The Scarlet Gospels has been talked about all the way back to the year 1993. Yes, it has been that long in the making and finally Clive Barker’s next Hellraiser story has been unleashed. Sadly, for me, the anticipation was just too much and after turning the last page, I can honestly tell you that as a Hellraiser story, I did not like it one bit. However, don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book, as it really was a page turner, with some fantastic imagery and a story that takes you on an epic journey, but it’s a journey that just isn’t Hellraiser. If I haven’t scared you away yet, let’s slice more into this review…
The Scarlet Gospels takes readers back many years to the early days of two of Barker’s most iconic characters in a battle of good and evil as old as time: The long-beleaguered detective Harry D’Amour, investigator of all supernatural, magical, and malevolent crimes faces off against his formidable, and intensely evil rival, Pinhead, the priest of hell. Barker devotees have been waiting for The Scarlet Gospels with bated breath for years, and it’s everything they’ve begged for and more. Bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed by the epic, visionary tale that is The Scarlet Gospels. Barker’s horror will make your worst nightmares seem like bedtime stories. The Gospels are coming. Are you ready?
The Scarlet Gospels merges two separate worlds of Clive Barker, one of course is Pinhead and Hellraiser and the other is the world of Harry D’Amour. The character of D’Amour has been featured in both book and film form, with the movie Lord of Illusions being the movie. That movie was based on the short story The Last Illusion. Harry D’Amour’s world features demons heavily and what better character to mix into the world of Hellraiser. Unfortunately this is where the problem beings.
I have grown up on Hellraiser my entire life and I have a certain belief as to how I see and understand the mythology behind the series. To me, Hellbound: Hellraiser II established what happens when you open the Lament Configuration. There is no Lucifer or burning plains of hellfire; there is only Leviathan, the Lord of the Labyrinth. Unfortunately, Clive Barker doesn’t agree with that and scrapes everything you’ve come to love about Pinhead and Hellraiser and starts things over. Pinhead (but don’t call him Pinhead, as he really hates that name) is a foul mouthed Cenobite, who rapes, kills and punches his way though the Legions of Hell on a quest to become ruler.Yes folks, The Scarlet Gospels is Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth in book form. Ouch.
As for the character of Harry D’Amour, I only really know him from the movie, but he seems pretty damn sweet. Covered in tattoos that give off warnings of demons, Harry is a badass demon detective, who is willing to do anything for his friends. He has an interesting backstory that is begging to be told and that’s where I come at a divide with this book. As a Hellraiser novel, it fails big time, but as a Harry D’Amour story, it does a good job. Honestly, if you replaced a few bits and pieces of Hellraiser mythology in the book, you would have a wonderful Harry D’Amour tale on your hands. (Although, many may be disappointed in the fact that Harry is neglected to being just a witness for the story and is never really at risk.) There are plenty of characters introduced in the book, but most are paper thin in there development. Of course, you have two gay characters in the book and Clive Barker makes sure to put in a section, where a preacher gets his just desserts with his opinion of gay people. This part of the book came completely out of left field and felt not needed.
Okay, I don’t normally do this, but I really need to dive into some specific spoilers that bother me about this book, so I’m throwing up a warning right now, that from here on out, the book will be spoiled. If you don’t want to read any further and want to know my final opinion, I’ll give you the gist of it. The book is a quick, interesting read, but fails to conclude the story of Pinhead and Hellraiser. Clive does an amazing job at evoking fantastical and violent imagery and I understand Hellraiser is his baby, but his baby grew up into something completely different than what Clive thinks it is. Read as a Harry D’Amour story only.
The first thing that bothers me about The Scarlet Gospels is the inclusion of your typical Hell. Lucifer is very much present in the book and actually shows up near the end and dukes it out in an epic battle with Pinhead, with swords, force energy and a bunch of other crap that doesn’t belong in Hellraiser. Also, why is Pinhead such a foulmouthed asshole in this story. He is rude and swears up a storm and goes so far as to rape a friend of Harry’s. I’m sorry, but that is not the Pinhead I know.
Gone is the Lament Configuration opening up cracks in the walls and revealing the Labyrinth of Hell and the almighty Leviathan. Instead, it opens up to a landscape of city’s built that resemble Rome, forests of trees, fortresses and a lake that houses a giant sea monster. Oh god, the more I write about it, the more frustrated I become at how non-Hellraiser this entire book is.
The last final thing I want to talk about is the death of Pinhead. Pinhead’s main goal in the book is to meet Lucifer and I assume become King of Hell. He does meet Lucifer and a battle happens and Pinhead is defeated, but that’s not how Pinhead dies. Oh no, Pinhead wanders off and dukes it out with some Angels for a bit and finally kind of just melts away, because Lucifer has torn down Hell and moved on up to Earth to sleep with some chicks. Yep, I kid you not folks, that is the ending of Pinhead. Sad… just sad.
END OF SPOILERS
If you’ve read my whole review, you can see that I really didn’t like The Scarlet Gospels. I mean, I didn’t hate it as a story, as I kept on turning the pages late into the night; I just didn’t like it as a Hellraiser story. I would have no problem removing all Hellraiserness from it and just having it be a Harry D’Amour story. Now that I would’ve been perfectly fine with. In fact, I would’ve loved the damn thing. Instead, because this is marketed as the final tale of Pinhead, I can’t recommend it as a Hellraiser story. I won’t say you shouldn’t it read it, as it isn’t a bad book; it just ain’t a Hellraiser book.