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The Damnation Game

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  17,938 ratings  ·  539 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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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  17,938 ratings  ·  539 reviews

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Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book way back in early to mid eighties. I ain't gonna lie, this book fucked me up! I was 21, a new mom, and also new to horror. I had nightmares for years because of this book.
I have read it only once since then. It's on my bookshelf right now. I've picked it up a few times. Not now.
I love Barker for his weird/scary/mind bending books.
That's such an understatement! There is and nor will there ever be someone like Clive Barker. He is truly unsurpassed.
When I grew up, there was Cli
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
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
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.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, stoker, horror

Oh thank goodness that is over and done with. While I can see shades of Hellraiser and style it was generally disappointing, not scary, a bit gross, and far far too many dogs died.

Cemetery Dance came out with a slipcased oversized signed limited edition, I have 361/598.

*audible note - Simon Vance did an amazing job as narrator! Any enjoyment I had was from his spooky melodious voice.
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
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
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
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. ...more
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
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clive Barker's first novel; which now that I check some publication dates, it looks like it came out much closer to the start of his career than I'd realized (he basically exploded onto the scene in 1984/1985 with Books of Blood: Volumes 1-6; Damnation Game came out in the UK in 1985, so right at the same time, but didn't get a US release until a few years later). And arguably it was his most ... for lack of a better word, normal horror novel, at least for a good, long time -- after this he star ...more
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
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
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. ...more
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
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
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.
Joey B.
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After more that 30 years after this was originally published, it's unbelievable that this has yet to be made into a movie. ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Hell is reimagined by each generation. Its terrain is surveyed for absurdities and remade in a fresher mold; its terrors are scrutinized and, if necessary, reinvented to suit the current climate of atrocity; its architecture is redesigned to appall the eye of the modern damned. In an earlier age Pandemonium - the first city of Hell - stood on a lava mountain while lighting tore the clouds above it and beacons burned on its walls to summon the fallen angels. Now, such a spectacle belongs to Holly ...more
Allyn Nichols
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not Clive Barker's best novel however his style is matured with this novel and it acts as a keystone for all of the terrible wonders that are to follow in his later books. ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird, horror
A Dantesque journey into the depths of hell, Barker's ambitious, first full-length novel is beautifully written and includes some of the grossest descriptions I have ever read. Whereas many of Barker's stories fly off the rails when his intense imagination starts firing on all cylinders, this narrative remains fully under the master storyteller's control. The build is slow and steady until the gory climax that left me stunned, shaken, and extremely grossed out. I loved it! ...more
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
J.C. Brennan
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
~John Milton
When a man, a soldier learns ancient techniques from a monk in a war he should have died in, men and woman a like look at him much differently. Some think he is the Messiah other believe him to be the devil. Will you be drawn to his gifts or see them for what they truly are?
This book tells a unique tale one that isn’t quick to be told, so kick back and enjoy it.
This story is compelling, frightening
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.
Patrick Greene
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
By far my favorite of Barker's novels, this Faustian tale of a man caught in a battle between evil and more evil is just begging for a screen adaptation. Scary and thoughtful, The Damnation Game will stay with you a long time. ...more
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. ...more
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Contemporary Brit...: The Damnation Game 1 27 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

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