Author (or Editor): Barker, Clive
Fiction? Anthology? Fiction
Publisher: Harper Prism
Physical description: softcover, 823 pages
Relevance to doaskdotell: literary epic with sexual diversity
Review: This is the monumental fantasy work that presents Earth as one of five parallel Dominions. It's quite a cult classic among the initiated!
The other four Dominions are already "reconciled" and the novel presents the journey made by one art dealer, Gentle, who comes to understand that he is somewhat of a Christ figure whose mission is to "reconcile" Earth with the other Dominions. (The four previously reconciled Dominions, however extraterrestrial in the novel, are likely matched to the four kingdoms in the Book of Daniel, often referred to in discussions of the Rapture and tribulations.)
What happens when a world is "reconciled?" That's a good question. For one thing, people (and creatures - Barker is quite an admirer of evolutionary fecundity) and pass freely (using "magic") between Dominions at specific points. More important, the Dominion comes under one political and religious system (something like a Gaia). Nation states disappear, and personal lives seem to settle down into a minaturist fashion.
Early in the story, the bisexual Gentle is carrying on a love affair with androgynous (but at the beginning male) alien assassin Pie'oh'Pah. During the story Pie turns into a woman on him, but he doesn't care. He stays in love. Then Pie transforms into an alien something else. Barker's sex scenes - both between species and "normal" heterosexual ones (also between Gentle and heroine Judith Odell) are among the steamiest and most passionate I've every read. Another gay male character dies of AIDS but comes back to life - quite redemptively and charismatically - during the Reconciliation.
About one third the way into the novel, Gentle and Pie start their
adventure across the Dominions (in reverse order). They are fascinating to
read, but after a while I began to feel they were somewhat artificial places.
The 4th, 3rd, and 2nd all have a variety of
landscapes expected say in
There are many memorable and vivid descriptive narrative sequences, such as when Gentle stands on the platform of a train station in the Third Dominion and suddenly becomes ill, vomiting on the rails, after contemplating his meal of a fish within a fish within a fish. The writing makes the reader really experience what the characters feel. Barker is one of the world’s greatest fiction writers in his ability to metaphorize narrative.
The final showdown with God in the 1st Dominion, however, is a tour de force.
Done well, Imajica
could make a terrific, visionary (and R-rated or perhaps NC-17) movie.
Imagine Di Caprio as Pie'oh'Pah and Jack Nicholson (or maybe Patrick Stewart
or Michael Rosenbaum) as Gentle. I can
see it as a compelling two-part serial or franchise (“The Fifth Dominion”;
“The Reconciliation”) for New Line Cinema to follow “The Lord of the Rings” and it wouldn’t
be a problem to recover the $150 million it would cost to make. The final
showdown with Hapexamendios (who plays him?) in the
crystalline "City of the Unbeheld"
(putrefying under “rococo rains”) would outdo the ending of 2001. (Heaven
apparently looks like a
Barker's “Chinese Puzzle” fantasy, though, still comes across as "tempting." Imagine, if you will, a journey through the other Dominions with a loved one, or with somebody you can't "have" in real life. And maybe, just maybe, Barker's theology will turn out to be "right." Indeed, as the book’s cover brags, our way of looking at reality changes forever, as well as at the afterlife. Yup, Man beats God. Get used to it. Real life matters.
There’s a particularly relevant cultural interpretation to Clive Barker’s concept of “Reconciliation” – that is, that cultures existing separately come into contact and have great effect on one another. Since this book was published in 1991 and probably written in 1989 and 1990, it certainly looks forward to the modern idea of globalization, particularly abetted by the broadband Internet. Sexual cultures are reconciled, too. Sex is no longer just a “private choice” when its meaning can be broadcast so quickly across all Dominions.
The idea of separate dominions becoming reconciled comports well with the modern physics string theory “of everything” as documented on the PBS/Nova documentary Elegant Universe, narrated by a youthful Brian Green. Bridging the gay from the physics of the large (Einstein’s general relativity) to the tiny led eventually to theories that apparently demand parallel universes, and one can “reconcile” them (cross into unseen dimensions) by contact with the “branes.”
A separate two-volume edition by Harper contains an essay by Barker explaining the “absurd ambition” of his Mahlerian masterpiece. Barker is given to diversions into philosophy, as the very first paragraph gives a philosophy of drama that seems to set up Shakespeare.
The Thief of Always (1993,
Harper Collins, paper, ISBN 0061091464)
is a well-known “children’s” novel. Ten year old
The recent Disney 70mm animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Continent (2001, with
Michael J. Fox as Milo Thatch) presents a view of Atlantis as something
accessible today through a datawindow portal to one
of the Dominions. Indeed, Atlantis in
the movie looks like a cross between Barker’s Patashoqua
(the Fourth Dominion, not
(reference: Barker's site).
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