Novella Review: Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

infernal-paradeInfernal Parade by Clive Barker

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: N/A

Publisher: Subterranean Press (February 28, 2017)

Length: 88 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Infernal Parade by Clive Barker is a novella containing a series of short stories which, including the illustrations (by Bob Eggleton), comes in at under 100 pages and probably took me less than an hour to read. For such a slim volume though, it held a surprising amount of fascination for me. Thing is, out of context, the half dozen or so tales in here might seem a little random until you know a bit more about their history. Back in the early 2000s McFarlane Toys put out a couple lines of horror action figures which came distributed with portions of fictional pieces about them written by Barker as an added incentive. “The Infernal Parade” was one of these toy lines, inspired by a nightmarish circus filled with monstrous attractions and other gruesome curiosities. It included six figures.

Things kick off with the tale of our ringmaster, the convicted killer Tom Requiem. Hanged for his crimes, he nonetheless returns from the brink of death to head up a literal freak show spotlighting the terrifying and the tortured. From all across globe and even into the mythical realms, Tom scours through time and space for creatures to join his macabre parade, starting with the woman he murdered, Mary Slaughter the blade swallower. The two of them are next joined by Elijah, a bloodthirsty golem that killed the master who created it; the tormented members of Dr. Fetter’s family of freaks; the Sabbaticus, a monster out of the wilds of Karantica; and last but not least, Bethany Bled, the prisoner in the Iron Maiden.

These are their stories, brought together in this one handy collection. They don’t form a single overarching narrative per se, since each tale can be read as a standalone, in any order, as they were meant to accompany their individual action figures. If you think about it, it’s actually rather ingenious, because having glimpsed the actual Infernal Parade toys on comic book and game store shelves over the years, it’s not hard to see why some might be repelled by their disturbing and grotesque nature (as striking and gorgeously detailed as they are)—but if you happen to be a Clive Barker fan, a horror buff, or perhaps you are simply curious about a particular figure’s backstory, I can understand the appeal behind these shorts. The stories in here are each around 6-10 pages long, but there’s a world of imagination packed in every single one. They feel very much like creepy little fables or grisly tales you would tell around a campfire.

That said, even knowing the origins behind Infernal Parade might not not take away the clipped and disjointed feeling of this collection, though in all fairness I don’t typically do well with the super-short fiction format, so this might actually work better for others than it did for me. To their credit too, each story left me wanting more—in the good way. As intended, they feel like snippets in a character’s life story, specifically the circumstances around how they joined up with Tom Requiem and became a part of his parade. As much as I enjoyed these individual tales though, they often left me with the sense that the best is yet to come. For example, I probably had just as much fun imagining in my head everything that would happen in “the after” once this hideous crew got on the road. Where would they tour? Who or what would come out to see them? Think of the sheer potential behind all these crazy scenarios.

Bottom line: those looking for a more substantial read or something that feels more “complete” might not find it here, though if you’re a Clive Barker fan or a collector of rare fiction, it doesn’t get much cooler than this. Infernal Parade is a very special opportunity to get your hands on a unique collection of his short stories that might be tougher to find these days. Even if you’re reading Barker for the first time (like I was) I feel this book would be a wonderful introduction to his dark and distinct style.


Mogsy 2

24 Comments on “Novella Review: Infernal Parade by Clive Barker”

  1. Even if you wished more it does sound like a good introduction when you haven’t tried the author. Well I don’t think I’ll try for now but who knows if not later


  2. Hi Mogsy another great review. If you’ve not read Barker before, can I recommend Weaveworld and Imajica, they are wild and scary… I haven’t read them in years but your review of Infernal Parade makes me want to pick them up again… and I rarely read for pleasure anymore… downside of the job!


  3. I used to read the backstories in my videogames (Blizzard had AWESOME books) so if this landed in my lap I would shift through it too. That said, kinda weird to publish them like this; I suppose the author’s name has enough pull?


    • Oh I love my tie-in fiction. I am always pouncing on Blizzard especially their Warcraft stuff (very exciting to hear they will have their own publishing arm). I’m getting into Paizo/Tor’s Pathfinder Tales books now too.

      P.S. This is the first I’ve read tie-in fiction for toys/action figures though, it’s pretty cool.


  4. Yep, sounds like Barker! His stuff is very dark, and although it’s been years since I read one of his novels, these stories intrigue me. And I sort of remember those collectible figures! Very cool.


    • Yeah as a teen whenever I went to the comic book store I would be drawn to the McFarlane figures in their toy section. They were always so grotesque, and though I knew I would never buy them, I was still. always so fascinated with the artistry and detail of the sculpts!


  5. Reading about your wish for more of the story for each figure I wondered if that was exactly what the author wanted: since the stories gave a sort of background for each toy, maybe they wanted to spur the players’ imaginations so that they could envision the characters’ continuing… adventures as they played. Who knows? 🙂


    • No matter what, it’s a great marketing move for sure! Every figure is a work of art anyway, so really it kind of makes a lot of sense to put in that extra work and give each character a backstory while at it 🙂


  6. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  7. I have more Clive Barker books on my shelf that I haven’t read than ones that I have read. 😦 I need to make my way through them. I did just read The Thief of Always and loved it! I tried reading his newer book The Scarlet Gospels last year, but I couldn’t get into that one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: