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Clive Barker's "The Damnation Game" Review
A Quick Summary of the Plot
The novel starts out as a sort of flashback, regarding the "European" and a much younger version of a central character known as "Whitehead". In the flashback, the "thief" is Whitehead and he is, of course, the average run-of-the-mill rambunctious young man seeking to find himself a better life. In a rubble sprawled building, he comes across a lonely card player who offers him everything if he wins.
After the "thief" wins we are thrown into a cell beside "Martin Strauss" or "Marty" for short, who is incarcerated at a high level facility. Eventually, Marty is picked up and taken to a small room where he is interviewed by a man named "Toy". Essentially, Marty is being interviewed to be hired as a bodyguard to the now immensely aged Whitehead.
It is later revealed that Marty is there to protect Whitehead from Mamoulian, the last European who possesses the power of immortality, and the power to resurrect the dead; Whitehead owes the last European his life, literally. After Marty begins to develop feelings for Carys, Whitehead's supernaturally talented daughter, the last European begins to intrude in their lives, always proclaiming that Whitehead needs to pay his debts.
The Damnation bleeds profusely with darkness and morbid imagination. Throughout the book, Clive Barker impressively presents a smooth action curve (if even a little) to transition us from one scenario to the next. The structure of the novel holds up very well as well.
Barker immerses us into this book with fantastic, poetic imagery and brings to the table an original and refreshing way of telling a horror story.
The horror lies behind a multitude of dimensions and storytelling. He's always presented horror in a beautiful, symbolic way. The Damnation Game contained many twisted images of the macabre, such is the way of Clive Barker. The symbols are what makes this story a horror tale,
The Damnation Game was my introduction into the world of Clive Barker and I now realize why he has received such praise and adoration from readers.
The novel has strong characters in the last European, Anthony Breer the Razor-Eater and of course the ex-con Marty Strauss.
Not excessively wordy, but it is a bit long, still I was into it the whole time. The characters sympathetic when they should be,cringe-worthy when they are evil, and immensely human when they are sincere.
The premise of the story is interesting enough and of course inspired by the infamous German tale of Faust (an unsatisfied scholar makes a deal with the devil for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure, all he has to give up is his soul). A beautifully written, blood filled ride. Clive Barker is at once restrained and deadly with words; he is excellent at writing clean, beautiful language for creating images that are not easily forgotten.
It’s dark, intense and mostly unrelenting in it’s steady climb of supernatural horror. Barker builds his story and characters layer by layer. It's properly nasty, grim, and dark.
The Arguments Made
An all too common theme I've come across regarding one's opinion on this novel, is that the book tries too hard to be something that it just isn't. I can certainly see where these opinions derive from; yes, the novel drags itself out way too much for comfort. However, just when the novel starts to grow a bit stale, you are immediately tied back in with a brief, morbid image or a conflict and reminds you just how great this book is. Still, this book would have made an equally wonderful novella or even a smaller novel.
An expertly told violent tale of terror, gambling, love, paranormal and brutality. I like the whole setup and the chosen words to describe an event. A new hero is born in Marty Strauss and a literature horror icon the last European. The characters are well defined and the dialogues are fit well with the atmosphere of the novel.
Barker is the only author I have come across who can write about things disgusting and brutal and yet, make it as beautiful as poetry.
The Damnation Game is darkly enchanting and wonderfully disturbing. It definitely deserves a reading.
I'm so glad I chose to read this book. Clive Barker is definitely now on the list of favorite authors. Though the beginning had a bit of a slow start, it picked up.
Do yourself the favor if you enjoy horror literature and pick this one up. You will not be disappointed.