Barker, Clive. Mister B. Gone. New York: Harper, 2007. Summary
: Jakabok Botch is a lowly demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell who ends up getting dragged into the Dark Ages. There, he meets fellow demon Quitoon, and the duo wanders happily about in search of the newest and coolest technologies. Their last excursion is to Mainx, where Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press are poised to revolutionize the world. Mister B.'s story is told in the first person, as if he himself is trapped within the book you are reading. Comments
: Okay, I admit that I jumped at the opportunity to buy this book in hardcover purely due to its paratextual features. I loved the way that the pages have all been printed in full color in order to make them look like yellowing, age-stained parchment. I loved the turquoise endpapers and the faux-leather dustjacket. And I didn't care a whit whether HarperCollins might well be trying to compensate for textual deficits with bling.
Actually, for those keeping score, the plot premise is
incredibly gimmicky. A demon trapped in a book, "speaking" to you in real time, and begging you to burn the book? Nope, it don't get much more gimmicky than that. The denouement, where Heaven and Hell wage war in Gutenberg's living room over who gets control over print media, borders on the ridiculous but ends up being mostly tiresome. The book's main redeeming feature is the character of Jakabok Botch (a.k.a. Mister B.) himself, who despite everything is lovable.
Especially when he is in love. I wasn't expecting a gay marriage subtheme here (even though Clive Barker is gay) that would appeal to my romantic side, but there you have it. Mister B. loves the super-duper demon Quitoon in an oddly non-erotic way and dreams--literally--of marrying him. Quitoon's feelings on the subject are left ambiguous, but Mister B. is silently pledging marriage vows right before the end. And that he is doomed to entrapment in the book because
he chose to follow his heart is definitely an allegory with a political agenda. Rating
- Lively prose that is fun to read--if not particularly profound and terribly depressing by the end.