Nigel's Reviews > Absolute Midnight

Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker
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Oct 31, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction
Read in February, 2012

You may think it's a long wait between George RR Martin books, but let me tell you, poor ol' Clive Barker took seven years to make this one, the third in the Abarat series. Now that's a long time between books and it's hardly surprising if the plot details of the previous volumes are lost to memory, but Barker's world is as immersive as it is distinctive and after only a few pages we're back again in the world if the twenty-five hours, the great archipeligo of islands, one for each hour of the day, and an extra one for timelessness. Candy Quackenbush, refugee from Chickentown, has defeated the dreadful Mater Motley and her grandson Christopher Carrion, flooding our world in the process. But Mater Motley is only getting started, Christopher isn't as dead as he seems and Candy has a Princess stuck in her head and she wants out.

While Candy looks for the magic necessary to free Princess Boa, a deeply unpleasant person, it turns out, Mater Motley sets her plans in motion. Dark days for poor old Abarat. Literally, as a dreadful scheme to block out the sky entirely unfolds, unleashing a host of hidden horrors on the world, and nasty horribles from behind the stars are involved, just to keep everything interesting.

Barker ups the apocalyptic scale here. The last book had the Reliquax, monstrosities hiding at the bottom of the sea, now we have god-like cosmic evils lending our villainess a massive death-ship with which to lay waste to Abarat. How can Candy and her motley crew of friends stand up to such horrible horrors?

Pure brilliant. I've read Barker since I was a horror fanboy in my teens, and this series is without a doubt his masterwork. He seems to thrive under the limitations set by working for a YA audience in terms of gore and grue, his formidable imagination producing a host of incredible sights and sounds and creatures and people and places. He doesn't stint on the darkness, though. Mater Motley's Empire of Night is an atrocious place full of evil and violence, and through it all, of course, Barker's incredible series of painted illustrations, bright and colourful and grotesque, making this book a beautiful, gorgeous object in its own right. It's probably obligatory to end this review with a line about hoping we don't have to wait as long for the next one, but heck, however long it takes, it'll be worth it.
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