Voices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde

Rating: 3/5
Length: 226 pages
Publisher: Short, Scary Tales Publications
Release date: 2015
Buy this book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Voices-Damned-Barbie-Wilde/dp/1909640352

The works of Clive Barker have taken the horror world by storm, particularly the Hellraiser franchise.

Since the first film appeared in 1987 there has been a plethora of books, short stories, nine other films and miscellaneous goodies and trinkets to please anyone who found the exploits of the pleasure seeking Cenobites exciting.

And the latest offering to said franchise is this short stories anthology, containing a trilogy of tales set in the Cenobite universe and illustrated by Barker himself. The author, Barbie Wilde, is a familiar name to Hellraiser buffs because of her portrayal of the lead female Cenobite in Hellraiser 2.

And now Wilde is trying her hand at horror fiction with this anthology: Voices of the Damned. Is she as gory and mesmerising as the franchise’s creator? Let’s find out.

The book opens with the first of the Cenobite trilogy following a nun called: Sister Cilice, who’s quest for the ultimate pleasure eventually leads her to the Cenobites’ world through some vicious alchemy and witchcraft involving the actions of Gilles De Rais – the 15th century occultist, child murderer and right hand to Joan of Arc.

Through this ritual she becomes a Cenobite but eventually becomes disillusioned with their system of government and breaks away to start her own Cenobite order which is female centric.

The next two stories in the trilogy follow Cilice as she becomes the rebel leader and eventually becomes head of the new order of Cenobites in a move that would impress plenty of feminists who are looking for badass female protagonists who will go to any means necessary to achieve their ends. If you are also into the fetish scene, especially BDSM or acts involving blood and pain, this is a worthwhile tome to add to your collection.

But that’s not all in this book, there are tales involving many freakish beings and horrific adventures. Tales involving a tennis playing dwarf, a televangelist with a demonic bastard son and some Zulu zombies to name a few.

This book is packed to the brim with gore and is essential reading for anyone into ‘Splatterpunk’ or just wants to know more about the people inspired by the gory godfather Clive Barker.

But on the whole, Voices of the Damned is written in what I can only describe as a ‘pop-art’ way. The prose is very basic and the characters don’t seem to develop at all, despite Sister Cilice in her quest for power. In some places it felt a bit cartoonish and I did wonder if these tales would have faired better in graphic novel form – but then again, less can always mean more so I can only presume Wilde was expecting the reader to have a lot of imagination.

There’s a mix of all American settings and all English settings too, I cannot think of that many American writers who would set a story in Milton Keynes of all places, so I’d say this book has potential, it just didn’t quite meet all my expectations. I’m a stickler for suspense novels and I felt there wasn’t much anxiety and suspense conjured up by this book but I did love the many scenes of blood and violent attacks by creatures from the darkness.

I’ll also say I felt a bit uneasy reading an explicit scene of sexual violence in the Zulu zombie tale, so that’s pretty much all I didn’t like about this book. Wilde has given us a nice vision into a world where the ultimate pleasure is sought out by any means necessary and will lead anyone who pursues it into the mouth of hell and beyond. I did feel like I was reading something by Barker, or even Doug Bradley (Pinhead) at times, so she’s really captured the settings, symbolism and terror that Barker has reigned upon the human race for over 30 years.

I do look forward to reading another instalment from Wilde.

Review by Demitri Levantis