Periodically the Snook and I – in an effort to better ourselves – take turns recommending books to each other that the recommendee is obligated to read. Most recently he handed me his old paperback copy of Clive Barker’s Imajica. I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect (as he was well aware). I had a dorky boyfriend in high school who read nothing but Barker and Piers Anthony and it pretty much soured those authors for me for life. The only Barker I’ve ever been able to get through before was The Thief of Always (which I enjoyed, to be honest). Anyway, I dived into Imajica trusting that the Snook wouldn’t steer me wrong only to pull up short at the first sentence:
“It was the pivotal teaching of Pluthero Quexos, the most celebrated dramatist of the Second Dominion, that in any fiction, no matter how ambitious its scope or profound its themes, there was only ever room for three players.”
My sister would’ve immediately sneered, “I don’t read books with people named Pluthero in them,” and kicked him in the bum. But I persevered…My biggest problem with the story is that it takes so long to get any plot action going. I mean, things are happening that you eventually figure out tie into the plot, but without a sense of dramatic tension to propel the story forward I found myself wanting to set it aside several times. Barker has a great imagination but I can’t stand to read 500 pages of fantastical landscape and character description. It reminds me a lot of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station in that respect: The author is just in love with his own vision and spends so much time describing it that you’re sick of the whole world by the time the actual plot rolls around.
I was also worried that Barker was setting up a lot of enigmas that were never going to be solved. That always pisses me off. Luckily the Snook was there to assure me that all the loose ends would eventually be explained. They pretty much all were, with one niggling exception… (Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled.) How in the world did Sartori – the one that set himself up as Autarch – meet up with Quaisoir? As I understand it, she was the “original” Judith and fell in love with Sartori, so he made the facsimile Judith to appease Roxborough (giving her eternal youth and bequeathing her to the family). Sartori also unwittingly made his own copy, who then messes up the Reconciliation and somehow makes his way out of the Fifth… with Quaisoir? Does she think he’s the real Sartori the whole time? Why did she change her name? (Or was that original name?) If the real “Gentle” Sartori was so in love with her, why didn’t he even mention her when he was asking Pie to wipe his memory? We didn’t even get a “Hey, look after that love of my life for me, will ya?” It’s really not a huge deal in terms of the plot but it’s pissing me off. Barker places all this huge universal importance on the idea of “lovers” but then completely drops the ball there.
Anyway, I finished the book last night and I’d give it a positive review overall. It starts slowly (and the ending isn’t quite as spectacular as I’d hoped), but there are some really great ideas and images in there that I’ll never forget. Oh, and a lot of really weird sex. I was reading it on the bus home from work yesterday and I think the person standing in the aisle next to me is scarred for life. It’s also really fun to try to guess where Barker is going with all the mixed metaphor and allegory and allusion. (Me: “So wait… If Gentle is Jesus, does that make Celestine Mary? And holy crap, are they going to have sex with each other?”) At least is generated some really fun discussions/arguments between the Snook and me. Now it’s my turn to choose… and it’s about time the Snook was introduced to Roland of Gilead, I think.