Picks and Pans Review: The Inhuman Condition

updated 09/08/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/08/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Clive Barker

As the popularity of horror movies suggests, there are lots of people in this world who like to be frightened. This book of five stories by a British writer has all the right ingredients to terrify them in an entertaining way. The title story, for instance, is about a mysterious string with three knots in it. It belongs to a bum who is attacked by young hoods. The only member of the gang with any humanity in him at all finds the string, unties one knot and unleashes a beast that kills. "The Body Politic" is about a man named Charlie George, whose hands are in revolt. Despite everything Charlie does to prevent it, they strangle his wife, and then one of them cuts the other hand off. Soon other hands have been enlisted, and a whole gang of them is loosed upon an unsuspecting city. Will Charlie be able to stop them before they take over the world? In "Revelations" an evangelist and his wife who are on the road in West Texas spend the night in a room where a murder had once been committed. The ghosts of dead lovers return to live again through their last night there. The author has located his fictitious Cottonwood Motel "in an area of wasteground south of U.S. 60." Could he possibly mean a desert? Oh, well, what does a British writer know about Texas? Barker's prose is occasionally uneven, but his dark, powerful imagination—and his skill in pacing to keep his stories surprising—make the horror grisly and effective. (Poseidon, $12.95)

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