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Clive Barker’s "Cabal" is a dark fable where the humanity of monsters is balanced against the monstrosity of human behavior. Boone, a man with a mental disorder, is led to believe that he is responsible for a number of hideous murders. He flees to a small town called Midian in search of a society of monsters that live under a cemetery. There he discovers that some humans are far more monstrous than the creatures known as the Nightbreed. Yet while the Nightbreed are sympathetic, they certainly aren’t safe.
This was actually my first experience with one of Clive Barker’s novels, but it will not be my last. While the book is far from perfect -- Boone himself is something of a bland protagonist, I would’ve preferred more description of Midian’s underground society, and I think Barker flinches at a choice near the end -- "Cabal" gets quite a bit right, and it makes up for any missteps with a very visceral listen. There are buckets of blood and gore and organs described in all the splatterpunk carnage you’d expect from the late 80s (it was originally published in 1988). There’s also a startling, fierce, and hungry sexuality. In the opening of the book, we learn that Boone and Lori, two very beautiful young people trying to fit in with society, have difficulty in bed. As we witness Boone becomes more of a monster, we see these characters draw closer in ways they weren’t able to before.
Chet Williamson has the voice of an old time radio dramatist, and it ends up serving this story well. Initially, I wasn't sure if his square-jawed voice was the right one for this book. But Williamson's steady, no frills reading won me over in the end, providing a nice foil between the monsters and the monstrous.
"Cabal" is a story where the monsters, despite being grotesque and violent, are far more sympathetic than the majority of the humans we encounter. In Barker's tale, it's tough and dangerous being an outsider or someone different, but it's also unquestionably good.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about Cabal? What did you like least?
Like him or not, nobody can deny that Clive Barker has fantastic ideas for stories. The story theme of monsters (of the night, aka The Nightbreed) hiding below ground from the monsters above (humans) offers a great juxtaposition of just who are the real monsters in the story.<br/>That said, the characters are somewhat weak, we don't really find out needed information about the backgrounds of different characters and why they have become what they are; at least not enough to form any sense of relatability. The timeline seems to be spotty, either moving too fast or missing pieces in between scenes.<br/>It almost seems like maybe Cabal should have been made into a novel. I think there was enough, withmore detail and more spacing to do so, but instead the whole thing feels, short and rushed.<br/>Still, Barker is Barker and he has his moments of prose in Cabal that make it good. It may not be his best work, but it certainly isn't bad either. The idea Barker presents about just whom the real monsters in this world are is enough to warrant three stars.
Was Cabal worth the listening time?
Yes. Even though I gave it three stars, it is still worth listening to, even if just to be familiar with Barkers early works.
Any additional comments?
It's an ok listen, just understand it isn't as good as some of his works released around the same time (Books of Blood, Damnation Game).
4 of 5 people found this review helpful