The Hellbound Heart

By Clive Barker,

Book cover of The Hellbound Heart

Book description

The classic tale of supernatural obsession from the critically acclaimed master of darkness—and the inspiration for the cult classic film Hellraiser

From his scores of short stories, bestselling novels, and major motion pictures, no one comes close to the vivid imagination and unique terrors provided by Clive Barker. The Hellbound…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Hellbound Heart as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

It is a beautifully gruesome story about love, desire, and greed. Though I found it to be absolutely frightening, I also found it strangely comforting.

As a young gay man in the early 00s, as the AIDS epidemic was slowing down a bit, Barker's depiction of sexuality and openness was quite refreshing. I can only imagine what it must have been like reading this story for the first time as a gay man in the 1980s.

A novella about a magical box that you may open only at your own peril. But many hope to find and open it for its promises of supernatural pleasure. A man finds it and discovers a netherworld of pain inflicted by ungodly angels known as the Cenobites. With pleasurable sadism, Barker drives a literal needle into the heart of what it means to desire, and how pleasure and pain are more interconnected than most of us would like to believe. A violent, other-worldly descent into madness.

Beyond pleasure. Beyond pain.

Who doesn’t remember the Cenobites? The box?

My introduction to Clive Barker was, probably like many people, through the Books of Blood, but this novella forever set the bar for one of the godfathers of body horror. A sadomasochist convinced that he’s had all the pleasures the earth might offer strikes a diabolical deal to go further with a clan of mutilated, agonized torture demons. When inevitably the man comes to regret it, he tries to resurrect his existence with his brother’s wife, who has carried a torch for him all these years. An evocative novella…

From Roland's list on body horror to rot your mind.

Barker’s beautifully written Hellbound Heart reads like a fairy tale gone horribly, horribly wrong. The story (source material for the Hellraiser films) follows nihilist Frank as he chases bigger and bigger highs of sensual pleasure and depravity. His search leads to a mysterious puzzle box that, when opened, promises the ultimate in sensory gratification. What happens next is a masterclass in ‘be careful what you wish for.’ (Full disclosure: The Hellbound Heart’s author Clive Barker graciously helped launch my career 25 years ago, assisting with my first book and I am forever grateful!) 

From Miriam's list on Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife.

As the basis for the film Hellraiser, this is the book that introduced the world to the Hell Priest, “Pinhead”, and the Cenobites. However, the main antagonist of the story is not the demonic creatures, but a cruel and evil man on the search for the ultimate in sadistic, sexual pleasure; a search which he finds a costly mistake. This short novel goes at a break-neck speed from the first page and is full of Barker’s usual blood, gore, and sex approach to horror. Even though those things are not the aspects of horror I find that enjoyable, I…

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