Skip to main content

REVIEW: Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker.

This book review was published in The Star's Reads Monthly on 30 December 2007. The print version comes with a 25% discount voucher for the book which can be used at any MPH bookstore and is valid until 13 January 2008.

Don't Burn This Book!


Author: Clive Barker
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Hardcover: 250 pages
ISBN: 978-0007262618

I HAD not read a Clive Barker book before I picked up Mister B. Gone. I was, however, familiar with the name, of course, as I am aware of his 1987 film, Hellraiser, and have also been acquainted with the computer game, Undying, which he helped create in 2001. I thought the movie was okay, and the game a fun experience to be had when you’re alone in the dark.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I know Mr Barker strictly as a horror writer kind of guy, and even then, not through his books. So when I read his latest book, Mister B. Gone, I was a little surprised that it veered more into the realm of fantasy even though it is marketed as horror.

This may or may not be a good thing, but, personally, I don’t mind, as I can enjoy a fantasy book as much as any other if it’s written well. And this book is written quite well.

The story concerns itself with the miserable life of a low-ranking demon from Hell named Jakabok Botch, sometimes referred to simply as “Mister B”. It starts by telling how he escaped the demented torture his demon father inflicted on him, only to be ensnared by demon-catching humans from Our World. These humans, not surprisingly, turn out to be no less demented than Jakabok’s father when it comes to afflicting pain and abuse.

Jakabok manages to escape from his captors and even falls in love with a human girl. But since he is a demon, his love goes unrequited. No surprise there, as Jakabok also happens to be a ferociously ugly demon, owing to “an accident” involving Jakabok’s father and an extremely hot fire....

The girl he fell in love with soon betrays him and he quickly learns that humans, too, can be as evil as demons, if not more so.

This casting of humans in a dim light is later extended to the Forces of Good, the Angels, who also turn out to be beings capable of equally demented acts, all performed in the name of the greater good. It seems that in Mister B’s world, no being is capable of being truly good and of pure heart.

Looking for allies, the much put-upon Jakabok befriends the demon Quitoon, who has taken to roaming Our World in a quest to visit every machine as humans invent them. Quitoon is quite taken by the human ability to create remarkable tools to improve their lives, but the harried Jakabok remains unimpressed, naturally.

But he becomes even more closely entangled with the despised humans when Quitoon takes him along to a trip to Mainz, where it is rumoured that “someone named Gutenberg” has invented “a machine that will change the world”.

Which brings me to the gimmick at the heart of this book. Mister B. Gone is told in the form of a memoir, with Jakabok himself narrating the tale. The twist here is that, due to forces that will be explained as the story progresses, Jakabok is the book, and has become imprisoned in it.

This makes for some really interesting and occasionally funny moments. The very first sentence on the first page itself assaults you with Jakabok’s plea for you (the reader) to “burn this book”. Desperately trying to break free, Jakabok constantly tries to coerce you throughout the narrative to release him from his eternal cage by having you burn the book.

Unfortunately, Jakabok is such a good and engaging storyteller that the reader constantly refuses to “follow his advice” and does not burn the book – well, this reader certainly didn’t!

If all this sounds very iffy and post-modern to you, don’t be too alarmed. For all the gimmickry, the device actually makes the story work. I don’t think Jakabok would have had the same kind of charm if he didn’t directly address the reader.

However, certain inaccuracies do jump out now and then. The story takes place before and during the events that led to the invention of the printing press, but near the beginning, the human demon-catchers use beer cans as bait. I don’t think beer cans were around before the 1950s!

Apart from those little inaccuracies though – which are nothing more than nitpicks, anyway – the story, both in the way in which it is told and how it carries itself to its satisfying climax, is something for which Mr Barker is worth commending.


  1. Wonderful review, Ted. Well done.

  2. I didn't even consider the inaccuracy of the beer cans - it was written into the story so well!

    Great review!

  3. I liked the book. :)

  4. Mister B GOne is one of the best books I have ever read!!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

HOWTO: Get Rid of Silverfish

The bane of every book collecting person: the Silverfish. DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!! How to get rid of them? If one book has been infected, place it inside an air-tight plastic bag along with some silica gel desiccant. The silica gel is important to get rid of moisture, because you will now place the sealed plastic bag with the book in it inside the freezer. Leave it in there for a couple of days so that those bugs catch their death of cold. If you're feeling particularly paranoid, (like I usually am) feel free to leave the plastic bag in there for a week. If they're not dead, then you might likely have an infestation of zombie silverfish , which is out of the scope of this blogpost. But what if a whole colony of silverfish decided to invade your whole bookcase? Then you have to make sure you're ready for war. Place a generous amount of silica gel (or if you can find it, diatomaceous earth) behind your books at the back of the shelves so that moisture levels remain low.

Hitting 1000.

Last night Sharon quoted Raman of having said to writers when they bring him their manuscripts for publishing, "How many books have you read? Have you read a thousand books? If not, get out and go read a thousand books, then come back with your manuscript." His point being, you've got to have read a lot if you want to be a writer. And I thought to myself, a thousand books isn't so bad. I've probably read more. Er...Wrong. After some quick calculations, we determined that if a person read a book per week, it would take around 20 years to reach a thousand. I'm a slow reader. I'm only 25. There's no way I've read 1000 books my whole life! When I got home I counted the books in my house. I estimate I own around 300 books, probably another 300 left at my parents's house. That's only around 600 books that I own... and a lot less that I've read! So with that number in mind, I have resolved to start keeping track of my book reading. I ne

REVIEW: Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami.

UPDATE: My Wind/Pinball review can be found here . ISBN: n/a Publisher: n/a Paperback: 160 pages In Murakami fan circles, simply owning a copy of Pinball, 1973 is a mark of hardcore-ness. Like Hear the Wind Sing before it, Haruki Murakami does not allow English translations of Pinball, 1973 to be published outside of Japan. Back in the 80s, Alfred Birnbaum translated it into English and Kodansha published it as a novel for Japanese students who wanted to improve their English. While the English edition of Hear the Wind Sing continues to be reprinted and sold in Japan (and available for a moderate sum via eBay, see my review ), Kodansha stopped its reprint runs of the English edition of Pinball, 1973 and has now become a collector's item, fetching vast amounts of money on auction sites and reseller stores. Last time I checked, the cheapest copy went for USD$2500. Of course, Murakami addicts or the curious can always download a less than legal PDF of the book, painst