Books of Blood, Vol. 2 - Clive Barker Dread
I read Dread ages ago in its graphic art format and really can’t remember much about it besides the fact that it made my skin crawl a little.

Stephen Grace is a university student who catches the eye of a teacher named Quaid. Stephen is afraid of public speaking but Quaid instructs him not only to give voice to his fears but to analyze them. Quaid is fascinated with dread in all its facets and revels in learning more about it.

I have to admit this short story took some work getting into. Seven tries to be exact. It didn’t hook me right away and was a bit boring and dry. Stephen meets Quaid in a local bar and they have a really tedious conversation about the “beast” of philosophy and how the school doesn’t really teach it, eventually leading into a discussion about dread. This begins their tenuous friendship. After some checking around, Stephen learns that strangely enough no one on campus knows much at all about Quaid. When a bright beautiful student named Cheryl begins spending time with Quaid, Stephen is initially jealous because she’s hogging so much of his time. Before long Stephen realizes Quaid is only interested in Cheryl because she is a vegetarian who fears meat. And you just know this isn’t going to end well . . .

Quaid, you see, has been “experimenting” with all facets of dread, trying to learn all he can to expand his intelligentia. Before Stephen realizes what is going on with the not-so-sane Quaid, he has already exposed his fears to him. But things don’t end quite as Quaid expects as he experiences the ultimate lesson in dread.

Though this story was a slow starter once it got moving it didn’t let up. Barker usually does an amazing job building dread so this story suits his talent well. It’s a slow build but once you can get through the first few dull pages you get a decent payoff.

Hell’s Event
Hell’s come up to visit the streets of London in order to gather up some souls. Hell enjoys a good wager and intends to win a big race but a nosy competitor catches on to his plan.

This story mostly bored me. There was a lot of talk about racing and winning, blah, blah, freaking blah. Finally, things take a turn for the creepy midway through when the runners realize they’re running for more than a prize, they’re running for their lives and . . . democracy!

Though things finally picked up overall I didn’t care much for this story.

Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament

Jacqueline’s life is one boring day followed by another. She can’t take it anymore and decides to put an end to her misery but fails in the attempt and is brought back from the brink of death with a grisly talent and a new lust for life. It’s horribly humorous.

Then we switch gears and read Oliver Vassi’s testimony where he explains how he first met Jacqueline and was instantly under her spell. Enamored by her but knowing she’s been lying to him he starts to snoop into her past and gets a small taste of her power and then wants more . . . Foolish man.

This was a great story; so far my favorite possibly because of the twisted love story and creative goriness Barker delights in as he details his dark tale of lust, power and love.

The Skins of the Fathers

When Davidson’s Mustang breaks down on the side of the highway in the desert he immediately hears a song and thinks he sees a line of dancers. So the fool gets it into his head to chase them down, hollering like an idiot. A few actually stop, only to reveal themselves as monsters. He poops his panties and attempts to flee and the beast reduces his beautiful car to pieces of shredded metal and skedaddles in a glorious burst of flames. After this weird encounter Davidson is picked up, stinky pants and all, by another driver. He got off easy but he’s too dumb to leave town.

“Once every generation or so, the desert spat out its demons and let them loose awhile.”

This is what cocky sheriff Packard’s dad told him as a young ‘un but he never believed that crap until the gooey remains of a Bar-B-Q’d demon show up in his town. Nasty fun and gore ensue but then the true horror begins when Barker introduces a wife beating, child abusing man. And when the reason he’s so damn mean is revealed, well, I’ll just say that the monsters have something to do with it.

A hick sheriff, small minded red-necks and some silly women fill out the story and there wasn’t a likable one in the whole lot. The “demons”, determined to fix a cataclysmic error made eons ago, may be the only decent characters here but they’re not all that bright either.

I liked the idea behind this story but in the end some of the actions of the monsters just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

New Murder in the Rue Morgue

Lewis returns to Paris at the request of life long friend Catherine. Their old friend Philip, a randy old coot who at 69 years of age is still going at it with beautiful 19 year olds, is accused of brutally murdering his latest lovely young thing. Philip has no interest in being saved and only wants to die but Catherine begs Lewis to stay, to investigate. So investigate he does and what he uncovers is downright bizarre and if I say anything else I’ll no doubt ruin the story for you.

This one was weird and that’s all I’m saying.