The Inhuman Condition is a collection of short stories by one of the modern masters of the macabre – Clive Barker. Published in 1986, these stories are some of the first published by Barker, and they set a tone of dark and delirious, sensuous and sentimental.
The five stories; The Inhuman Condition (of which the collection is also named after); The Body Politic; Revelations; Down, Satan!; and The Age of Desire, all focus on the nature of humanity. They’re told in extreme situations which shine a light on belief, want, need, and more human conditions.
In the simplest, most direct descriptions paraphrased from the dust jacket: hands begin a violent revolution, conundrums lie hidden in a piece of knotted string, the living and the dead find an unholy sexual alliance, the first truly effective aphrodisiac releases a monster, and a palace is built to lure Satan back to earth.
Together they make up a body of work that stakes a claim for a different kind of horror. A thriller in text that is supposed to make you think of your life and the lives of those around you. It’s written to do what fiction is ultimately supposed to do, which is to shine a light on fact through fantasy and false facsimile.
My favorite line from this collection is the description, “Perhaps attempting to be rational about the human mind was a contradiction in terms.” Perhaps it is, indeed.
The thriller nature of these stories is not mysterious, so much as you need to know the who’s and the what’s, but the crux of these stories is often founded on why, which may be the most dangerous question of all.
These stories are of varying length, both within the book and the time that passes during their telling, but they are all of equal intrigue. Though this book is not really for the faint of heart, if you see it at a library, book sale, or in a store, perhaps you could peruse a few pages of any one of the stories to see if it interests you. These stories do not have to be read in order, but they are all worth reading, especially for horror and thriller connoisseurs.
Personally, horror is not really my thing, but I do really enjoy the way Barker writes. His narrative sense is one of my favorites, so if it’s horror, as long as it’s Barker-style horror, I’m in.