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The Damnation Game

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  16,488 ratings  ·  432 reviews
There are things worse than death. There are games so seductively evil, so wondrously vile, no gambler can resist. Amid the shadow-scarred rubble of World War II, Joseph Whitehead dared to challenge the dark champion of life’s ultimate game. Now a millionaire, locked in a terror-shrouded fortress of his own design, Joseph Whitehead has hell to pay. And no soul is safe from ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 433 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Berkley Books (first published August 19th 1985)
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Sh3lly (
3.5 stars, rounded up. I think I can be a little generous with my rating since this was written in 1985. Since then, we have seen similar things happen in horror novels, but at the time, other than King and maybe a couple others, I don't recall books like this. I'm a Gen-Xer, so Hellraiser was around and traumatized me during my youth. Another reason I can appreciate this perhaps a bit more than I otherwise would have.

So, you've got lots of crazy going on here: A man who found "secret" arcane kn
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Derek Davis
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
4.5 stars.

Let me first say that Clive Barker’s writing and use of language is impeccable. By far one of the best writers I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I loved this story quite a lot, and I grew connected to the main character in this book more than I have in any book in quite a while.

My main problems with this book lay with the antagonist: while Mammoulian is an intriguing character I still don’t entirely understand his motivations. This bargain or agreement between him and Whitehead
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
Pedro António
Jan 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013-read, horror
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
Craig Williams
Feb 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
May 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Thomas Flowers
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to say, I am not a fan of the 1990 mass market cover. I thought it would make more sense as the book progressed, of what it is. Sadly, no such luck. As for the story, learning after the fact that this is Clive Barker's first novel, I must say I am impressed. I would not have guessed that. I'd read his Books of Blood before this, as well as Cabal (love BTW), and bits of other books I intend to finish soon. His way with prose and imagination are flawless here. I was disappointed in Marty's ...more
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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.
Joyce Jellison
Jun 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Arax Miltiadous
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 όλα δικά του και το μισό που χάνει είναι απλά γιατί νομίζω πως η φλυαρία του αφαίρεσε την απόλυτη λάμψη της δόξας του.
Με τον Barker ξέρεις ότι αυτό που θα διαβάσεις δεν είναι ένα απλό θρίλερ. Οι περιγραφές και οι παραλληλισμοί του γεννάνε κόσμους απίθανους μα και τρομακτικους συνάμα, που συνειδητά τους αφήνεις να σε στοιχειώσουν.
Συμπαθείς φιγούρα ο Γουαιτχεντ, θα τον ήθελα με λίγο πιο πολλές δεξιότητες. Λατρεία ο Μαμούλιαν και οι κολασμενες ψευδαισθήσεις που δημιουργούσε τόσο μα τόσο ζωντα
Nov 27, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Cody | codysbookshelf
Jeeeeeez, did this book need a better editor. I was completely and totally bored for the first 130 pages; I would rather watch dust collect than read that waste again. Almost half of this novel is a total chore to get through, and that's why I'm giving this thing three stars. What kept me reading was Clive Barker's lovely prose (The Damnation Game is, from a technical standpoint, very well written) and the knowledge that this story's pay off would probably be worth my trudging onward. And I was ...more
Nov 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I have my mother to thank for this read. After annoying her to the point where she went on a book hunting rampage she suddenly decided to lumber me with many of her old books. All I’d asked for was a couple of her old Stephen King books but the next thing I knew she had given me King, Koontz, Herbert, Barker, and all her other suspense masters. Needless to say, the books will be devoured.

For a while there have been a couple of Barker books on my to-read list but this was never one of them. Still
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uzun zamandır beni bu kadar içine çeken sürükleyici ve de edebi bir eser okumamıştım. Clive Barker’ın yıllar önce Kan Kitapları -2 adlı öykü derlemesiyle Kabal adındaki romanını okumuş, beğenmiş fakat içeriğindeki aşırı şiddet ve cinsellik sahneleri yüzünden yazarın başka bir kitabını elime almamıştım. Ta ki Lanetlenme Oyunu’na dek. İki günde 488 sayfalık kitabı bitirdim. (Gözlerim isyan halinde:)). Bu kitapta da oldukça fazla mide kaldıran dehşet sahneleri vardı. (Ki dehşet sahnelerini severim, ...more
Matt Garcia
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Geert Daelemans
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, horror
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
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a smart, dazzling, gleefully obscene work of horror fiction!

I've slowly grown bored with most contemporary "literary" novels, and so have been slumming it up with authors like Clive Barker -- his Books of Blood is so good I don't ever want it to end -- and Clark Ashton Smith. This stuff is just plain fun. In this novel, Barker manages to create interesting and mightily flawed characters who are described so well you'd think they were autobiographical (Christ I hope not), and then puts them
Joshua Jorgensen
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Clive Barker's mind is a terrifying, brilliant place. This is a very dark book, but the visions are engrossing. It unfolds slowly, and then, as only Clive Barker can do, it descends into dark fantasy and grotesque horror. It is a masterclass in horror, and for me, a nostalgic nod to old school horror, and great, childlike storytelling--around a campfire.
This book reads like watching a movie you shouldn't watch so young. And then, in the same space, remembering the time you watched the movie.
Alan Baxter
Barker's first and still one of his best. Masterful stuff. In my great Clive Barker reread, I saved this for last. Now I get to read The Scarlet Gospels.
Rodrigo Tello
Barker logra convencerme con su primera novela. Cuando parecía que hacia el final decaía, remonta bastante con un final que me deja muy buen sabor de boca. Además tiene todo lo mejor del terror que se escribía en aquella época y de la impronta de las ideas originales de un novato Barker en estado de creatividad: realidades paralelas, seres mezcla de dioses y demonios, resurreción de la carne putrefacta, todo sumado a un relato fáustico bastante atractivo... algunas imágenes y escenas bastante po ...more
Sanja Koledin
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: horror
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jan 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: horror
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
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Contemporary Brit...: The Damnation Game 1 23 Feb 23, 2013 11:16PM  
  • The Complete Clive Barker's The Great And Secret Show
  • Floating Dragon
  • Clive Barker's A - Z of Horror
  • Clive Barker's Night Breed: Genesis
  • Clive Barker's Hellraiser: Collected Best I
  • The Ceremonies
  • Mine
  • The Doll Who Ate His Mother
  • A Choir of Ill Children
  • Hellbound Hearts
  • Carrion Comfort
  • Off Season (Dead River, #1)
  • City Infernal (City Infernal, #1)
  • All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
  • Ghoul  (Special X, #2)
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
“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.” 10 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” 6 likes
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