The Inhuman Condition: Tales of Terror

ISBN: 0671626868
ISBN 13: 9780671626860
By: Clive Barker

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About this book

A master storyteller and unrivaled visionary, Clive Barker has mixed the real and unreal with the horrible and wonderful in more than twenty years of fantastic fiction. The Inhuman Condition is a masterwork of surrealistic terror, recounting tragedy with pragmatism, inspiring panic more than dread and evoking equal parts revulsion and delight.

Reader's Thoughts

Alex Telander

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker, Part 1 of 3: “The Inhuman Condition”In the mid-to-late eighties, after the first three successful installments of the Books of Blood, the next three in the series were released under the same title. Earlier this year, these three books were re-released in paperback from Pocket books. The Books of Blood IV and V were published under the names of the first short story in each respective book: The Inhuman Condition and In the Flesh. The Books of Blood VI was published differently: joined with the novel Cabal, the four stories are added on after the novel, providing a very nice anthology for fans of Clive Barker.“The Inhuman Condition”: Two thieves decide to vent their anger on a hapless hobo, while the other sees little use in this and decides to wait at the side while the other two reduce the vagabond to a bloody pulp. Karney, while he impatiently waits, finds a piece of rope with three knots in it, belonging to the now bloody hobo. Taking the line of knots home, he furiously begins to attempt to untie one. It takes him days, but finally it is complete and a supernatural beast is released.The same occurs with the other two knots. However, the hobo wants the knots and its beasts back, for they are very much a part of him in a way that the reader cannot possibly imagine.“The Body Politic”: A story where one’s hands attain their independence and seek out a way to separate themselves from the unwanted body they are connected to. Like some nightmarish disease, this spreads to many people, and scenes are revealed in amazing imagery by Barker’s skilled pen, of hands detaching themselves from their respective bodies and then strangling and strangling until there is not longer any movement in the husk that the hands were once connected to.Only one man is able to devise a plan that will lead to the extinction of this army of protesting hands, though he carries it out at the sacrifice of his own life. Nevertheless, the world is safe again, for the moment. In another place, a new horror animates itself in rebellion.“Revelations”: Two of the characters in this story have been dead for twenty years (he from a bullet shot by his wife for cheating on her; she from the electric chair after being tried and convicted for the murder of her husband). They return to the scene of the crime in an effort to understand what went wrong.At the same time there is another couple, he an annoying Bible-thumping evangelist, she submissive and unquestioning. But this night will be different. This time she will no longer submit to his whim and that of God; she will stick up for herself for the first time. It will end in bloodshed and death, in a grand finale where shots will be fired. The end is already determined. And then again, not.“Down, Satan!”: A man loses his belief in God, his new plan is to find Satan and deny him, proving to God how faithful he is. To bring Satan to him, the billionaire creates a pseudo-Hell in North Africa: “There were ovens large enough to cremate familiars; pools deep enough to drown generations. The new Hell was an atrocity waiting to happen; a celebration of inhumanity that only lacked its first cause.” Though he is unsuccessful in ensnaring Satan, the many pain-inflicting tools of this New Hell begin to work, seemingly of their own accord.“The Age of Desire”: A new drug has been invented, one which turns on the libido to its full potential and lets it rule the body over the brain and the heart. The first time it is administered to a human, he rapes and kills the doctor then escapes. The other doctor disappears into hiding. The police arrive and pick up the pieces and try to understand what is going on. Meanwhile the infected human, possessed by what he considers an all-consuming fire on his skin, attacks the nearest person (be they male or female) and proceeds to abuse them in every sexual way possible. His desires rise to such a crescendo that he proceeds to find a sexual interest in inanimate objects, such as brick and stone.Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.For over 500 book reviews, and over 40 exclusive author interviews (both audio and written), visit BookBanter.

Kenneth Shaw

Part of Clive Barker's Books of Blood. In my opinion Barker shines best with his short stories. When his limitless ideas are confined to shorter works, narrative is not eclipsed by concept. Pick up the entire Books of Blood collection if you can.

Rowan MacBean

** spoiler alert ** The Body Politic - Everybody's hands have their own consciousness. Charlie George's are tired of being used and not appreciated, so they stage a revolution. Kind of a ridiculous premise, isn't it? I think this one could be read as black comedy if you wanted to see it like that. I was kind of disturbed, though. It left me frowning at my hands and wondering... It was my favorite in this book.The Inhuman Condition - Four trouble-making friends beat up a vagrant for fun. They try to rob him but find very little of value -- just a half bottle of booze. But one of them notices a knotted string on the ground and picks it up; he likes puzzles and the knots look complicated and interesting. Once the knots are untied, however, they release a series of demons. Mayhem ensues. I liked this one quite a bit, but I would have liked it more if there'd been a different explanation of the vagrant who originally had the string.Revelations - This is what it looks like when Clive Barker tries his hand at a traditional ghost story. Typical fare with some sex thrown in. I wasn't very impressed. Mostly it bored me. It will stand out in my mind, though, for one thing: John Gyer is one of the most loathsome characters I've ever seen.Down, Satan! - A tycoon named Gregorius feels that God has deserted him, so he devises a plan. He spends most of his vast fortune constructing a Hell on earth to summon Satan, at which point God will come to save and reclaim him (Gregorius). Unfortunately, Gregorius loses sight of this goal... I really like that the end of this one is left ambiguous. I also like how short it is -- it leaves a lot to the imagination instead of going into great detail.The Age Of Desire - An experiment to develop a chemical aphrodisiac goes awry and its subject goes insane with lust and escapes the laboratory. He proceeds to go on a debauched rampage, ignoring all other physical needs, until he burns out and dies. Um. I find this concept really interesting but it lost something in the execution. I mean, it was bound to, for me. After all, there was a whole lot of rape. But it was more than just that. At the end, I felt like it hadn't really gone anywhere, and it left me with no sense of dread or concern for that world.


-Voz propia, y más en su tiempo.-Género. Relatos.Lo que nos cuenta. Recopilación de relatos del autor que manejan la temática de horror o terror con estilo muy personal, y que nos narra historias como la investigación del origen y naturaleza de unos grafitis extraños, unas voraces criaturas que parecen relacionadas con una cuerda anudada, el intento ciclópeo de conocer en persona al Diablo, un experimento que genera violencia pero por razones muy particulares, la rebelión de unas manos frente a la voluntad de su dueño, eventos inquietantes en unas piscinas públicas abandonadas y el encuentro entre lo cotidiano y lo sobrenatural en un motel . Conocido con diferentes nombres según ediciones incluyendo, pero no solamente, “Sangre” y “The inhuman condition”. Cuarto libro de la serie Libros de Sangre, cuyos volúmenes pueden leerse de forma independiente.¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:


In 1986, Clive Barker followed the enormous success of the first three volumes of The Books Of Blood, with a final three volumes to create the entire Books Of Blood series. His two omnibus's were later to be broken down, to be sold as individual books. Barker was invited to be able to illustrate these covers, with his dark and twisted artwork. This volume was also released in America under the name 'The Inhuman Condition'. The six volumes were all released in their individual forms back in 1985, this forth volume contains the following short stories: The Body Politic - 47 pages "What if parts of your body, such as your hands for instance, suddenly decided that they wanted to sever their connections with you and be free? Human hands tear themselves from their masters to start a bloody revolution". A truly unforgettable tale of weird horror that screams paranoia from every page. Barker offers up this surreal treat that will please any horror fan. The short was later to be adapted for the movie 'Quicksilver Highway', which was unfortunately directed by Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining - TV version) in which he delivers his usual low-talented direction skills to complement the budget on offer. The Inhuman Condition - 47 pages "A knotted string unravels dark hungering nightmares". Bringing with it a brief glimpse at Barker's principal ideas for 'The Hellbound Heart', this short story packs in heart-pounding suspense and twisted horror to form a gripping and terrifying storyline. The premise behind the story is a clever and inspired one, as we see mankind's irresistible urge for curiosity. Revelations - 56 pages "In a Texas motel room, the living and the dead make love. Buck and Sadie Durning check into the Cottonwood Motel in June 1955. Buck never checks out and four months later Sadie is executed for his murder. Thirty years later, John and Virginia Dyer check into the same hotel where the ghosts of Buck and Sadie have returned to relive their fateful drama". A terrifying and disturbing tale that will haunt you for a long time to come. Barker paints a vivid picture of the murderous atmosphere that will chill you to the bone. The story was later adapted by Steve Niles in 1992 into the Eclipse Books graphic novel 'Revelations' where it was illustrated by Lionel Talaro. Down, Satan! - 6 pages "A palace is built to lure Satan back to earth". A very short one here from Barker, setting down a creepy and dark idea that sits there waiting to unnerve you. The story was later adapted in 1992 into the graphic novel 'Tapping The Vein - Book 5' where it was illustrated by Tim Conrad. The Age Of Desire - 54 pages "A powerful aphrodisiac creates ghastly sexual urgings". Here we have a erotic horror crossover with a fair sprinkling of black comedy mixed in with the dark and twisted storyline. The short story was made into a graphic novel at one time but the decline of Eclipse Comics resulted in the sad loss of this graphic novel illustrated by Timothy Bradstreet.

Rafal Cebula

I forgot how much I love Clive Barker's writing. This collection of short stories covers territory any Barker fan would be familiar with. Human giving into hidden urges. Some bound demons being released. Some sexuality. Grisly murder scenes written in restrained elegance. Barker is one of the few authors who can write about someone being eviscerated and not have it turn you off to the book.The stories ranged from creepy, to scary, to outright funny. This is officially a continuation of the Books of Blood series. and unfortunately since it is shorter, it feels a little less weighty than the first (which was actually a collection of the first 3 in the series).the first was a demon release story, and sort of followed the typical trope. but it is written well and is very entertaining. The Body Politic was very funny. Human hands have staged a revolution and go on a rampage "freeing" their brethren by dismembering their owners. I could not stop thinking of the hand from the Addams family doing little dances across people's newly hands-free bodies.Revelations is probably the best of the 5 in this case. A ghost story with some feminist/anti-religious themes that ended up being very satisfying and pulled of an incredibly stereotypical "twist" ending and actually made it fresh.Down Satan was great. A man decides to summon God by finding the devil and proceeds to build Hell on Earth. Super short, and very satisfying. something along the lines of building a house of horrors a la Bluebeard's Castle.The age of desire was the most sexual of the stories. A lab discovers a drug that activates libido to the point that it kills by too much sex. This sounds tawdry and graphic, and initially it is. But the end becomes very human and tragic.Highly recommended.


It is so enjoyable to read a collection of short stories by an author who knows how to write them. Fun, scary, perverse, disturbing and entertaining...and with something to say about the human and the inhuman condition.

Tasha Robinson

This particular collection contains one of Clive Barker's weirdest stories, "The Body Politic" — in which everyone's hands decide they should be free to do whatever they want, and start hacking each other off human wrists and running around on their own "liberating" other hands — and one of his most grounded, "The Inhuman Condition," about a young hood who accidentally gets his hands on a little murderous magic, and gets obsessed with it. It's one of the stronger collections of the series, with the writing going back and forth between gothic and gritty, direct and expansive, and it showcases a bunch of Barker's different modes, from deeply weird horror-fantasy to something that's almost a police procedural. It's almost pointless to separate the Books Of Blood out as different from each other, since they all amount to one big showcase of Barker's short work, but given the scope here, I'd say this is one of the strongest of them when seen as an individual collection rather than part of the whole.


There has been a Clive Barker overload lately, and though it is not unpleasant I have chosen to come back to him later... er, read the stuff I still have not. He is a re-visitable auteur."Books of Blood" were published in the U.K. in the 80s and now we have "In the Flesh" and this, "The Inhuman Condition" which are the same book published under different names in different collections. There are five chilling tales here, and though none captured me the way "The Forbidden" did (ok, I keep mentioning it... but it is that GOOD! Read it if you have not!), most were whimsical and creative enough to keep me interested.The sexual overtones here are amplified. Hands, symbols of many things sexual and even paternal, have lives of their own and try to overthrow their appendages (i.e. their human hosts). This territory has been treaded upon before, the hands becoming aware that they are stuck to bigger things that control them, and there is something super macabre about the body's innate self-awareness. The body politic is something every human can relate to, and when the hands chop off their partners and they both scatter away like roaches... invading everything, sticking like spiders to trees and buildings... well, that image is SOOO NEAT! Also there are stories here about ghosts making love with humans in hotels (the desolate, vacant stage is perfect for a ghost story!), killer ropes, satanic real estate, killer hyperperverts etc. Barker tells his stuff in elegant prose, using leifmotifs as cameos only (not taking stuff too literally), as sly touches to seriously-scary scenarios. It's no wonder that the detective who seeks to capture the sexual deviant is, himself, a lush for a good cup of hot chocolate.

Mark R.

****1/2This was one of the early Barker collections I picked up as a kid, I believe after reading "In the Flesh" and "Books of Blood Vol. 2" (I read things in any old damn order back then). All of his short story collections provide great examples of what makes a compelling horror tale, and this one's no exception.The best stories in the book are "The Age of Desire", in which a medical guinea pig has his hormones infected with a disease which slowly causes his body to fail and at the same time fills him with a sexual rage that causes him to screw just about anyone, or anything, he comes in contact with; and "The Body Politic", about a man whose hands begin acting on their own, one severing the other, who goes on to round up other hands for a revolution of sorts.Just below that, and also quite good, are "Revelations", about guests, both alive and long dead, meeting up at a roadside motel; and "Inhuman Condition", wherein a gang of thieves is cut down one by one, by a demon unleashed by a homeless man they've recently abused.The only story in this collection that doesn't quite do it for me is the brief "Down, Satan!" Otherwise, it's all first-rate, gruesome entertainment.

Tammy Downing

A collection of short stories that are weird, spooky and will challenge the imagination. I started reading this at night and had to get a different book to read before I went to bed because my imagination was going wild. Mr. Barker is quite a good author.

Kim Schneider

It was good but odd. I honestly can't think of another description that could describe the short stories that make up this book.


More of a mixed bag than the previous volumes of the Books of Blood. A handful of strong stories -- "the body politic", "the inhuman condition" -- only go so far to make up for their lesser counterparts. Several stories are dragged out to near novella length despite the lack of anything interesting or horrifying, while one of the more intriguing premises (Down, Satan!) is left little more than a sketch, a scant 7 or 8 pages. Uneven, but still somewhat enteraining.


The Inhuman Condition was the American release of Barker's later fourth volume of his books of blood. As with the first three volumes, the author continues his exploration into the extreme reaches of horror. Back in the late 80s, I heard Clive Barker speak and he stated he was trying to remove good and evil as a condition to terror. Terror can exist as an independent entity not related to a struggle between good and evil. I don't know where he is on that idea now. He unfortunately drifted from horror to fantasy. But I think he was certainly exploring that particular theme in these excellent tales of terror. Best stories? The title story and "The Body Politic".


One of the follow up collections of short stories after his Books of Blood (in England it was another book of blood). In any case, some great short stories that aim to horrify; it's not as strong as the first three collections (Books of Blood), but worthy of any horror collection. "The Body Politic" really stands out.

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