Great and Secret Show
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Great and Secret Show (Book of the Art #1)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  19,244 ratings  ·  383 reviews
Clive Barker's bestseller Weaveworld astonished readers with his visionary range, establishing him as a master of fabulist literature. Now, with The Great and Secret Show he rises to new heights. In this unforgettable epic he wields the full power and sweep of his talents. "Succinctly put," says Barker, "it's about Hollywood, sex and Armageddon."
Memory, prophecy and fanta...more
Published by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1990)
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Matt Nielsen
This book is a trip and a half. It is weird and visceral yet I couldn't put it down. The imagery in it is sometimes graphic and downright nasty (there is a scene where one of the main characters is fascinated with a back room sex show in a bar in Mexico where a woman is having sex with a dog... and it describes it in intimate detail) but it keeps your curiosity peaked and keeps you wondering what is going to happen...

Well I finished it last night and I gotta say... wow! This Clive Barker guy has...more
This book bordered on a religious revelation to me. I absolutely adore the style it is written in and the subject matter tears at the fabric of your understanding of reality. I questioned what I know in a way that harkens back to Plato's 'The Cave'. Is reality real or is it just shadows on the wall inside something bigger than I can understand?

Clive Barker has a way of making dark and sinister characters intriguing and not nightmare inducing.
In an exercise to get in touch with my deceased teenage self, I decided to read one of the books that really got me into reading and, incidentally, writing. Having noted already that as the palate of age matures, the enjoyment of things past lessens, I wanted the familiar nostalgia of a book from my shelf that had my old, perhaps slightly smaller, fingerprints.

The first of an incomplete trilogy, The Great and Secret Show is a novel of fantasy, horror, and sex. I must say that part of me was plea...more
Lee Thompson
An epic journey full of beautifully dark events and the characters who shape those events. Barker is such an original. Looking forward to reading the sequel to this before the year is out.
The summer I read this book was the summer I changed my mind about the horror genre. Previously, I had read some subpar Stephen King and some even more subpar Dean Koontz. A friend recommended the Great and Secret Show to me, saying it was like King's The Stand, but better.

I skeptically started the book and was immediately glued to the page. Barker mixes dark fantasy and horror elements comprising a concoction that I've never found in any other book.

The story is near impossible to explain with...more
After reading "Everville" I'm fired up again. THAT'S Book II of The Art. A five BTW. This review is being cobbled out, line by line. So many transfogmurations I've lost count. Still kicking it around though. Ok, granted, the final result is slower than waiting for Christmas Day on a leap year, but even that day is finally reached.

I'm also sharing some relevant, revealing quotes given by Clive Barker relating not only to TGASS but to the nature of his general concepts of the dream state, the di...more
First published in 1989, 'The Great And Secret Show' formed the first book of 'The Art' proposed trilogy. The novel is a complex weave of storylines, woven together to form this impressive and compelling tale of fantasy that sends you into a world with seemingly no limits. The novel not only opens up the reader's own imagination but brings forward suggestive images and ideas that remain with you for years to come. Barker manages to capture your attention from the start and keep you gripped throu...more
Ben Babcock
The Great and Secret Show reminds me of the only Tim Powers novel I’ve read, Last Call . And that, for anyone wanting a one-sentence review (contingent upon understanding the nature of my opinion of Last Call), is that.

In many ways, coming across a book that doesn’t interest one even though it’s a good book makes writing a review far more difficult than coming across a bad book. But if one truly reads widely—and it’s something I take pride in doing—then it will happen. So what then?

I could try t...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was so awesome. It is really intense and suspenseful, I couldn't put it down and ended up reading it in like three days.

The book is about a battle between good and evil, waged over possession of the dream sea called Quiddity which I guess is essentially the collective human subconscious. The battle is between two hyper-evolved humans who can raise their own soldiers from, respectively, the dreams and fears of humans. These soldiers are called terata (fears) and hallucingia (dreams). T...more
Elizabeth Holloway
I have long considered myself to be a collector of good horror. (in itself a seemingly diametrically opposed descriptor...)

But this book really rips the sheet off of the things we don't dare ever face, let alone think about while accentuating their terrible beauty in muted fascination... managing to engulf you in a very accessible series of fantastical and, at first glance, unrelated sub-plots/events that culminate in more than a few hints at; revolutionary concepts concerning the philosophy and...more
Rob Schumann
Barker at it again... Fantastic story that's almost impossible to describe. The "Art" is being able to rip away the fabric of reality and cross over into a land that is only visited upon birth, death and the moment you fall in love. ....WHAT?!?! What does that even mean???

Somehow Barker puts you into the story and you learn along with the characters and it seems so plausible. One of the most creative books you will ever read.
Apr 03, 2008 Nicki rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicki by: Old Sly Boots
Get past the tedium of the first 75 pages to get to one of the greatest epic stories ever written. Cliver Barker's writing is beautiful and the story is so much bigger than I could ever imagine. I am in a complete love affair with this and Everville, its sequel. I wouldn't even know how to classify it. Part horror? Part romance? Part fantasy? But, it all seems like it could be so real...
Chilly SavageMelon
I haven't read other Barker, but the voice is really annoying here - so hopelessly "80's". There are decent enough ideas, and some of the characters are flushed out, but they are merely the delivery vehicle for a never ending and chaotic plot. Some of which is more engaging than the rest. The idea of a misanthrope coming upon arcane mysteries at the dead letter post-office appeals to me more than a decades long struggle between good and evil. Skinny dipping teens getting impregnated "Rosemary's...more
I wanted to like it more than I did. Coming off Weaveworld and Imajica, it was a bit of a downer. The premise is very interesting, but I don't think Barker brought it to its potential. It could do with a ton of trimming, and would been better as a slimmer volume.

Dialogue is laughable, especially when it comes to Tommy Ray. I'm not sure if Barker intended it that way, but sure as heck doesn't help.

Barker's strength lies in the descriptions, his extrapolation of local and personal histories. The...more
I thought the concept of the book was really unique. I really liked the beginning and the end but there were some parts within the book that just seemed to drag.

This was a good fantasy book and the ending really made me want to continue the saga in the next book. Too bad the final book won't be published for quite a few more years.
11811 (Eleven)
Second read, 20 years later, still 5 stars.
Graham Crawford
A friend urged me to pick up "The Great and Secret Show" after a polite argument over whether Clive Barker or Neil Gaiman writes the best stories about magical worlds intersecting with the mundane. It was perhaps an unfair filter to read Barker through, as I was constantly comparing this book with "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", one of my favorite novellas of recent times. The two works do have a lot in common; they both use ocean metaphors for the ultimate, they both feature characters who...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was one of the worst books I've ever read - very possibly THE worst. I am just amazed by all of the positive feedback on Goodreads. This was my first Clive Barker novel, and it will be my last. I almost stopped reading it too many times to count, but I just hate stopping novels. I want to get through to the end and be able to rate it as a whole (which was absolute torture in this case).

Where to begin? It felt like I was reading a screenplay for some cheesy horror film with a budget of $500...more
This is traditional Clive Barker at his best. Once again, it is not for the squeamish as it contains a lot of emotional and physical violence. This is also the first book of the art (series).

Plot ***Spoilers***
In 1969 Randolph Jaffe discovers a mysterious artefact of our society known as "The Art" while working in the dead letter office in Nebraska. His search brings him to New Mexico where he encounters the mysterious Kissoon, claiming to be the last of the civilisation known as the "Shoal". Fr...more
Geert Daelemans
The past, the future, and the dreaming moment between - a masterpiece

When Randolph Jaffe applies for a job in the "Dead Letter Office" in Omaha, Nebraska he has no clue of what kind of world he is about to enter. Most of the lost letters that are brought to his office are of no importance - unless they contain money, of course. But once in a while the content of a letter suggest more than a common human will ever be able to understand. They talk about crossroads between worlds - thin spots in th...more
Sam Reader
(taken from

"What would he write, anyway? I'm killing myself because I didn't get to be King of the World? Ridiculous."

In my line of work, epic novels tend to be a rare thing.

Well, maybe not rare. But when you don't specifically do high fantasy or space SF, they become a rarer thing than most, and since this blog has more of an urban fantasy/strange horror/modern-day SF bent, they tend to be something I don't run across very often. On this blog alone, I can really only think...more
Linda  Branham Greenwell
Randolf Jaffe works in the Dead Letter Office in Omaha, Nebraska where he stumbles across people talking about the Art, which is something that exists in another plane of existence. He learns about Quiddity, which is called a dream sea where people float in their minds when they are born, when they fall in love for the first time and when they die. He wants to find out about this Art, so he leaves to find out more about. This leads to a huge battle between good and evil in a tiny California town...more
Ah, this takes me back. The first Clive Barker book I ever read. But I barely remembered it, and since I recently picked up Everville (The Second Book of the Art), I decided to give it another go. So much more focused than Imajica, so much more fantastic than Galilee...I'm really glad I re-read it.

It's the story of a man who learns that magic exists, real power exists. He becomes obsessed, and is transformed into something amazing and horrific. Godlike. To say more would give too much away.

Usually I give books a chance. The idea behind this book was a good one, but Barker did not deliver. The story falls flat and is all over the map not focusing on the point. I did not even finish the book it was so bad. I got about 2/3 of the way through so I gave it more than a chance but the character development was laughable and took too long to get to any point. There are many explict sexual details that do not add to the book or the characters. If they were removed, it would not change the...more
This was highly recommended to me (and this copy was given to me, unregistered, by MartiP several years ago.) It was interesting, but didn't grab me as much as I had thought it might-- but I did slog through to the end...good book, but not fantabulously great. Yes it was quirky, unique, imaginative and all that, but I just can't put it on the list of "best books I have read". The fact that it took me 5 tries and 2 years to read it, speaks volumes. Oh well. Maybe he next reader will find the wel...more
Started with an _excellent_ premise and would have made a great short story. Unfortunately, when it should have ended, what it actually did was go downhill. But not quickly. No, it dawdled downhill. And took the scenic route to Craptown. The writing actually became worse the longer it went on, until the plot was outright stupid, and the dialogue started to seem as though it were composed by someone who had never had an actual interaction with other people. So what could have been a great story t...more
This is a book a friend leant me years ago, saying it was his "favorite book". Always up for a literary adventure (and not good at giving up on things I start), I took the plunge, even if years after he handed it to me. Different from what I usually read? Absolutely. Off the wall nonsensical? Indeed. Outlandish and hard to follow plot for the sake of weird? Afraid so. Characters that just aren't realistic on any level? Bingo. Super lengthy for no good reason? Unfortunately. Not really my cup of...more
Craig DiLouie
In THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW by Clive Barker, a slacker working at the U.S. Postal Service’s biggest dead letter office pieces together clues enabling him to tap a vast power beyond our world. His obsession with going even further–becoming, in a way, God–leads him into conflict with an equally powerful nemesis bent on stopping him.

Their good versus evil battle exhausts itself in a small California town, where it waits for the right conditions to be reignited. The battle, once reignited, may end...more
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  • The Complete Clive Barker's The Great And Secret Show
  • Clive Barker's Night Breed: Genesis
  • Shadowland
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  • Clive Barker's A - Z of Horror
  • The Transition of H. P. Lovecraft: The Road to Madness
  • Usher's Passing
  • A Choir of Ill Children
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  • Necroscope (Necroscope, #1)
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  • Legion
  • Night Visions 5
Clive Barker was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Joan Rubie (née Revill), a painter and school welfare officer, and Leonard Barker, a personnel director for an industrial relations firm. Educated at Dovedale Primary School and Quarry Bank High School, he studied English and Philosophy at Liverpool University and his picture now hangs in the entrance hallway to the Philosophy Department. It...more
More about Clive Barker...
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