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The Great and Secret Show (Book of the Art, No. 1) Hardcover – January 1, 1989

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row (January 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394479424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060162764
  • ASIN: 0060162767
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Early in his new epic novel, Barker describes the thoughts of one of his characters as "barbaric and baroque"--and the words fairly sum up the book. Down-and-outer Randolph Jaffe works in the dead-letter office in Omaha. Reading through the mass of mail, he finds clues to an alternative reality, the laws of which are called "the Art." Mastering these principles, he becomes powerful but evil, and presses into service a man named Fletcher, who synthesizes a transforming drug, the Nuncio. Later understanding the corrupting nature of his creation, Fletcher rebels against Jaffe, and the two, now demigods, engage in a cosmic struggle. To enlist allies, each sires offspring (using the seed of mortal men), and their spiritual children help to carry on the bizarre battle. Though diverting, the novel is something of a potboiler, and despite its pervasive horrific imagery, it fails even to frighten us--or invite us to suspend disbelief. This is the first book of a projected trilogy. 100,000 first printing; $125,000 ad/promo; Preferred Choice Book plan main selection; author tour.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Englishman Barker's latest novel, the first part of a trilogy, is an ambitious fantasy/horror fusion of dazzling scope which stands alone as a complete story. Nebraska postal clerk Randolph Jaffe works in the Dead Letter Room, opening and inspecting loads of undeliverable U.S. mail. Soon, through a series of cryptic dead letters, he taps into an ethereal network of mysterious revelations which provides access to enormous power channels. The customary battle of light forces versus dark forces commences, with greedy Jaffe heading the latter, and mad yet philanthropic scientist Richard Fletcher representing the former. Despite occasional and convenient lapses into nonsensical elements of fantasy which characterize too much of the genre, this original, intelligent treatment of a complex idea by the author of The Damnation Game ( LJ 5/15/87) and Weaveworld ( LJ 10/15/87) is amazingly believable and compulsively readable. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/89.
- Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Clive Barker was born in Liverpool in 1952. He is the worldwide bestselling author of the Books of Blood, and numerous novels including Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, Sacrament and Galilee. In addition to his work as a novelist and short story writer he also illustrates, writes, directs and produces for the stage and screen. His films include Hellraiser, Hellbound, Nightbreed and Candyman. Clive lives in Beverly Hills, California.

Customer Reviews

I am looking forward to reading Everville now as a sequal to this book.
Lewis Woolston
I could not put the book down, it is definitely a book that you only read when you don't have to go to work next day.
Lyndall Buxton
Please Mr. Barker, write another "Show" for us and make us marvel at it's beauty once more.
art trofe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Naomi J McGavin on January 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By sleeper30 on February 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer X on November 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
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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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey P. Nau on April 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
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'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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Nyman on March 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
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.
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