Science Fiction Book Review

Coldheart Canyon

Coldheart Canyon (2002) Clive Barker, HarperCollins, 6.99, pbk, 751pp, ISBN 0-00-651040-X


Actor Todd Pickett, no longer as young as he once was, is talked into a facelift which goes a bit wrong. So he arranges through his agent to retreat to a house in Coldheart Canyon, a forgotten outskirt of Hollywood. There he runs into the house's owner, Katya Lupi, a star from the twenties who has apparently not aged. Outside in the canyon the offspring of animals and the ghosts of stars past roam, while in a room below the house fantastic creatures also roam within the tiles of a hunting scene dreamt up by Lilith, the wife of the Devil...

Some nice ideas and trademark grotesque images are peppered throughout this book but, sadly, it is overwritten by two to three hundred pages. It's a shame that once certain authors have achieved a certain degree of fame editors seem either scared or simply disinclined to edit them. Clive is a great bloke with a wonderful imagination, but he continually does himself a disservice by going on and on and on and on, instead of actually getting on with the damn story! There is no reason on earth why he should get away with self-indulgence like inserting a twenty page digression detailing the death of his dog (no matter how loved the pooch was), especially when it is edited into the text badly. There is a great opportunity going missed here to expose the barbs of Hollywood, not to mention ample room for some well observed humour, and instead we get a story that doesn't know when it's over, with more padding than a debutante's bra. Now, don't get me wrong; I like Clive's work and, even at his worst, he's still a hell of a lot better than some of the cretins on our bookshelves, but boy could he use an editor that isn't a coward. No doubt this book has sold and will continue to sell well, so I don't feel too guilty about this stinky review, but personally I can't recommend it and long for the days of the Books of Blood when Clive was the soul of brevity.

Tony Chester

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