Mariel's Reviews > Abarat

Abarat by Clive Barker
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's review
Jun 28, 2011

really liked it
Recommended to Mariel by: a post-it note to me I wrote in 2009
Recommended for: wanted

I think you have to want it to happen to you to open your mouth wide enough to swallow another land of magic, the best friends you'll ever have in your life, maybe you're more special than you realized and the funny feeling there's a movie of you going on is real (um, other people do do that, right?). All the eyes are on you and it's the nightmare that you're naked on the first day of... Oops. It's delicious fear feeling. You're naked and it's the first day of class! Open wiiiiiiiide. But you WANT it to happen. It doesn't make sense if you don't. Magic and great beyonds? Peace, love and understanding? It's in THIS world.

There is no plot description on the book jacket of the paperback copy of Abarat in my possession. The back cover is half rock star image of Clive Barker (he does pretty much everything in entertainment, I think. You get an earring for art and another earring for films. The goatee is for novels!). It's royal purple too! The rest is one word quotes from critics about qualities it possesses ("Clever" and "Whimsical", among others. Hey, they've got a thesaurus and a dictionary. I don't have one!). It doesn't tell you anything if you are like me and look over the already mega famous Clive Barkers of the publishing world. They'll always be there and didn't he do those Hellraiser films? They should tell you something, shouldn't they? Is this the fantasy book about a young girl who finds she is special in the land of adventure that you've always dreamed of reading again?

There are more critics quoted at length inside in the flap. One said stuff about how it turns Alice on its head, like a horror version of Alice and she meets dangerous people instead of friends. Um, no. Alice was the book where a girl didn't want what she wished for and met a whole lot of confusing assholes. Like a foriegner who dreams their whole life of the US of A (yay!) and gets there and Chinatown has the better food so they stay there and never talk to anyone else. I like that Candy Quackenbrush of Chickentown, USA (Minnesota) wants to be in the land of Abarat. She'd get off the tour bus if she were to travel to far off lands. That's the best thing Abarat has going for it.

Chickentown is pretty bleak. The chickens have large talons. There are jobs related to chickens and not much else. I'm a vegetarian so I was feeling (and kinda loving) the hell. I bet those heads run around without bodies and the bodies without heads! Clive Barker did a good job of Abarat, the alternative, too. The islands of the time of the day was a good way to do time travel (time is made up anyway and it can be a different hour if you hop a plane, right?). The people had their own lives and weren't there until the heroine showed up to save the day. That was the other best thing going for it. Like the real world has problems not in a deliberate mock-up of this world in that world problem (yay no world war II analogies!). It's just if you gotta live anywhere chances are pretty good it'll not be that great for everybody. The difference is living in color and living in chicken heads and feet colors. I've lived in nothing towns like that. It sucked!

The problem is not that it is Candytown. I was ready to destar this a notch, and the second book, when my suspicions of reincarnation/soul-body sharing turned out to be true. Of course it was true! That's why so much was a convenient coincidence. I can forgive time travel if there are rules in place. But this is like cheating on character development and that's like the worst thing ever in my book. Barker, you couldn't have come up with anything better than this is because it was what Princess Boa would have done? The there already to explain away because it had already happened before the story takes place? Nuh uh. Write about Candy if you want to write about Candy and write about this Mary Sue Princess Boa chick if you want to write about her. I know who I'd pick. There are too many chase scenes. The whole book is a series of chase scenes. I didn't mind so much until I got to the second book and there were more chase scenes. Boring.

Have you seen the film Labyrinth with David Bowie? This is very much one of those you gotta want it to happen movies. David Bowie in tights. If you don't want that then you won't like Labyrinth. So Bowie plays this questionable bird-like dude who reigns over pitiable monster like creatures and chases after the girl who will be his captive love and he can moon over and still be totally evil with, all the while claiming it'll be some great big change because he looooves her. That's Carrion of Abarat all the way. I liked the pitiable creatures. Shape, Carrion's deformed right hand (his left hand never trusts the right hand. Shape has a bad deal really and truly), was my favorite. It's not a travelogue or about saving the day for him. His life sucks and he hates who he is. I felt that.

Okay, so it is pretty obvious to anyone who has ever read one of these that Candy is gonna make friends. If you like this you want to know what's different. I'm grumpy in retrospect 'cause of the spoiler reason. I'm reading it 'cause of the making friends thing. If you can believe it. Is that lame? I was sad as hell when Dorothy has to go home, when Milo of The Phantom Tollbooth has to go home, the Narnia kids (until they become religious tight asses, anyway). I like that so much better than defeating the ass of evil parts. That's the dream, right? You can move somewhere different and you won't eat nothing but fortune cookies until you die.

The freaking spoiler reason. Too much foreshadowing and wise old ladies shades of Sleeping Beauty talking about what is gonna happen. No, no, no. I might be lured into love with David Bowie tights but I am not that easy!

Also, in book two Candy pisses me off for getting onto another character for stealing food as if she didn't totally steal food in book one. Hypocrite! God, how annoying. I stopped liking her after that, I must admit. It was like she was the resident and not the visitor in a bad way.

It depends on what you want, maybe. I want someone to believe in and root for. I've got a wanderlust thing going on and relate to the desire to pick up and run away at a moment's notice. Do they have to really be special for SPECIAL reasons? Can't they be special for some thing that no one would ever think to notice? That'd be pretty cool. I don't know. I kinda liked this but I felt something was missing and not something missing in the special girl goes to special lands and does special things formula. The missing ingredient is loooove. Love of what it started out with until my spoiler suspicion took overwhelming shape and I started to get ticked off. Maybe he'll redeem himself in the rest of the series. If there are more chase scenes I'll be ticked off again. That's a whole lot of redeeming to do. Don't run! Open wide.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Nate D (last edited Jun 30, 2011 11:51AM) (new)

Nate D I was recently fondly recalling being mesmerized and spooked by A Thief of Always as a kid and thinking "why have I not read more Clive Barker?" What do you recommend?

Mariel This is my first Barker, I'm afraid. But I did like this and I'm reading the second. They are influenced by Alice and Oz.

message 3: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Labyrinth is fucking awesome!

Mariel I was obsessed with Labyrinth since 1986. Bowie is pretty much the greatest ever. I have a Gr shelf just for things that remind me of Labyrinth. Yet no one has appreciated it! Don't others want more stuff like Labyrinth?!

message 5: by Kristen (new)

Kristen I just liked the puppets.
Now I want to watch that movie again!

Off to check out your Labyrinth shelf . . .

Mariel I have puppets. It's one of my hobbies.

Miriam This reminded me more of a reversal of MirrorMask (or vice versa, I don't know which is earlier) than of Alice -- but probably every fantasy with a girl unexpectedly cast into an alternate reality is in some way influenced by AinW.

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