Weaveworld Critical Essays

Clive Barker


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Clive Barker’s technique as a fantasist is modern and adult, full of erotic imagery and well-developed human characters. Cal and Suzanna are swept into the increasing strangeness of their situation with a dazzling rapidity. Barker’s style is breathless and generally unadorned by long buildups of menace and atmosphere. The novel is planted in the physical now, so the entry into the Fugue does not signal a break from the real world but is only a wondrous intermission. Cal repeatedly falls out of the fantasy back to the ordinary, grimy world of Liverpool and contemporary England. This is a novel about the miraculous interpenetrating the real, and its resolution lies not in the land of faerie but in southern England.

There is a powerful psychological underpinning to this novel, for it touches the mythic sources of all human struggle. Shadwell, the Salesman, is driven by a desire for power that is exercised in making others want something that only he can give. His magic jacket, the lining of which shows his customers whatever they most desire, is the symbol of his power. He falls victim to his own strategy when he desires to possess the Fugue and its power for himself. When his violence costs him his treasure, his vengeance is personified in the Scourge. Hobart, the policeman, sees himself as an angel of right, but when Shadwell’s jacket reveals that his innermost desire is fire and destruction, he becomes the natural agent for Uriel’s occupation....

(The entire section is 481 words.)