Saturday, September 1, 2012

Abarat: Absolute Midnight (Clive Barker)

Back in 2002, I saw the original Abarat on the new releases shelf. I was deeply mired in my fantasy obsession, and immediately loved the book. There was a lot to enjoy. Clive Barker fills the Abarat books with beautiful oil paintings (that he made himself!) of scenes and landscapes and characters. Just looking through the book and absorbing the surrealistic images was a treat.

There's a review excerpt on the back of Absolute Midnight that does a great job summing up the actual books: "vivid." The saga tells the tale of Candy Quackenbush, a normal girl from Chickentown, Minnesota getting transported to the Abarat and its 25 islands (this is the extent to which I will summarize the plot because this is book three of five), one for each hour of the day (and one that is "the 25th Hour" or something like that). This premise is incredibly imaginative and well-executed: each island is unique and is populated by exotic creatures and people.

However, it's this same overflow of creativity that bogs the book down. Absolute Midnight is the longest of the three books so far at 571 pages, and a lot of that length is padded out when Barker drags readers through conversations with new characters who don't seem to be coming back any time soon or spending time describing places we'll likely never see again. Despite all this extra length, there is a surprising absence of retelling of previous books' events.

One of the troubles of series is knowing how much to summarize from the previous books. There's a fine line between not enough and too much, and Absolute Midnight was most certainly on the "what's even going on" side of the scale. It doesn't help that this book was published 7 years after its predecessor. That's a lot of time between books, and so at least a little more recollection would have been helpful.

These books are definitely a unique, fun fantasy series, but I recommend waiting until all five have been published (which could be in 14 more years, who knows) to start. It will be less confusing that way.

My Rating: 3.5/5
Absolute Midnight on Goodreads
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