"Midian Unmade" Book Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Published by Tor Books
Edited by Joseph Nassie and Del Howison
2015, 293 pages, Fiction
Released on July 28th, 2015
It is completely unfair that Midian Unmade: : Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed is so wonderfully and captivatingly written, only to end like all good books must. The stories contained therein are so intoxicating, so lovingly written, and so all-encompassing that they leave you aching for more when you reach the final page. It’s too good, dammit. I need more.
Twenty-three individual short stories make up this anthology, each written by an author who loves Clive Barker’s original Cabal novel (and probably the 1990 Nightbreed movie as well). Cabal is the story of lovers Boone and Lori; Boone an unhinged young man with delusions of murder, and Lori, a woman oddly attached to him even after his mysterious death in a deserted town called Midian. After Boone rises from the dead, their detachment from the world around them opens their eyes to their true destiny: finding a safe haven for the monsters the waking world has rejected. Together they must find a new Midian for the Nightbreed.
The respect the writers have for Barker’s work is evident; every story is crafted to leave the reader breathless and oddly in love with each character you meet. Most of these creatures are never mentioned in Cabal; they are new and wonderful inventions, but their detail and inner life is so real you’ll be sure you know them already. The powers these monsters have are so captivating and fascinating you’ll be bored you’re human.
But they really aren’t monsters, and that’s what so wonderful about the book and its authors. Cabal keenly hit on the note of the “other” - Boone’s awareness of his otherness to the world around him, and Lori to a somewhat lesser extent. That feeling of not being right for the world he was born into brought him to Midian, and ultimately, its doom.
Midian Unmade isn’t about the monsters that live in the darkness; it’s about the monsters “others” face in humankind. It’s about all of us that don’t fit in, that don’t want what other people want, but still feel an overwhelming need for community and understanding. The decades that have passed between the fall of Midian and the present age have wreaked havoc on the lives of the Breed, but their belief that they will find home again strikes a deep, deep chord. In the current age of young people doing violence to themselves for fear of being different, and the violence visited upon people of all creeds and colors stemming from fear and hate, Midian Unmade rings an uncomfortably familiar bell.
Kudos are due the editors Joseph Nassise and Del Howison for letting each storyteller weave their individual tale while keeping the overall narrative and theme and even tone of voice similar. The collection complements itself seamlessly without losing the distinction of each chapter.
Not wanting to be too sentimental about our current world, there’s some classic monster carnage as well. Delicious manipulation and eyeball-eating are par for the course; it’s a horror novel after all. But this violence isn’t without reason or remorse. It’s a lesson we could take from the monsters.
Read Cabal, then read Midian Unmade. Then cry because it’s over. Repeat as necessary.