I swore I wouldn't read anymore Barker after I finished his suburb Books of Blood, Vol. 1-6. Of course, that was easy, since most of his accomplishments were ahead of him at that point. Well, it took me 25 years to struggle back to his first novel, The Damnation Game. Can's say I was thrilled I did. Readable, but with some lumbering prose, there are a number of scenes/concepts/occasions stumbled upon to make the read worthwhile. Like the eerie meeting in the beginning with Mamoulian the unbeaten card player with "glacial, unforgiving eyes"(p.26) and the growing realization through the ensuing pages of what his games really determined.
I read this book in a sort of detached way, and, now that it is time to review that persual, I discover no touchstones. The Damnation Game is not "the itch of the irrational grown to an epidemic"(p.363) that it promises, yet there is an insidiousness lurking that wisps through the hauty prose just enough to initiate a shivering wonder--or fear--for the "invasion of an evil for which there is no human defense"(front panel blurb).
This seems like armchair horror--similar to Ramsey Campell who I am just starting to appreciate--but certainly not the audacious gorror oozing out of this brash newcomer as called for by the enthusiastic augurs among us.
I'm not sure where to notch Clive Barker, so I guess I need to re-think him. Hmmm.