Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: Hellbound Hearts edited by Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan

Hellbound Hearts, edited by Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan, is an eerie anthology based on the Hellraiser films and the original novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. Inside the pages of Hellbound Hearts you’ll find short stories from such famous names as Neil Gaiman, Steve Niles, Sarah Langan, Mick Garris, Kelly Armstrong, Christopher Golden and many, many more.

The book begins with an introduction from the man himself, Clive Barker, who without none of this would be possible. He goes on to speak of the legacy his novella and ensuing Hellraiser films have left in their wake, but is wary to take credit for creating a “mythos”. And yet, here we are, with countless well-known writers eager to feed from this mythos and produce their own tales of pain and pleasure. As Pinhead might say, the Hellraiser mythos will be legendary, even in HELL (where it’s probably already quite popular!)!

All of the short stories contained within the anthology are truly splattacular, but I do have a few favorites that stuck out as noticeably as Pinhead’s nails sticking out of his cranium. My absolute favorite of the bunch was Sister Cilice by Barbie Wilde. Wilde is best known for her portrayal of the female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, but she is also an accomplished dancer, performer and writer. Her short story absolutely stunned me with its simplicity yet complex character. It tells of Sister Nikoletta, who though appears devout, has violent sexual fantasies and is slipping further and further away from the faith. She one day discovers an old tome called the Grimorium Enochia that tells how to call the Cenobites and enter their world of exquisite pain. The story sounds simple enough, but the character of Sister Nikoletta is so conflicted and perverse that I was just drawn into the story and it stuck with me long after I had finished the anthology.

Another of my favorites was Only the Blind Survive by Yvonne Navarro. This tale really stuck out because it is steeped in Native American lore. It tells of a Native American warrior that stumbles across an odd sand painting in the desert and runs back to his village to tell the elders as it is one of the signs that a gate to evil will soon be opened. Spirit warriors must face off against the evil that slithers from the gate, and the tribe’s people can only be saved if they cannot see the creature, which is known to feed on fear after someone sees it. This take on the demonic was probably the most unique of all the stories considering its far removed setting and Native American setting.

I also wholeheartedly enjoyed Kelly Armstrong’s The Collector, about a puzzle solver who gets herself involved with an online puzzle contest whose final test is solving a very peculiar puzzle box. The delicious twist at the end definitely made this one of my favorites! Other standouts included The Confessor’s Tale by Sarah Pinborough, Every Wrong Turn by Tim Lebbon, A Little Piece of Hell by Steve Niles and The Dark Materials Project by Sarah Langan.

It is truly amazing how Clive Barker’s work could go on to inspire so many different terrifying tales. Each and every one is worth reading and it was painful to try and pick out just a few to talk about when all of the stories are so stellar. Each of the authors captures the aesthetic and themes of the Hellraiser mythos, all the while tweaking it just enough to make it their own. What truly makes this anthology so exciting is how many different directions authors can go with Barker’s legacy. From Native American lore to the future of science behind “Shadow DNA”, there is really no limit to how writers can reinterpret and retell the Hellraiser mythos. And, yes, I disagree with Mr. Barker because he truly HAS created a mythos with distinct stories, rules and characters that are instantly recognizable and that I think will stand the test of time.

Horror fans that relish shocking literature as well as Cliver Barker and Hellraiser fans are sure to enjoy Hellbound Hearts. Don’t torture yourself, get your copy today!

Buy it on Amazon!

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