This is a lengthy novel written by Clive Barker, the only writer who could possible have challenged Stephen King’s dominance of the horror genre during the 1980s (sorry James Herbert, but mutant rats just aren’t going to cut it). He’s probably most famous for the films Hellraiser and Nightbreed, both based on his writings. I’ve read Cabal (which became Nightbreed), and encountered some of his comics work too. Weaveworld was written at the height of his powers, nestled between Cabal and the novella that became Hellraiser.
Cal and Suzanna are two normal Liverpudlians whose fates become entwined when they encounter a magnificent carpet, which, it turns out is the hiding place of all the magic that’s left in the world. It was created as a means for those with magic to escape persecution by humanity and genocide at the hands of a mysterious entity known as the Scourge. Now, they, and a few of their most prized locations, are bound in to this carpet.
On the hunt for this carpet is the exiled Immacolata, who is a great witchy creation. Barker excels at incorporating elements of sex and depravity and unwholesomeness into his books. Even now, 25 years after Weaveworld was written, these elements felt refreshing and different (though I could have done with a few less references to Cal’s balls). Immacolata, a virgin seductress, is a great example of this. She strangled her two sisters in the womb — now they float by her side constantly, Hag and Magdelene, lending her their grotesque power. The Magdalene rapes unfortunate men, giving birth shortly afterwards to monstrous creations whom she sends forth to do her bidding (a similar talent is shared by Mellisandre in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series). Accompanying Immacolata is Shadwell, a seedy salesman whom she has gifted with a coat which seems to contain every person’s most desired object. With this leverage, he can get them to do whatever he wants. Again, this mix of desire and domination creates a heady sense of unwholesomeness.
These two want to destroy or conquer the magical land within the carpet (called the Fugue for some reason); Cal and Suzanne, as well as the Fugue’s residents, want to save it. Conflict ensues.
Some pros and cons: The basic plot idea is a sound one, and Barker has a mean turn of phrase and a lot of interesting ideas. The evil characters are fantastic, but the good characters are a little bland and some of the interactions are a little melodramatic at times. For some reason (blatant city-ism, no doubt) I found the fact that the book was largely set in Liverpool quite amusing. The mundanity of the city works quite well though as a contrast to the beautiful lands within the carpet. The plot drags a bit around the half-way mark (I think the novel could have been a bit shorter), but the last few chapters where the Scourge is revealed and (spoiler!) defeated end things on an appropriately epic note.
There’s some great stuff in there, but Weaveworld‘s slightly flabby length stops me from recommending it whole-heartedly. I enjoyed it, but, if I were looking for a dose of what sets Barker apart from other writers, I think I’d visit a svelter book first…