portion of which TGASS's are-but that's not the problem. What is: well, events like Tess' incident with the gun at the mall, for example (borderline "Resident Evil", for crying out loud), and the stuff with the evil Kissoon and his bodily fluids (just overblown). He was creepy and inhuman enough without all that.

I guess the bottom line is that if you're able to get past some of that cheesy crap, you'll find these aforementioned gems more than worth it. It's a great read and very hard to put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2000
Clive Barker is the most innovative as well as the most vivid imaginitive fiction writer i know of. His characters spring to life and stay with you even after youve set the book aside. You can tell Clive cares about his characters and that he is sharing his personal Visions with us. The best writers and writings come from the heart. I Have enjoyed this book each of the 3 times i have read it since its first release. I also reccomend Galilee.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2010
Barker provides us with an electrifying and engrossing tale.

This is not science fiction and is barely a fantasy. Its roots seem closer to surrealism and to the drawings of H.R. Giger. Barker wrote the introduction for Giger's Necronomicon, and in doing so revealed his own values, which are central to the narration of The Great and Secret Show.

It may seem flippant, but The Great and Secret Show is a unique fantasy that seems close in its architecture to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Mitchell wrote a masterpiece of human characterization. We all know people like the characters she drew, and we can accurately predict how they will respond in the situations they find themselves. What Barker has done is give us attitudes, moods, and powerful feelings, especially jealousy and resentment, which are personified by the characters in a way that engages our minds almost obsessively.

There's a Shakespearean strength and mastery of human personality in The Great and Secret Show. It even hints and warns us, with an almost humorous wisdom, about the critical differences between the gods and mortals. He lectures us, very convincingly, that the isles of Ephemeris and the far side of the Sea of Quiddity are and should be beyond us.
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