Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed edited by Joseph Nassise and Del Howison - and Giveaway

Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed
Editors: Joseph Nassise and Del Howison
Publisher:  Tor Books, July 28, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $24.99 (print); $11.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765335425 (print); 9781466823624 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Clive Barker's Nightbreed has been controversial since the moment it was released in a version edited by the studio and roundly condemned by Barker, who wrote and directed the movie. A virtually instant cult film based on Barker's novella Cabal, it was nominated for three Saturn Awards and won several prizes at European film festivals.

Midian Unmade tells the stories of the Nightbreed after the fall of their city, Midian. Driven from their homes, their friends and family members slain before their eyes, the monsters become a mostly-hidden diaspora. Some are hunted; others, hunters. Some seek refuge. Others want revenge.

Contributors include: Karl Alexander, author of the classic novel Time After Time; actor, writer, and director Amber Benson (Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer); New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder; Hugo and John W. Campbell Award winner Seanan McGuire; Bram Stoker Award winner Weston Ochse; David J. Schow, winner of the World Fantasy Award and writer of the screenplay for The Crow; New York Times bestselling writer Stephen Woodworth; and many more--23 stories in all.

With an introduction by Clive Barker, this is an outstanding collection of original horror short stories in a dazzling variety of styles.

Deb's Review

Midian Unmade is a horror anthology edited by Joseph Nassise and Del Howison, based on the cult classic movie Nightbreed, written and directed by horror legend Clive Barker. While you don't necessarily need to see Nightbreed to enjoy Midian Unmade, you should see it anyway. The director’s cut is available on Netflix, and it is an unforgettable film. You may also want to read the original basis for both the book and the film, Clive Barker’s novella Cabal. Many of the stories in Midian Unmade are self-contained and accessible enough for all fans of short horror fiction, but your experience would be far better served with advance context provided by Barker’s rich source material.

I'm not sure what’s considered fair play in spoiling twenty-five year old cult films, but since I’m encouraging you to see Nightbreed if you haven't, I'll share the absolute minimum you'd need to read the book. Midian is a sanctuary for monsters that are referred to in this mythology as the Nightbreed. It’s a place for them to live as a community, governed by their own laws, outside of the judgmental eyes of the Naturals (that'd be you and me to the Nightbreed). Events in the film cause the Breed to flee their home and scatter across the globe, either alone or in small groups. Midian Unmade finds the remnants of their broken tribe at loose ends, and dealing with their forced autonomy in very personal, often deadly ways.

These stories put Midian’s children in cities, the suburbs, the desert, at sea, and everywhere in between. One thing that makes this collection so evocative is the implication that the Nightbreed are everywhere, sometimes undetected by the world around them, and at other times hiding in plain sight. They are your trusted friend, your lover, the cat that saw what you did, the lost soul that you reach out to with an open heart and, at worst, they are your undoing. Sometimes you’ll root for the “monster” because the people they encounter seem far more monstrous, and sometimes you’ll be taken aback by the terrible acts committed by both sides.

As with any collection of horror tales, there are those stories that speak right to the heart, and those that are more an unsettling glimpse of something in passing. It’s unlikely that all 22 stories with different authors will hit it out of the ballpark for every reader, but there are many brilliantly told tales, loaded with satisfying twists and thought-provoking situations. Here are just a few that stood out for me:

In Brian Craddock’s ‘The Angel of Isisford,’ former Midian resident Upendra and young Aboriginal Nhuwi are unlikely companions who blow into the dusty, inhospitable Isisford. Upendra is using his traveling puppet show to locate the scattered Nightbreed to gather and wait for word on a prophesied new community. Craddock’s skilled description of setting will transport you, and everything you understand in this vignette gradually shifts as the story unfolds. Where will your sympathies lie in the end?

Framed in beautiful metaphor, ‘Pride’ by Amber Benson is a tale of a savage pack of humans that look harmless enough until you get too close, and by then it's too late for even a little bit of regret. Curious but shy Abra is tempted into their orbit and winds up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. This is one of those stories that provides contrast to this collection by showing that humans are perfectly capable of monstrous behavior.

The narrator in C. Robert Cargill’s ‘I Am the Night You Never Speak of’ is not a nice monster. He’s larger than life and unapologetic about who he is and how he exists in this world. Such a clever story, both funny and terrible, with salty, pulp-style phrasing, and some visuals that I am never going to forget. This story hooked me right away, took me places that I did not expect to go, arrived at a completely satisfying conclusion, and still left me scraping the bowl, wishing for more.

Nerine Dorman’s ‘Lakrimay’ is a somber piece about a young girl’s solitary existence in a home where adults can’t keep their personal problems from corroding her childhood. Little Jennifer makes friends with one of the Nightbreed, and their tentative alliance seems to soothe the unbearable loneliness in both of them. Jennifer's viewpoint was so moving that I was completely invested in her outcome. A haunting tale of innocence against a backdrop of horror.

Paul J. Salamoff’s ‘Tamara’ is a story of guilt and redemption. This story flips the monstrous human script and gives us a humane monster. Tamara reaches out to the family of a man she's killed to offer a gift intended to comfort. But actions we take always create ripples in our own life and in the lives of others. Watching those ripples fan out over the course of this story was a fascinating exercise in both intended and unintended consequences.

The authors included in this anthology draw from an intriguing array of career experience from poet to police officer, puppeteer to martial arts instructor, college professor to military veteran. All are accomplished authors and many are quite impressively decorated.

Those who are long time fans of this mythology will surely appreciate this beautifully done collection for expanding the Nightbreed universe and giving further voice to members of the tribe. But if you're a fan of smart short horror looking for something a little bit different, Midian Unmade is also for you. I tend to approach anthologies with healthy skepticism, but this collection has restored my faith a bit. Recommended.

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of Midian Unmade from the publisher. US / CANADA ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. Note that comments are moderated.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on August 5, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

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  1. I am so psyched to read this book. Cabal was always one of my favorite Barker tales.

  2. I'm kicking myself for not waiting in line to meet Del Howison at San Diego Comic Con. Tor was giving these away! So glad I have a second opportunity to read this book:-)

  3. oooh... this sounds awesome!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for this great feature and captivating giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. I am squealing with excitement over this book. I am such fan of Cabal and a huge Clive Barker fan.