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The Damnation Game

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  11,702 ratings  ·  232 reviews
Experience the unspeakably evil games no gambler can resist. Meet the man who gambles his soul to the monarch of Hell--and tries to avoid paying his final debt. Now Joseph Whitehead has Hell to pay. And no soul is safe from the resurrected fury of The Damnation Game. "Frightening".--Kirkus Reviews.
Paperback, 433 pages
Published November 1990 by Berkley Books (first published 1984)
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Dreadlocksmile
The Damnation Game bleeds the dark, sensual eroticism and morbid imagination that has become the Barker signature. The novel offers out a feast of emotion to submerge yourself in, from bizarre and horrific scenes of brutal violence to moments of heart-wrenching literally romance. It was Barker's first full-length novel, published for the first time in 1985, after the release and cult success of the first three 'Books of Blood'. This first novel presents a theme which has reappeared in many of hi ...more
Erika
This is, hands down, the scariest book I have ever read. Ever. I read it for the adrenaline genres week in my Reader's Advisory class. Since I only had a couple of days to read this and another book (716 pages in 2 days!), I stayed up till about 2 am reading this. BAD IDEA!! I started out reading it in the lounge, but moved into my room at some point. And that was when the trouble started. At some point I needed a bathroom break. But I was too scared to open my door and run the 3 feet to the bat ...more
Tessa
I've started this review several times now, and can't quite decide on it.
I have a long standing love hate relationship with Mr Barker, I have learned, through long experience that he is either astounding or awful, and there doesn't appear to be a middle ground, but even when his stories are awful his prose is beautiful, it's worth it just for the language.
So, the damnation game, his first novel, published just after the Books of Blood but before the hellbound heart.
Chronologically that puts it i
...more
Derek Davis
Barker, in general, is a heck of a lot better writer than fellow horror icon Stephen King (except in King's short stories). He keeps his narrative together with a smooth action curve (even when there's little action) and restrains himself from having his characters add juvenile comments and sophomoric humor.

His "hero" here, Marty, a semi-parolee, is a nuanced character who learns as he goes, expanding his internal horizons even as the horror slowly mounts. Indeed, all the characters are full, c
...more
Natasa
This was an interesting audio book, I don't know who the narrators were but they were excellent, they performed each character and I loved it as well as the background music. Maybe I would have perceived the book differently had I read it, I don't really know, but it was a very entertaining read. This was my first Clive Barker book and I'm already listening the next one: Cabal and I find this one begins even better! I think I have found a new favorite author to explore in my future reads.
Lou
Clive Barker is a talented storyteller who writes with some of the darkest creativity. This is a good story of a game where some characters get into people's minds and see their thoughts and can control them. There is a man set on revenge and the power of resurrecting the dead. Barker has created characters that perpetrate the most henious acts. He brings to the table a unique writing style where he immerses us into to other dimensions of fear.
Craig Williams
I was very disappointed by this book. Barker's "The Great and Secret Show" is one of my favorite books of all time, so admittedly, I have a rather high bar that I expect from him. Despite my expectations, this piece of shit book simply will not do. First of all, the pacing was god awful, which is evidenced by my tendency to scream "DO SOMETHING!" by the end of every chapter. When something finally does happen, it's not interesting enough to pay off for the boring lead up. You know when a book sp ...more
Matt Garcia
Absolutely excellent book. The Damnation Game was my introduction into the mind of Clive Barker and I now realize why he has received such unwavering praise and adoration from readers. I am also inclined to agree with those aforementioned readers. This novel was terrific. It hooked me in from the first few pages and I found myself eagerly anticipating the rest of the story. It contained many twisted images of the macabre that Barker has come to be associated with. But it was somehow more than th ...more
Iulius90
Un buon romanzo dell'orrore che si lascia leggere senza troppe difficoltà dalla prima all'ultima pagina. Nell'edizione italiana sono presenti alcuni errori di traduzione, che comunque non inficiano la lettura del testo. Da provare se cercate un'alternativa a Stephen King, visto che in alcuni frangenti la prosa di Barker si rivela decisamente migliore rispetto a quella del Re.
Anche se la trama non è nulla di speciale, i personaggi ti entrano nel cuore e la vicenda è sapientemente narrata. Non mal
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Agranoff
There are several reasons I choose to re-read this novel. This debut novel by Clive Barker appeared on the horror scene after he established himself as the next “big thing” After Stephen King. Due in part to an introduction by Ramsey Campbell ,and more importantly the prediction by Stephen King that the future of horror itself was Clive Barker. What a burden this praise put on Barker who is less of a horror writer than an author of Dark Fantasy.

Funny, after that King never really had much nice t
...more
Kasia S.
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. Who knows of course what happens to our soul but if the devil in the story wants it so bad then I'm pretty sure it has some importance, whether here or there. The Damnation game has it's merits, the mystery and buildup are engrossing and dangerously tantalizin ...more
Pedro António
This was a hard one to get through, I wanted something to scare me and instead got something completely different.

The very beginning was actually interesting, though quickly turns into a seemingly disjointed multitude of points of view, which only make sense much later in the novel. This came across as completely unnecessary and only makes it harder to get any traction. It takes a very long time for anything significant to start happening, and then you almost wish it just went back to what it wa
...more
Chris
I don’t know what it is about Barker. In many ways he’s stylistically tone deaf, alternately putting out superb prose and florid trash (sometimes in the same book) without any distinction. This is one of the good ones though. It’s a simple Faustian tale that is basically a horror story, but anyone reading will guess the basic plot within five minutes. However, in this case it’s about the journey. Barker has an uncanny ability to fuse the horrendous with the ethereal, the sublime and the profane. ...more
Daniel
No matter how much graphic violence on dead dogs or how much rotting meat crawling with maggots and oozing with puss is shown, a horror story demands a little more.
Mike
Harry Potter meets Minder?

I was surprised how bad this book is. It's probably the worst book I've actually finished, so I did at least make it to the end, I'm not sure why. It's the first Clive Barker I've read, and I'd need a lot of convincing to read another one.

The start was ok. I was quite interested in the characters, but he did not take me with him on his suspension of belief, when the supernatural stuff started up. From there it was all downhill. I just thought it was ridiculous, and unin
...more
Szplug

"I can teach you so much. How to live forever, if that's what you want." Mamoulian had started to laugh, but the monk went on with his dreamtalk. "How to take life from other people, and have it for yourself. Or if you like, give it to the dead to resurrect them."

"Never. "

"It's old wisdom," the monk said. "But I've found it again, written out in plain Greek. Secrets that were ancient when the hills were young. Such secrets."

"If you can do all that, why aren't you tsar of all the Russians?" Mamou
...more
Donovan
Unfortunately this one didn't do it for me. It had its moments, but over all I was left feeling a little flat. Others have raved about it but for me, it lacked that Barker magick.

Plot ***Spoilers***
Marty Strauss, a gambling addict recently released from prison, is hired to be the personal bodyguard of Joseph Whitehead, one of the wealthiest men in the world. The job proves more complicated and dangerous than he thought, however, as Marty soon gets caught up in a series of supernatural events inv
...more
Rajeev Singh
Until a few days back, my exposure to modern horror fiction was limited to Stephen King. I used to revel in both the psychic horror elements and tangible monsters that would be materialized on the pages, to be killed of course in the end, but indelible on the reader’s memory. For some reason, despite being a squeamish man who becomes light-headed at the sight of blood, open wounds and people in untold agony – I enjoy reading horror. It might be a masochistic tendency that lurks in the confines o ...more
Geert Daelemans
Pure raw horror

Marty Strauss, a gambling addict, has just been released from prison when he gets hired as a personal bodyguard of Joseph Whitehead, one of the richest men on earth. What first seems as a common security assignment, quickly turns out to be much more dangerous. Joseph has some debt that he needs to repay and it is not to some earthly power. When the mansion gets invaded by a devilish man named Mamoulian, it becomes clear that a simple gun won't help against his powers.

The Damnation
...more
writegeist
I'm not much of a horror reader. The closest I've come really is with some of Stephen King's The Stand. But I was intrigued by the whole gambling aspects of the novel, and I've always been interested in Clive Barker's work. One of my all time favorite books is Last Call by Tim Powers (anything by Tim, actually). I thought I'd give it a go. I'd never see anything like this as a movie (too easily affected by visual stuff), but I can distance myself with most books... Heck, I read The Exorcist when ...more
Hamza Ansari
The Damnation Game is the first novel published by horror maestro, Clive Barker. It also happens to be the first adult novel I've read. Just like Mean Streets, this novel set the tone and standards for future Clive Barker novels and short stories.

An expertly told violent tale of terror, incest, cannibalism and murders. 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 in Mamoulian, The Last European. The characters
...more
Thomas Strömquist
Early 80's - I was in my early teens. Had discovered Stephen King and devoured everything of him I could get my hands on. What's next? In the few magazines and articles focused on this kind of literature, Clive Barker was hailed as the future (and he was by the King himself also!).

Barker had written something called "The books of blood", but even on a trip to London, I failed to track down some copies of those (if you cannot believe this, let me guess; you are born after 1990? Am I right?) Anyw
...more
Κώστας
Ξεκίνησα να διαβάζω το καταραμένο παιχνίδι του Μπάρκερ.

Πρώτη εικόνα,μετά από ανάγνωση του 30% περίπου,ότι το βιβλίο είναι άκρως ελκυστικό και ενδιαφέρον.
Πάντοτε με τραβούσαν οι πλοκές(περιπλοκές) σε κλειστά πεδία,έτσι "στο σαβανωμένο με τρόμο φρούριό του" γυρνάει η μπίλια της αγωνίας και του μυστηρίου και είναι απρόβλεπτη!

Η συνέχεια αναμένεται επίσης εναγωνίως αφού κάτι μου λέει ότι ακόμα η δυναμική του δεν έχει φουντώσει πλήρως.Κι όταν τελικά κινηθούν όλα τα γρανάζια της ιστορίας,αυτή η δυναμικ
...more
Mark Stone
The Damnation Game is an exceedingly frustrating, inconsistent book. Some of the writing is terrible; some parts brilliant. The characters are deep, the next shallow, their actions properly motivated then not. They are as inconsistent in their emotions, convictions, and devotions. Likewise, the pacing fluctuates. The book starts out BAM! in a cleverly disguised prologue. That prologue is ATTENTION-GRABBING and it leaves you hanging. The book then fast-forwards from the ATTENTION-GRABBING past to ...more
Chris Louie
This is the first book I've read by Barker and I was very impressed. He administers the gore, suspense, and gothic atmosphere in perfect amounts -- never overdoing it, never holding back during crucial moments. The pacing is not too fast, but it's not a slow read, either. I'd describe it as a lost meander through a beautiful graveyard.

The prose is also pretty good. He occasionally gets too ambitious, but ultimately he remembers that he's writing a horror story first and a literary work second.
...more
Noel Thingvall
First half of the book is great, nice build in mystery and tension, nice development of characters and setting, wonderful prose. In the second half, things take a messy turn, plotting becomes chaotic, bland lead becomes pretty worthless, climax is anti-climactic, and the main villain never really takes off as an interesting character. There's still some nice setpieces, some great prose, and secondary villain is compellingly nasty, but it just never comes together ultimately. And the love interes ...more
Martha Sockel
After the success of the Books of Blood,a collection of short stories,The Damnation Game was Clive Barker's first full novel. The story centres on a convict who is given the chance to an early release providing he works for a multi millionaire business tycoon as his personal bodyguard.

Though the job seems straight-forward enough,things get more and more terrifying as time goes on,leading the main characters through a paranoid game of cat and mouse and entrails! Readers of Barker's later work wil
...more
Mike Hailey
The scariest work of fiction that I have ever read! It's been several years since I first read the book, but vividly remember lying in bed late at night gasping as I read some of the more shocking and frightening parts. I have never done that before, and have never done it since. It's THAT good!! You won't be disappointed.
Joyce Jellison
a beautifully written - blood filled/terror ride - this book gave nightmares - Clive Barker is at once restrained and deadly with words - he is excellent at simply writing clean - beautiful language with the talent Hemingway lacked for creating images that are not easily erased.
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Contemporary Brit...: The Damnation Game 1 7 Feb 23, 2013 11:16PM  
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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...
The Great and Secret Show (Book of the Art, #1) The Hellbound Heart Books of Blood, Volumes One to Three The Thief of Always Abarat (Abarat, #1)

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“It was as though in these last minutes together--when they had so much to say--they could say nothing of the least significance, for fear it open the floodgates.” 6 likes
“The Devil is by no means the worst that there is; I would rather have dealings with him than with many a human being. He honours his agreements much more promptly than many a swindler on Earth. To be true, when payment is due he comes on the dot; just as twelve strikes, fetches his soul and goes off home to Hell like a good Devil. He’s just a businessman as is right and proper. —-J.N. NESTROY, Hollenangst” 0 likes
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