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The Great and Secret Show

(Book of the Art #1)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  28,505 ratings  ·  723 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
Paperback, 658 pages
Published November 3rd 1999 by HarperPerennial (first published August 7th 1989)
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Popular Answered Questions
Charlotte Buchan He is working on it. Writing has begun but it will take forever!!!!!!! (source - I met him a few years ago).
Holger Matthies No, it's only vaguely related. Characters from Hellraiser will meet characters from the Art, and there'll be some light she'd about Clive's cosmology …moreNo, it's only vaguely related. Characters from Hellraiser will meet characters from the Art, and there'll be some light she'd about Clive's cosmology - but the third book remains to be written.(less)

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Average rating 4.06  · 
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Paul Nelson
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books-read
How can I best describe The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker, well if you imagine the start being at one end of a swimming pool, and the swimming pool is filled with jelly (or jello to some) made from a cocktail of your favourite alcoholic spirits and liqueurs.
And to reach the end you've got to wade through this Olympic sized jelly filled swimming pool, right, so chances are you're going to enjoy a fair portion of it before you get full anyway. There's going to be some enjoyment, mixed in
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To label The Great and Secret Show a horror novel would be to do it a disservice. "Arty horror" would be closer to the mark but that sounds silly and would still be inadequate. “Dark fantasy” sounds good to me though it deemphasizes the horror aspect of it a little too much, may be it is more phantasm than fantasy. Not that labels really matter, a good book is a good book regardless of whatever label you slap on it. I am only going on about it just to have some kind of intro!

To tell you what thi
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
It's easy to measure the reader's enthusiasm with novels such as this one. Eager, excited, the pages go by fast; on the other hand, when it lags it is extremely... languid. The switching of character's allegiances is a cool trick which Barker has undoubtedly mastered (for no one is entirely good nor entirely always, its just a matter of selfishness)--also his mythology-making abilities are outstanding. This however, is overdone. I mean, several key characters are spirited away for the ...more
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪SomeBunny Reads (Phoenix)•*¨*•♫♪
Stories had a way of doing that, in Grillo’s experience. It was his belief that nothing, but nothing, could stay secret, however powerful the forces with interests vested in silence. Conspirators might conspire and thugs attempt to gag but the truth, or an approximation of same, would show itself sooner or later, very often in the unlikeliest form. It was seldom hard facts that revealed the life behind the life. It was rumour, graffiti, strip cartoons and love songs.

Jaffe has a tedious job in a
Adam Light
Even better the second time around. If I could rate it higher, I would. Of course, I believe this is essential reading for horror/dark fantasy fans. I will be revisiting the sequel, Everville, next.
Matt Nielsen
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Flashes of brilliance followed with periods of mild boredom coming around with a few more flashes topped with moments of "wtf?" and ending with a "Damn, I'm exhausted."

Barker sure likes his epic tales, however his shorts seem to resonate a bit more for me.

Good, but inconsistent.

And about 150 to 200 pages too long...

Cody | CodysBookshelf
”Mind was in matter, always. That was the revelation of Quiddity. The sea was the crossroads, and from it all possibilities sprang. Before everything, Quiddity. Before life, the dream of life. Before the thing solid, the solid thing dreamt. And mind, dreaming or awake, knew justice, which was therefore as natural as matter, its absence in any exchange deserving of more than a fatalistic shrug.”

Behind everything — all of life and non-life — is Quiddity: a metaphysical dream-sea, a sort of collect
Feb 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
11811 (Eleven)
Oct 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Second read, 20 years later, still 5 stars.
Lee Thompson
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, horror
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
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gorgeous, sensuous dream of a novel that is, not surprisingly, about the stuff of dreams. Barker's signature wild mix of fantasy, sex and horror is on full display in this apocalyptic story as is his richly evocative prose. I lost myself in this story for hours on end and even ignored my dog's feeding time twice (sorry, Jake!). This is the kind of virtuoso performance I have come to expect from Barker (and what I expected, and didn't get, from The Scarlet Gospels).

I do have to say that I found
Michael Fierce

One of the worst books I've ever read.

Especially when you consider:

1. I've been a huge fan of Clive Barker since the earliest part of his career.

2. I have met and and talked with him briefly on 4 different occasions over the years, thought he was as special a guy as he is a writer, and admit I'd probably give him a slightly more favorable rating because of that.

3. I would easily give everything I've previously read of his a 4 or 5 rating and consider most of his books classics in the g
Kara 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 tr
Apr 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Kress
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980s, horror, display
I just finished reading The Great and Secret Show for the 3rd time. It's a masterpiece of metaphysical fiction and I believe it’s Clive Barker's greatest work. The character development is the best of any book I've read. There are many characters, and most of them play an important role; I could relate to each one, or at least I could imagine what it would be like to have them in my life. This is the first time I’ve felt I could comment on so many of the major characters of a book, and that's wh ...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
Sep 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Elizabeth Holloway
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mark Young
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. But Barker’s prose flows like magic and was hooked and under his spell from the get-go. There wasn’t a single dull moment. The Great and Secret Show reminded of Neil Gaiman’s work and the big stories and themes he likes to write about, with a touch of Stephen King’s It and The Stand thrown in, all mixed with Clive’s own wonderful creations. This epic adventure blends dark fantasy and horror superbly; getting better and more exciting with ...more
April Cote
Sep 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
I couldn't do. I freaking tried, I really did. It got so many rave reviews so my hopes were high. The beginning was great. The concept really worked, but at part three it was like the book was taken over by another author, a bad one at that. The characters became empty, there was nothing to them. And the supposed scary parts, to me, were B-movie laughable. Not scary or even creepy at all. The dialogue became flat as well as the characters. I had to stop. The thought that after 600 something page ...more
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Clive Barker is my favourite author, because he's been taking my mind to places I didn't think possible, since I was 10 years old!!! I'd love to re-read many of his books. This is one of my favourite books by him.
Tina Saldiran
Jun 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Let me start by saying that in all the decades of avid reading that I have done, there are maybe a handful of books I couldn't finish. No matter how bad the plot, how sophomoric the writing, how irksome the characters I always aim to finish books, if for nothing else, then simply as a show of respect to the writer to took the time and put in the work to write it.

This book, however, simply made it impossible for me. I am a fan of a wide array of genres - anything from serious literature to full b
First of all I'd like to say that I am absolutely fascinated by Clive Barker, his writings and his images. Once I saw a documentary about him, in which his drawings of various monsters were shown, they were awesome. What's more, he said he just saw these images in his mind; he didn't think them up, he just saw them!

After I read Imajica and saw Clive in the flesh when he was visiting the premiere of 'Lord of Illusions' here in Amsterdam, I just knew I would always try to keep track of whatever h
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, clive-barker, horror
This is one of the best books I have read; it has everything you want to read about - intense gore, weird sex, and awesome characters. A large number of characters appear in the book, but the book is long enough for the reader to get to know each of them. What appears to be a mess of different storylines at first, slowly but eventually weaves together to form a truly impressive tale. When starting the book, it's hard to imagine what kind of story this could possibly be, but stick with it and you ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
James Parsons
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was the first of what was a suggested trilogy from Barker, now exploring and telling a very creative, inventive fantastical and spiritual while dream-like tale.
Not as truly mind blowing and stunning in scope as his immense Imajica novel, this first part of this tale-which can be read as a single book, is strange, unusual, adventurous and almost unpredictable.
It draws in elements of fantasy, religious tale, spirituality, dream and reality and also at times horror and terror as well written
Claire- Louise
Oct 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
To start with a main character who was completely unlikeable made the experience heavy and exhausting from the beginning. I persevered but then came the introduction of things like quiddity and ‘the art’ which just didn’t resonate with me as a reader. It felt not only nonsensical but actually quite boring.
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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

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Book of the Art (2 books)
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