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By: M.E Sy


(NOTE: I usually post my blogs every month and my blog site “Stone Tablets of Ezra” is only concerned about listing anything and everything under the sun. However, I’ve decided to feature my book review about a horror book and would mark it as my “Halloween Special blog post.”)


Clive Barker’s “The Great and the Secret Show”: The First Book of Art

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Hardbound Cover of “The Great and the Secret Show” (front)


“Memory, prophecy and fantasy –
the past, the future and the
dreaming moment between –
are all one country,
living one immortal day.

To know this is Wisdom.

To use it is the Art. “





Superb, Vivid, Impressive, Compelling, Engrossing are just some of the adjectives that I    use to describe Clive Barker’s “The Great and the Secret Show”, a novel that was published in 1989 and completed the first book of the “Art Trilogy”. An avid reader of Clive Barker, I never doubted that this book would also be a masterpiece (like his other novels) before I had even read its first page. Unlike Barker’s first novel, The Damnation Game, this First Book of Art is more on the fantasy side than on the horror side of genre. It is seasoned with thrilling and electrifying events, metaphysics, and tremendous visualizations. A completely page-turner indeed!

Now, without any further ado, I will present my views about the novel and the author.

About the Author


Clive Barker, a natural born Englishman, is the author of over twenty horror and fantasy novels including The Damnation Game, The Thief of Always, Hellbound Heart, Books of Blood (I-VI), Imajica, Galilee, Sacrament and a whole lot more. A versatile person that he is, you would not believe that he is also a film director, film producer, illustrator, painter, and a screenwriter.  He is one of the most talented and effective horror and fantasy writer of his era and as what Stephen King quoted on one of Barker’s novels, “I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker”, it is really no doubt that Barker is the king of modern horror.  His eccentric and rich concepts about the world that revolves around human depravity, the state of the mind and the unusual creatures attract the attentions of millions of readers worldwide, allowing him to become the best of the best novelist.


The Plot


The story started off when Randolph Jaffe (The Jaffe) got a job at Omaha Central Post Office where he spent his many boring months sorting out dead letters for his supervisor named Homer. He was obliged to rip off the envelopes and find something valuable like money and precious jewelries and to give Homer his share of whatever morsels the dead letters would have in them.  Eventually, The Jaffe knew that he had a purpose in life when he discovered messages from the dead letters and found a medallion from a mysterious faction known as “The Shoal”. Then, when he killed Homer, he wandered away and got lost into a space where he met Kissoon (The last member of the Shoal) from whom he gained knowledge about Quiddity (the dream sea) where humans go whenever they dream and could only visit Quiddity thrice: the day they were born, when they lie beside the one they love and before dying. In order for him to permanently possess Quiddity, he must first use “The Art”.

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The back cover of “The Great and the Secret Show”



He met Fletcher, a mescaline-addict scientist who made a chemical called “Nuncio” that transforms a human being into a strange creature. The Jaffe wanted to cheat his way into Quiddity, and when Fletcher found out about his aspirations to take over the dream sea, he opposed The Jaffe. And at the end of the first part of the book, they became inhuman beings and fought for many centuries (with their league of creatures formed from hallucinations and fears: the hallucigenas and teratas) until they impregnated innocent girls with their spirits. The battle was fueled more when their children fell in love with each other and didn’t want to join the league of their fathers to preserve their serenity as couples. The story didn’t just end there. You will encounter many twists and turns while reading the last half part of the book and will surely read about the Iad Uroburos, Tesla Bombeck, and Nathan Grillo and will glimpse at the final show, The Great and the Secret Show.



My Favorite Part in the Story


My favorite part is when Tesla Bombeck tried to persuade The Jaffe to come back to the Vance’s residence and help them resolve the big havoc that he had started. The Jaffe was unwilling to go with them unless Tesla would decipher the meaning of the medallion. As what Tesla realized while in profound scrutiny, the two axes in the medallion portrayed the Metacosm and the Cosm. The Metacosm is the sealed condition of being while the Cosm is the world where humans live. Both of them conveyed the things that we know and don’t know. The symbol of the crux in the middle portrayed the Quiddity. It is the center of everything — it’s the mind, our dreams and the crossroad between the Cosm and the Metacosm. It caught my interest for the fact that we, as human beings, don’t know the extremes of some things that beyond the recognition of our eyes. To others, the boundaries of possibilities are non-existent. To know what lies beyond the boundaries is wisdom.


The Final Bow


I recommend this book not only because it is written by one of the great modern horror writers. Even though it was published around the 80’s, it hasn’t lost its charm as a well-written novel. The texts on pages are rich with insights that can open one’s mind for possibilities about humans’ depravity, deprivation, and dreams. The storyline is laden with remarkable characters and twists that can reel up the imaginative quest in your reading experience.