Friday, September 25, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Cabal by Clive Barker

As part of last year's R.I.P. challenge I read (and watched) Clive Barker's short (and adaptation) "The Last Illusion," the final story in Cabal. This year, with the release of the new Midian Unmade anthology, I figured Cabal itself should be my focus.

First a tiny bit of info, Cabal is the sixth installment in Barker's Books of Blood series. The book features the novella Cabal as well as the shorts "The Life of Death," "How Spoilers Bleed," "Twilight at the Towers," and "The Last Illusion." Cabal (the novella) is also the basis for the 1990 film Nightbreed. I'm covering just the novella today.

Aaron Boone is a troubled man and - his doctor would have him believe - a serial killer. Convinced he's a monster, he searches for the one place monsters are accepted: the mythical city of Midian.

After meeting a man who tells him how to get there, Boone travels to the town, disappointed to find it abandoned. But as night falls he discovers this isn't the case. The nearby cemetery is the place the Night Breed call home, but even they don't want Boone as one of their own. After he's attacked by one of the Night Breed, he escapes only to be caught and killed by his former psychiatrist. 

Boone's lover, Lori, is distraught over losing Boone and over the fact that he could have been a killer. How could she have been so blind to the true nature of her lover? Meanwhile, Boone's body has disappeared from the morgue. Desperate for answers, Lori travels to the place Boone was killed hoping Midian itself will offer some sort of explanation.

What's interesting about this story is the fact that the monsters are the good guys. Sure, they feed on human flesh - when they can apparently - but they're mostly out to protect and keep to themselves. It's the humans instead who are the real monsters in this tale. 

I do really enjoy this story. I like the idea of the monsters as the more human characters and vice versa. And while the Night Breed themselves are more part of the backdrop, I like them even more for the fact that a slew of authors have now decided to give them their own voice. Perhaps that's not fair to include in a post on the novella itself, but I've already begun Midian Unmade and can't ignore it at this point. (Seriously, Seanan McGuire takes on Babette who is probably the favorite Night Breed character for anyone who's read the story considering she gets the most face time and development.)

Cabal is also a serial killer story. And here's a possible spoiler for you, Boone's not the killer. Having already seen Nightbreed before reading the tale, I'm not sure I would ever have been fooled into believing that he was but who knows.

Barker, if you haven't read him, is gritty and his tales are almost shockingly graphic, making his stories that much more affecting. You can't come away from Cabal, for instance, without pitying the fate of the Night Breed. Or without admiring Lori's love for Boone. But there's a gut wrenching reaction to the story as well - the killer's crimes, the humans' overall awfulness (and they're kind of ALL awful). This is not quiet or atmospheric horror at all. This is in your face, violent, messy horror.

A bit about the movie - Barker himself directed Nightbreed but, as is the case a LOT, the end product was cut to the point that Barker's vision was quite compromised. There is a new director's cut out and available, though I've not yet seen it.

1 comment:

Jen | Book Den said...

Clive Barker is another author I have no excuse for not reading. I have several of his books still unread. I remember watching Nightbreed, but I'm having trouble remembering any of it. I would probably be fooled. I just need to make sure I forget your review, too, haha! :)