Book info

The Hellbound Heart (1991)

The Hellbound Heart (1991)
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Rating
4 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0061002828 (ISBN13: 9780061002823)
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English
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publisher
harpertorch
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The Hellbound Heart (1991)
The Hellbound Heart (1991)

About book: I don't do well with audiobooks. Because I am an ADD-ridden manchild, I find the link between the writer's imagination and mine to be much more palpable and accessible when I'm looking at the words and holding the book in my hands. I also don't like that I have to basically take in the story at the reader's pace, when my brain likes to cram as many words into it as possible with regular books. It sucks, because I really love the idea of audiobooks! It really mixes written word with the oral tradition in a wonderful way, and I know that there are a ton of talented readers out there who can bring individual characters to life with just their voices the way actors on the stage or screen do with their entire bodies.So it was with a bit of skepticism that I started playing the the audio version of The Hellbound Heart, read by the writer himself. There's some spooky ambient music and then the author's voice, pleasant but somewhat dry and with a thin, languid English accent: So intent was Frank upon Lemarchand's box that he didn't hear the great bell begin to ring. The device had been constructed by a master craftsman, and the riddle was this: that though he had been told the box contained wonders, there seemed to be no way into it. You could do a lot worse for a beginning, and the book held me for the relatively short length of about three hours.As you can tell from the preceding paragraph, this story is about a dude, Frank, who finds this mysterious puzzle box named after its apparent creator Lemarchand. Frank is promised by the man he gets the box from that unlocking its puzzles will summon beings that will take him to a new dimension of sensual pleasure. See, Frank is a soul-deadened nihilistic hedonist who has become bored with life's Earthly pleasures such as sex and drugs and he wants to ascend to a new plane of sensory bliss, hopefully with the help of these otherworldly beings called the Cenobites--who will apparently be summoned or appear when he solves the maddening puzzle of the box.Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this book is not about Frank going to some heavenly new plane of joy and pleasure with his friendly new companions. Turns out that the Cenobites are in actuality mega-soulless humanoid S&M junkie demons. They're all kinds of scarified and have ornate and complex systems of chains and hooks hanging everywhere from their flesh. Obviously, Frank has totally fucked himself over--and that's just the prologue! The story proper starts up a bit after all this, when Frank's younger brother Rory and his wife Julia move into the house that Frank has mysteriously abandoned.The small cast really is what drives this story, rather than the supernatural elements. Lemarchand's Box and what it does is more of the axis around which the characters spin. This is no story of malicious demons invading our world and wreaking havoc upon innocent people; more often than not, the humans themselves are the true antagonists of the story, and the choices they make are what get things so utterly fucked up for them by the end of the novella. The Box and its travelers are just an awesome, terrifying catalyst for them to do that. The Cenobites and the obscure Order of the Gash they belong to felt almost more like a creation of a fantasy novel rather than a typical horror invention and they definitely made me excited to see what Barker creates in his longer works.I can't believe I slept on Barker's stuff for so long! His prose is powerful and ornate, his characters realistic and attentively-drawn, and his imagination is obviously extremely potent and full of cleverly fucked up ideas. I also got kind of a gothic vibe from this one for some reason...it definitely felt like a more modern Poe or Lovecraft with a more pronounced sexuality than a successor to someone like Stephen King or Peter Straub. This I definitely dug, because felt less like an Everyman's horror experience in Everytown, USA and more of some alien, parallel-reality English soap opera with fucked up interdimensional horror--complete with a big, cold house with very own Room, as in That Room or The Room.I read (listened) to this in conjunction with making my way through Barker's first three volumes of Books of Blood, and am consistently surprised at how imaginative, well-formed and gelled these early works of his are. It's always impressive when a writer comes right out of the gate with such original and well-written work, and I'm glad I finally tried Barker's stuff out. I'm totally watching Hellraiser after reading this, and will probably add an unnecessary update on how it compares to the original work.Unnecessary Hellraiser update:Hellraiser: What a classic! I can't believe it took me this long to see the movie. More authors should adapt their own work to the screen. Loved it. The music was great as well, with the main theme already making its way into my favorite movie themes. The lady that played Julia (I don't feel like Googling her) was awesome and of course Andy Robinson (who many will remember as the tres creepy Scorpio from the first Dirty Harry film) was reliably great.Hellbound: Hellraiser 2: I was pleasantly surprised by this one! I've watched WAY too many horror series to expect anything but probable garbage from sequels but this was a good flick It retained the feel of the original extremely well and I absolutely LOVED the scenes in the Cenobites' Hell. Extremely fucked up and creepy shit. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Pompey from HBO's criminally underrated Rome slumming it up as Dr. Channard.Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth: LOL. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this was a really, really heavy and shit-caked shoe. Vapid, unlikable characters, a weak-ass plot that turns Pinhead into another rote serial killer/slasher and hilariously bad Cenobite design (the DJ Cenobite, Bartender Cenobite and Cameraman Cenobite were hideously dumb and offensive) make this a really terrible film. Of course I didn't stop here.Hellraiser: Bloodlines: So this is like Hellraiser in Space meets Historical Hellraiser. Much less horrible than the third film but still firmly mediocre. That said, Anjelique was the most interesting non-Cenobite villain since Julia from the first two, and the Cenobite designs were much, much improved. I also liked the look at how Lemarchand's Box came into existence.Hellraiser: Inferno: This was the one that made me give up the series for the moment. Like a mediocre Bad Lieutenant with some Hellraiser stuff crudely grafted on. Unfortunately the dude in this movie is no Harvey Keitel. Honestly there were moments where it felt like the film started life as an unrelated horror movie and they just shoved some Pinhead appearances in for the hell of it. Pure fucking garbage.

The Hellbound Heart is a novella, and a short one at that, but it packs a lot into it's 128 pages. The synopsis on the back cover sets the scene for a dark exploration of the pursuit of pleasure... and how there is always a price to pay.The principle players are Frank, his brother Rory, married to Julia, and Kirsty. Frank is a total hedonist, living his life in the pursuit of pleasure, excitement and adventure. On solving the puzzle of the Lemarchand box Frank finds much more than he could ever have imagined, and it is here we are introduced to the Cenobites. For anyone who has seen any of the Hellraiser films, the grotesque imagery of the hierophants of the Order of the Gash will be familiar, although they are only briefly described here. However, Barker uses his skill with words to paint a frightening picture of the ultimate in depravity in a few short paragraphs. I found both the female characters to be the most interesting. Julia is presented as a beautiful woman who I felt uses her beauty to hide the fact that she has little else to offer the world. She comes across as shallow and almost devoid of emotion, yet after one brief sexual encounter with Frank on the eve of her wedding to his brother she is willing to do anything to ‘rescue’ Frank from the Cenobites. This did not work for me as I found it difficult to accept that Julia would go against all social mores and act in the way she did for someone like Frank. But being bored with her life with Rory and having little else to do other than act the role of dutiful wife, she broke with every moral code to help Frank. It was gratifying to read what happens to her in the end though.Kirsty, on the other hand, was an enigma. Her relationship to Rory (and thus to Frank) was never clearly defined… was she family, a neighbour or a close friend? The contrast between the two women is marked:“They had little in common: Julia the sweet, the beautiful, the winner of glances and kisses, and Kirsty the girl with the pale handshake, whose eyes were only ever as bright as Julia’s before or after tears. She had long ago decided that life was unfair.”I gained the impression that Kirsty had an unrequited love for Rory, which may go some way to explain her actions later in the book. Yet, in the early chapters, she is described as “a hindrance more than a help; her dreamy, perpetually defeated manner set Julia’s teeth on edge”. Indeed I found her passivity and social awkwardness irritating until she draws on some hitherto unforeseen inner strength in the final denouement, thus redeeming herself in my eyes.Having seen the film Hellraiser before reading The Hellbound Heart I was surprised at some of the differences. In the screen version Rory becomes Larry and Kirsty is Larry’s daughter. While the movie follows the book fairly closely for the most part, I expected Pinhead to feature as prominently as he did on screen. Instead, he is reduced to one brief appearance:“Its voice, unlike that of its companion, was light and breathy – the voice of an excited girl. Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jewelled pin driven through to the bone. Its tongue was similarly decorated”. As a horror story, The Hellbound Heart could have benefitted from more involvement of the Cenobites, something Clive Barker must have agreed with when working on Hellraiser, given that the Cenobites are much more prominent in the movie.I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of the book. The Hellbound Heart may be a short novella, but it grips from the outset and the fast action never loses momentum. Clive Barker’s writing is wonderful. He chooses his words skilfully, never losing the plot amidst a mire of overly descriptive prose. Much is left to the reader’s imagination and given the nature of the Cenobites and of Frank’s experience, this is a good thing as it enhances the horror of the story. Certainly I found the short descriptions of Frank’s changing appearance unnerving and Kirsty’s final interaction with The Engineer was very creepy indeed. My only regret was that I had seen the film before reading the book as this meant I already had images of the Cenobites in my head. Being a short but captivating book, The Hellbound Heart is a perfect introduction to Clive Barker and his dark and twisted imagination. Best read with all the lights on though!http://speculativebookreview.blogspot...
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Reviews
mark monday
Please allow me to introduce myself. Actually, let's save the introductions for when I meet up with you later this evening, in the wee hours of the night.First things first, as an inhabitant of the Dimension of Everlasting Pain I am not exactly a disinterested party when it comes to reviewing this novella. But I do feel I am able to provide a relatively unbiased review of this famous work, despite my intimate knowledge of all of the delightful and inspiring torture tableaux on display.The Hellbound Heart is well-written, yes. The Hellbound Heart is a seminal modern horror classic, yes. The Hellbound Heart is thoughtful and charming and full of the types of cozy & tender scenarios that can be regularly found in my home dimension... yes, yes, and yes.But I find that I have fallen prey to an embarrassingly modern predicament: I actually preferred the movie! This is rather shameful to admit. There is so much more potential for ambiguity and cruelty between the pages. However, in this case, I found the movie to be distinctly more visceral, ambiguous, and endearingly disturbing. My Lord and Master Pinhead is also better portrayed in the movie version; on the page he comes across as a quaint deus ex machina. Believe me when i say that in reality he is surely the opposite of both "quaint" and "deus"!THIS PARAGRAPH IS A SPOILER, FOOLISH MORTAL: I did find the idea that Frank the Id is literally putting on the respectable, boring, bourgeois skin of his brother Rory to be lovely and amusing. But to be perfectly honest, this entrancing concept did not actually occur to me while reading The Hellbound Heart - but rather when I read about it here on Goodreads on a group thread. Perhaps I am not as subtle as I imagine myself to be.Overall, despite there being nothing particularly wrong with this novella (and what does "right" and "wrong" mean anyway, in the grand scheme of things?)... I am rather sad to report that I found the writing in Barker's Books of Blood, Vols. 1-3 to be more absorbing, multi-leveled, and intriguing. Ah well, I suppose you can't win 'em all. Unless you are my Lord and Master Pinhead, of course. He always wins.
Shawn
Yet another example of a novel with such potential that was all squandered on vapid and empty characters. I read this book hoping it would be a redeeming light from the film Hellraiser but upon finishing it was really no different. The sad thing being I started to think that the film may have somewhat been an improvement over the book.The main letdown in the book would be the Cenobites, or lack there of. I read the book hoping it would go into further detail about the Order of the Gash. The Cenobites played a very minor roll in the book, which focused completely on the uninteresting main characters. I liked that the book added things like how the Cenobites smelled of vanilla to mask an underlying stench, but that was pretty much it.It didn't give any details about their tortures or really anything they did to the main character, Frank. At least the film had swirling pillars of hooks... it didn't give any backstory to the Order of the Gash or any real information about the Cenobites at all. I like the way it portrayed they, they way they talk, etc. But it wasn't enough.My suggestion is, just see the movie... at least Pinhead gives the badass "You must come with us speech."
Michael Benavidez
This is my first review on anything ever, so it's nothing too in depth. When i first stumbled onto Barker it was through Candyman, then Hellraiser one and two. Then i read the novella, and to be honest i don't know what i expected from the book. While the sexual and graphic nature is more present in tone and description (such as the beginning) is much more present in the book than movie. However, what really disconnected me from all of it was the characters. Where in the movie it was easy to care for the main character and her father, it was a tad more difficult in the book, where the relationships between characters differ. I think maybe Barker realized this and corrected it through the film.Once you get past the characters, the book is addicting, and manages to get under your skin without making you out down the book. The presence of anything and everything eerie is marked in perfect description, and well paced as to not be stretched out with boring nothingness that doesn't help character growth or plot development, as most books i stumble across seem to do. I would give it a 5 star rating were it not for the fact that i found it hard to get involved with the characters
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