Clive Barker’s Weaveworld (1988)

Today British-born author Clive Barker is chiefly noted as the creator of the Horror movie ‘Hellraiser’ (1987), which he scripted and directed, and its iconic pain-loving character ‘Pinhead’. Though perhaps unfairly blamed (or credited) by some as the harbinger of the shallow ‘torture-porn’ that has defined much of the cinematic Horror genre for the last decade, Barker remains a remarkably gifted writer of Horror fiction, or perhaps more often in his case, Dark Fantasy, as well as a talented and imaginative artist and illustrator.

One of his earliest works, and probably his greatest mainstream success outside of the strict field of Horror, is his hefty 1988 tome ‘Weaveworld’. The story revolves around an ancient supernatural world, the Fugue, hidden in the weave of a carpet (hence the title), but if that conjures up images of a magical C.S. Lewis type of adventure, think again. While combining all the usual clichés of the Fantasy genre, several characters with intersecting storylines, strange artefacts visions and portents, mysterious strangers and encounters, Barker is a Horror writer, with an imagination considerably darker than anything Lewis’ could probably have managed, or at least put to paper, and he sets his tale largely in the contemporary urban setting of modern Britain, with a subtle blend of the more traditional and at times gruesome elements of Horror fiction. The battle for control of the carpet, its pursuit and capture, and the eventual outcome of that, is the narrative arc that holds that story together and drives it along. Though characterization and dialogue have never been Barker’s greatest strength he does a fair job in ‘Weaveworld’ which was clearly a labour of love. Notable for its lack of explicit horror the book nevertheless does manage to disturb in places, combing a dark eroticism with thoughts about religion, life, death and perceptions of reality.

It has gone on the influence several other works in the new genre of contemporary urban Fantasy and Horror or Dark Fantasy, and echoes of it can be seen in books ranging from Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ (2001) to China Miéville’s ‘King Rat’ (1998). Though numerous other novels and short stories have followed, ‘Weaveworld’ remains among Clive Barker’s stronger and more accessible works and he remains an artist of consummate, if not always particularly well channelled, power and imagination.

‘Weaveworld’ continues to be published and is available in several editions.

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