Cabal Book reviews


Author(s): Clive BarkerDownload  


For more than two decades, Clive Barker has twisted the worlds of horrific and surrealistic fiction into a terrifying, transcendent genre all his own. With skillful prose, he enthralls even as he horrifies; with uncanny insight, he disturbs as profoundly as he reveals. Evoking revulsion and admiration, anticipation and dread, Barker’s works explore the darkest contradictions of the human condition: our fear of life and our dreams of death.

Some Reviews: 552 in


Jack rated it     

I’m so interested in the resurrection of Barker’s film of ‘Cabal’ – 1990’s ‘Nightbreed’ – that I thought I would check out the novel before I saw the theatrical cut of the film. I have wanted to read Barker for years, particularly after reading a short story of his in the Vandermeers’ ‘New Weird’ anthology, called “In the Hills, the Cities”, that had a breathtakingly visceral and grand MacGuffin.

Now, the assembly of the ‘Cabal Cut’ from DVD and VHS sources and the ongoing quest to recover the negatives for Barker’s original vision of the film have reminded me how intriguing I have found Barker’s work from afar, so I was glad to finally dig in.

This is a short novel with a story that other authors would turn into a series or at least a tome, as it centres on Midian, an underground community of monsters. But this isn’t a cuddly Narnia style world. Barker’s monsters are often unsettlingly unpleasant, even if they aren’t necessarily amoral. The serial killer thread that leads the main character, Boone, to Midian is fairly rote, and the prose isn’t as evocative as I was expecting given Barker’s reputation, but otherwise the vision of ‘Cabal’ is quite dazzling. Barker’s trademark eroticism of the supernatural makes sequences you think you’ve seen before much more powerful and provocative.

That said, Barker still feels like he’s developing as a writer at this point. He’s capable of grander visions but doesn’t seem to be ready for them yet. I’m interested to try his more ambitious works like The Books of the Art.


Lelouch rated it     

I really enjoyed the start of the book. Boone is speaking with his psychiatrist and comes to the realization he is a serial killer. Plagued by guilt, he wants to do the right thing and turn himself in. Once he’s in prison, Boone learns of a place where monsters live and thinks he belongs there. Poor Boone has the beta personality where he just goes where life takes him. He’s paired with a strong woman Lori who takes control of her own life. Keeping in mind their contrasting personalities, reading their interactions becomes more interesting, especially their last few scenes. The first half of the book deal with Boone accepting his fate, and the second half deals with the outside world learning of Midian. The villain (view spoiler) spins a story that portrays the creatures of Midian as evil. (view spoiler) It’s not your typical monster horror novel.

The part that I didn’t like was a few weird sexual scenes. see mack moyer’s review for details:…

Jeff McIntosh

Jeff McIntosh rated it     

Clive Barker seems more renowned for his fantasy writing these days…so it was a pleasure to return to his roots after his “Books of Blood”. “Cabal” contains both the title piece and several short stories, of which “The Last Illusion” is one. Both “Cabal” and “Last” have been filmed – first as “Nightbreed” (1990) and “Lord of Illusions” (1995).

“Cabal” tells the story of Boone – framed for a series of grisly murders by his psychiatrist, and his search for Midian, the city of monsters – where Boone believes he will find peace.

“The Last Illusion” concerns the death of Swann – who sold his soul to the Devil for magical powers, and, discovering he had made a poor bargain – used said powers to subvert Hell….his body must be cremated to avoid the Devil’s wrath, and only a PI and Swann’s servant can prevent a fate worse than death for Swann….

You can do far worse than Barker….


Megan rated it      

I reread this novella every October if not more frequently. I first found the book in 2004 while studying abroad in London. I found this tiny paperback copy that only held “Cabal”, though after it went a miss (a friend borrowed it and never returned it… needless to say I am still cranky over it) I bought the edition I tagged.

Cabal is one of my very favorite horror stories, because the monsters are the heroes. Not a unique idea today, but apparently in the 80’s it was. The imagery and langue choices are superb. It has a lot of the Clive Barker tropes (this was my first Clive Barker book so I didn’t know that at the time) and images, but it holds it’s own among his stories.

The novella spawned my favorite of Clive Barkers films, even though ti was cheesy and misedited. I am pleased to say after 8 years of teasing the proper directors cut, or “Cabal Cut” of Nightbreed is now in my bluray player, and rereading the book and watching the new cut is amazing!

I think what really draws me to this novella is the love story between Lori and Boone. As a more educated adult I can see how some of the actions could be misconstrued as unhealthy. But you can’t break every story apart and cry “BAD” just cause the characters do some questionable things.

I see Lori and Boone as two very imperfect people who wanted very badly to be loved and found in each other a person who accepted them and that they wanted to care for in return.

The more graphic scenes are not too over the top (for a Barker fan at least) and the prose is so vivid throughout that you really feel as if you can see what is happening.

I admit to not reading the short stories at the back of the book. I also just got the book in eBook format, but this is one book I love to hold in my hands

“It’s all true. God’s an Astronaut. Oz is Over the Rainbow, and Midian is where the monsters live.”

Thomas Flowers

Thomas Flowers rated it      

Wow. Why has it taken me so long to get into this masterpiece of horror fiction? WHY? I remember growing up in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, Barker was something of an enigma. The only work I really knew of the man was through the Hellraiser films, which to were to say, taboo, in their own day. But I never ventured into reading his books or stories. What ill fortune for me to have ignored his literary works. His prose is unmatched, different, poetic even. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King for just the same reason, his style of writing. But Barker’s style is something else entirely. He doesn’t draw you in with internal thoughts so much. He draws you in with storytelling and his development of mythos. And getting to the point of the matter, Cabal ought to be on everyone’s must read list, especially considering the books short but beautiful novella length. Cabal is romance-horror and though I’ve seen this kind of story before, I’ve never it done in such a powerful way. The idea of romantic characters and horror isn’t something thought of when thinking of the macabre. Comedy and horror, sure. Laughing and screaming go hand and hand. But romance, longing, almost ritualistic in nature, beside the cunning debauchery of gore and monsters? Well…its very cleaver and adds to the tragedy of it all.


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