published 1991; hardback 1991; paperback 1992, HarperPrism
Imajica, Clive Barker's fourth full-length novel, is his greatest by far. Barker is often mistaken for a horror writer because of his creation of movies like Hellraiser and Candyman. But in his books, Barker displays a mastery of fantasy that dwarfs most others in the genre.
All the fantasy trappings are here -- magic, sorcerers, parallel worlds and evil villains. What aren't here are any other fantasy author's visions; this world is Barker's and Barker's alone.
So what is the book actually about? Well, it goes like this: The Imajica consists of 5 realms, or dominions. One of these worlds, the fifth dominion, is Earth. The other four are "reconciled," which means people can travel between them easily. Every two hundred years a chance comes to reconcile the dominions, but it takes some pretty horrendous magic to do it.
Against this backdrop, Barker tells the story of three people: John "Furie" Zacharias (who is universally known as Gentle), Judith Odell, and Pi oh Pah. Zacharias is a Don Juan from Hell who makes money forging the paintings of famous artists. Odell is a woman whose husband has hired an assassin to kill her for leaving him. Pi oh Pah is that assassin, an androgyne who can assume the shape of a person's greatest fantasy.
These three must face the evil of an organization that wishes to destroy both all magic on Earth and the Autarch, the evil and misunderstood(?) ruler of the reconciled dominions. Along the way, all three characters unravel their own histories and the history of all humankind. And if they are good, they might even meet God along the way.
To say any more would really destroy this book for the first-time reader. There are a couple of side notes, however. This story is very sensual and blunt, so if that disturbs you as a reader then don't go near this book. Also, if you are a devout Christian you might want to leave this one alone. The Christian imagery is not the most favorable.
The best character, for my taste, is the rather dry, nasty, smooth-talking magical servant Dowd. This man lends a feeling of genuine evil to the first half of the book that it otherwise would have lacked. All the other characters, and there are a lot of them, are developed nicely. The story even does the minor characters justice, a refreshing change. Those characters make what would otherwise have been a rather unwieldy tome into a fresh, wonderful epic that will keep you guessing till the last page. I promise.
Review by Cory L. Williams
Reviewed January 5, 1999
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