As crazy as it sounds, Imajica was the first Clive Barker novel I ever read. Along with one of my best friends back in the day, I was a big fan of the Hellraiser movies. I did pick up a few of the author's books along the way and I guess I still have them in storage somewhere. So when the digital edition of Imajica went on sale a few months back, I knew it was high time to finally give Barker a shot.

Not sure if it was the right decision or not. Perhaps I should have begun with Weaveworld, The Great and Secret Show, or Abarat? Started the novel in early January, then brought it with me to Asia, and yet I only finished it last week. True, it's a long, sprawling, and complex novel. And yet, no matter how brilliant it can be, I found it quite difficult to maintain interest for prolonged periods of time. Which explains why it took me so long to read Imajica.

Here's the blurb:

From master storyteller Clive Barker comes an epic tale of myth, magic, and forbidden passion.

Imajica is an epic beyond compare: vast in conception, obsessively detailed in execution, and apocalyptic in its resolution. At its heart lies the sensualist and master art forger, Gentle, whose life unravels when he encounters Judith Odell, whose power to influence the destinies of men is vaster than she knows, and Pie 'oh' pah, an alien assassin who comes from a hidden dimension.

That dimension is one of five in the great system called Imajica. They are worlds that are utterly unlike our own, but are ruled, peopled, and haunted by species whose lives are intricately connected with ours. As Gentle, Judith, and Pie 'oh' pah travel the Imajica, they uncover a trail of crimes and intimate betrayals, leading them to a revelation so startling that it changes reality forever.

I must admit that it's the concept of the Imajica and its five Dominions which piqued my curiosity and made me want to read this book. The blurb promised a journey across those disparate dimensions and I couldn't wait to see what Barker had in store for his readers. And while a lot of work went into creating the various species that are encountered throughout the tale, what with most of them sharing that Clive Barker visual signature from his movies, the same cannot be said of the Dominions themselves. Considering the size of this novel and the amount of extraneous or overdone sequences, I would have thought that more work would have gone into the other dimensions and how they relate to our world and the rest of the Imajica. And while some locales like the Erasure or the Cradle of Chzercemit are amazing in the way they are depicted, most of the worldbuilding elements, even the city of Yzordderrex itself, are often lackluster or would have benefited from more exposition. In the end, no matter how multilayered Imajica truly is, there's always that feeling that something is missing, or that something should have been elaborated on a bit more. The Appendix at the end of the book helps a little in that regard, but it's not enough to really make that much of a difference. In addition, I feel that too little was explored regarding the sacred feminine divinity aspect, especially given its importance in the greater scheme of things. The God vs Goddesses dichotomy needed more exposition, methinks.

There was a good balance between the perspectives of Gentle and Judith, but I would have liked more POV scenes featuring Pie 'oh' pah. The assassin was by far the most fascinating protagonist of this novel. Not surprisingly, there is a whole slew of secondary characters, but few of them left their mark on the story. Personally, I feel that Clem is the one who stands out the most among the supporting cast and it's probably because he has a history with both Gentle and Judith.

The pace is an issue throughout the novel, no question about it. While at times the rhythm moves the tale at a good clip, there are long chunks in which the pacing is simply atrocious. And I guess that's why I had such a hard time getting into Imajica. It starts with a bang and the plot moves well for the first 150 pages or so. Alas, when the action leaves Earth and the journey through the Dominions begins, Barker completely lose himself in those outer dimensions. Basically every scene is overwritten, every conversation is longer than it needs to be, and the storylines meander in unpredictable yet inflated fashion. For that reason, though some scenes are awesome, it can be exhausting to read this book. For every remarkable sequence, you must wade through page after page of superfluous material that bogs you down in virtually every chapter. It's never dull, mind you. But for every moment that captures your imagination, there are also interminable streaks that make you want to put the book down. You're invested enough in the story and the characters to always come back at some point. Which is good. And yet, ultimately, the fact that it's so easy to stop reading Imajica in favor or something else doesn't speak well of it. Perusing reviews, it's evident that this is a very divisive work. Some people were hooked and couldn't let go. Others simply lost interest and couldn't get through it. Finally, some readers chose to persevere through this slog of slogs, hoping that it would be worth it before the end.

And that's another thing. Sometimes, as the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination. And Imajica is a LONG journey. One would think that following hundreds of pages of build-up, once the roller-coaster goes down you'd get a thrilling endgame and a captivating finale. And although the endgame was exciting, I felt that everything was a bit rushed. It took the longest time for Barker to finally reveal the truth about the three protagonists and how they are linked. Yet the final stage of this tale could have used a little more exposition. Is the ending worth going through the entire novel? I would say so. I'm glad I didn't give up on it, that's for sure. Some images will remain with me for a long time. Clive Barker's prose is evocative and his words create a vivid imagery. I just wish he wasn't so long-winded. More like Guy Gavriel Kay and less like Brandon Sanderson.

Imajica is a journey unlike any you've experienced before. A tale of a supreme god and goddesses in hiding. A tale of our world and how it is sundered from the Reconciled Dominions. A tale of those who want the Imajica to be whole and those who oppose them. So if you're patient and can handle the slog, if you can deal with a bit of erotica because Barker cannot help himself when he writes sex scenes, this novel can be a rewarding read. But it is a slog.

The final verdict: 7/10

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