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Sacrament Hardcover – July, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A boy has an encounter with a man who causes extinctions of other species, so he grows up to be a man who documents (and thus appeals for a halt to) those extinctions. This dark fantasy tale is unlike Clive Barker's other recent ones: it is more tightly plotted, and more of this world. In a sequence of well-executed stories within stories (comparable to Russian dolls), Barker unfolds a compelling examination of what it means to be human, to be a man, and to be a gay man--on a planet where aging, disease, and death bring "the passing of things, of days and beasts and men he'd loved." A satisfying long novel packed with vivid images, memorable characters, and a melancholy mood that reaches for hope. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A giant of horror strides toward mainstream fiction in this awesome but skewed novel. Not that Barker (Everville, etc.) has forsaken the fantastic and outre; but here, the premier metaphysician of dark fantasy mutes his usually riotous imagery, placing it in the service of an elegy for the natural world. He also creates his first proudly gay hero, Will Rabjohns, celebrated for his photographs of endangered species. Will's profession, as well as his sojourns in San Francisco's gay community, reflect the themes of the novel?creation and, above all, extinction, both of animals and of humans, especially of gay men through AIDS. The story opens with Will being mauled by a polar bear and plunging into a coma from which he recalls his boyhood in England. In flashback, Will meets Steep, a gaunt, inhuman creature clad in human form, and Steep's lethal, lamia-like partner, Rosa. Steep's passion is to snuff species into extinction; his mate's, to give birth to her and Steep's progeny. Awakening from his coma, Will travels to S.F., then to England for an apocalyptic climax at a hovel inhabited by lost species and souls. Barker's prose is as fertile as always, and his characters are rubbed raw with life and death; but the story line lacks the narrative urgency and grand arcs of his other works. The symbolism can be strained at times. Likewise, despite the thematic paste, the gay and fantasy elements don't bond well, though both provoke moments of breathtaking drama. Even in this fractured tale, Barker presents an astonishing array of ideas, visions and epiphanies; but they're seen as if through a glass beveled and crazed. $175,000 ad/promo; simultaneous HarperAudio; dramatic rights: Sterling Lord Literistic; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 447 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006017949X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394571096
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In books like Weaveworld and Imajica, Clive Barker created
new a new mythology and reinvented the religious parable,
respectively. Now, in his most ambitious and creatively
daring book thus far, Barker departs from the tried and true
of the world of dark fantasy and delves deeper into the human
condition than he has previously explored. As admitted by the
author, Sacrament contains just enough autobiographical detail
to allow his readers further insight into his philosophies, which
this time around are far more reality-based and less abstract than
previous ventures. In telling the story of Will Rabjohns, a
famous wildlife photographer who has gained recognition through
capturing dark images of nature at its most disturbing and violent,
Barker relates a parable on the value of life, human and otherwise.
The antagonist of the story, Jacob Steep, is representative of
human nature at its most distructive. As a creature that has learned
to be a man by watching men, he carries the belief that man holds
dominion over beasts to the point that he has created a mission for himself
to destroy the last of every species of creature on the earth, to know God
by playing God. At the same time, Will Rabjohns personifies both the
good and bad in human nature: while he eventually discovers the
value of all life and the connections involved in the cycles of birth,life,
and death, at the same time he experiences the same bloodlust
as Steep when he is young and it is this same type of lust for violence
that drives him to the corners of the world to capture his photographic
images.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sacrament is the least read of Clive Barker's novels. It apparently only sold half the usual number of his books, and there is one simple reason for this: the protagonist is gay. In this day and age it is a real shame that readers have been put off by such an unimportant detail...

The story concerns Will Rabjohns, a wildlife photographer who is attacked by a grizzly bear and left in a coma. During months of unconsciousness he goes dreaming of his childhood in Yorkshire, where he met two enigmatic characters, Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee, who have lived for centuries in ignorance of what they are or how they came about, and have strange ideas about what the world is and their role in it. Will re-discovers how Steep shaped his life, and on waking from his coma is drawn back into contact with him again, as Steep goes about his murderous crusade. Steep, you see, has a perverse desire to make certain species of animals extint and hunts them with a satanic glee...

This, of course, is just the barest bones of the story. As ever with Barker's books there is a world of content on these bones: his sharply realised characters, his natural sense of pace, his prose approaches perfection here, his ability to tell his story with original, unpredictable scenes, and the nuggets of philosophy that his work always contains. It is in this last capacity that Barker has excelled himself with this novel. The nature of God, existence, life and death are examined with an intelligent, well-considered insight that I have never encountered before in any media anywhere else, including Barker's own. If that makes the book sound like a tough read, it isn't at all.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought "Sacrament" a few years ago when it first came out in hardcover (at a bookstore in the mall in Pennsylvania where George Romero filmed "Dawn of the Dead"). I thought it would be cool to have a Clive Barker book that had breathed that air. But for some reason, I never read the book until just recently. I had read everything Clive Barker had written up to then and have now read all of his books except for "Galilee," which I plan to read soon.
"Sacrament" is a good book, and at times a very good book (there are occasional flashes of brilliance), but it never quite achieves the imaginative momentum to crest the "wonderful book" horizon as "Weaveworld," "Damnation Game" or some of the "Books of Blood" did.
I really enjoyed reading this book, but felt that the narrative meandered at times and the book probably could have been about 100 pages shorter. Barker does grapple with some deep and moving themes, however, and this book is definitely worth the read.
The protagonist, Will Rabjohns, a nature photographer, obsessed since childhood with bearing witness to the terrible end of things, is a well-drawn character that will illicit the reader's empathy and involvement in the story. Will must come to terms with what it means to be a living (and therefore mortal) creature in the world. He also comes to appreciate the pain and joy that come from realizing that we are responible for the creation of our own selves.
An entertaining and thought-provoking book. More grounded in the spiritual dilemmas of our world than many of Barker's other excellent fantasy tales.
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