“He is a transformer of human flesh; a creator of monsters.”
”Tortured Souls” is one of the most vividly imagined, tightly compressed novellas ever written by the incomparable Clive Barker. At once violent and erotic, brutal and strangely beautiful, it takes us into the heart of the legendary ”first city” known as Primordium, the site of political upheaval, passionate encounters, and astonishing acts of transformation.
Lurking at the edges of this extravagant tale is the ancient entity known as ”Agonistes,” who accepts the pleas of selected ”Supplicants,” transforming them, through a combination of art, magic, and pain, into avatars of violence and revenge.
The story begins when a freelance assassin named Zarles Krieger commits a routine murder-for-hire. This act will lead him to two life-altering encounters, one with the daughter of his victim, the other with Agonistes himself. This conjunction of the human and the inhuman stands at the center of this instantly absorbing creation.
With great authority and equally great economy, ”Tortured Souls” expands to become a portrait of Primordium itself, with its hierarchies, its hidden mysteries, its shifting power structure, and–most significantly–its indelible cast of characters. A perfectly controlled example of what Barker calls ”the fantastique,” ”Tortured Souls” is something truly special, a story whose imaginative reach and sheer narrative power are evident on every page.”
I don’t generally read horror books as they aren’t my cup of tea generally, however I decided to try Clive Barker earlier this year with his book The Hellbound Heart. The movie Hellraiser is based off of that book, and I wanted to see where the movie came from. It was a pretty creepy read. So of course, during the Halloween Season, I had to find another one of his books. With my course load, I wanted something that I could get through nice and quickly. Tortured Souls fit the bill perfectly.
The book was a while 87 pages. Wow, so long! I know! So I read this book in about 30 minutes and loved every minute it. It captured me and kept me going. It’s a collection of short stories that, woven together, make a larger story. It’s all around this city and this creator Agonistes, who is a creation of God, and then can play with humans and create them to be terrifying. The whole description of what he does to the humans that call for him is terrifying. And gruesome.
But within all of this horror and terror is something beautiful. Two people, who were so twisted by what they had become, found love together. They were able to find comfort together in everything they had done (which was for a cause). But, all good things come to an end and their love was their downfall.
I honestly loved this book and wasn’t really expecting to. Clive Barker is honestly a master when it comes to horror writing. While he doesn’t necessarily scare you with questioning what will happen, you generally blatantly know what is going to happen and that makes it so much scarier. He also has no fear with saying what is happening. He will state the torture going on and he will not be afraid to do so. I quite like the frankness in his writing.
Additionally, he suggests ideas that seem so real! Especially in this book, since it had these godly reference, it kept referencing to God and bits of the Bible. I even had to google some parts of it because it seemed so real, like it could have been an obscure part of religious history that they don’t teach you. Of course his books are about demons and creatures which religions generally do not teach, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if some it was real. But of course, it was not. He writes in such a convincing fashion.
The book was based on earth, in the past, but also in the present as well. You’re never really clear when the stories take place. It says that the city where it all occurred, Primordium, came before any other cities. However there were cars and such. It is a creative way to write because it can be now, but it also cannot be. It is a place beyond time.
I absolutely loved this book and it was a perfect book for the Halloween month. It is an adult book because of the nature of the writing and the general themes going on in the book.
I do recommend that you read it, if you like horror books! For that, I give it a while 5 teacups!