the inhuman conditionClive Barker
Pocket Books
1987

Clive Barker, the most exciting new master of horror today, unleashes a world of powerful eroticism, violence, and uncontrolled desires.  In these five brilliant tales, human hands tear themselves from their masters to start a bloody revolution; a knotted string unravels dark hungering nightmares; in a Texas motel room, the living and the dead make love; a palace is built to lure Satan back to earth; and a powerful aphrodisiac creates ghastly sexual urgings.

The Inhuman Condition is a collection of short stories by Clive Barker that was originally published in his home country of Great Britain as The Books Of Blood, volume 4.  For some logical explanation that is lost on me, that collection was republished here in the States two years later under the title you see here.  I don’t know why they didn’t just use the original Books of Blood title, or whether it was a decision on the Brits’ part or the American publisher to change the title for American fans who didn’t want to import.  Wasn’t the first time this has happened.  Eh, such was the 1980s, I guess.

Since I started collecting Barker’s innovative Books Of Blood collection a few years ago, I’ve been scouring the local used book shops for at least the American printings of them.  The Anniversary omnibus collecting volumes 1 through 3 was easy enough to find.  Even though I heard there was a second omnibus collecting the final three volumes floating around out there, I haven’t found proof of its existence.  As far as I know, even the American versions of the final three volumes have been long out of print.  Fortunately, I managed to find a good decent used copy of The Inhuman Condition and In The Flesh, the American version of volume 5.  Two down, one to go.  But I digress.

I’ve always seemed to prefer Clive Barker’s short prose fiction, as they’re good, decent-sized bites of weird and dark horror fantasy.  His Books Of Blood series were what I would call brilliant, without betraying any kind of irony or hyperbole in doing so.  See, during the brief horror paperback boom in the 1980s, where there were tons of low-grade Stephen King wannabes at best (and insufferable hack writers of purple prose-infested fan fiction at worst), original and innovative writers of the much-maligned horror genre in that era were few and far between.

The Inhuman Condition, as the back cover blurb I reproduced at the beginning of this now long-winded review points out, contains five of Clive Barker’s short stories: “The Inhuman Condition”, “The Body Politic”, “Revelations”, “Down, Satan!”, and “The Age Of Desire”.  All of these are vintage Clive Barker, the story concepts original and well-crafted.  Even reading these nearly thirty years after they were first published, the stories hold up the twistedly dark fantasy that flavor these horror tales.  Truly Barker had a very fertile imagination that rivaled H. P. Lovecraft himself, without being derivative and trite.

So, overall, the Books Of Blood, even by any other name, still smell just as sweet.  Still highly recommended.

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