As a Clive Barker and Hellraiser geek, I’m a bit of a fanboy when it comes to Barbie Wilde. You’ll most likely remember her as the female cenobite from Hellraiser II. In addition to her acting, she’s established a deserved name for herself with her horror fiction. I reviewed her previous book The Venus Complex on this blog and I loved it. Now, Wilde is back with a collection of 11 short stories, Voices of the Damned. Most of these stories have appeared as part of other anthologies or in Fangoria’s Gorezone magazine, but there are two stories making their debuts. Three of the stories make up the Cilicium Trilogy, which are part of the Hellraiser cenobitical universe.
The first thing you’ll notice before you even crack the book open is the amazing cover art from Clive Barker. It’s titled She Waits. What a way to grab the attention! The book also has an afterward from the Soska Sisters, intent on world domination, who seem to be involved in all manner of horror. Each of the stories is accompanied by an illustration. My favorites were Valeska by Daniele Serra and The Cillium Pandoric by Eric Gross.
Sister Celice– Sister Veronica, a nun heavily repressed by both her parents and her order, has dark fantasies. She discovers a gateway to another order – that of the Cenobites. This story is a thrilling start to the collection, dark, erotic, and completely engulfed in the Hellraiser tone and mythology. You could call it the ultimate coming of age story.
Zulu Zombies– What more could you ask for than zulu zombies in the middle of London? A gory and brutal train ride.
American Mutant– An extravagant southern televangelist, Billy Bob, suddenly and surprisingly has to face up to the fact that he has a 13 year old son, Mikey. Mikey’s not an ordinary boy though, he has a gift. A televangelist is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, when there is money to be made. I loved both the characters, Billy Bob and Mikey. The over the top Billy Bob you can instantly visualize and enjoy, and Mikey too, with his intelligence and creepy kid vibe. Really strong entry to the collection.
The Alpdrücke– Nightmares, sleep paralysis and German folklore. This story realizes the fear we all have of being so vulnerable while we sleep. Devilish!
Valeska– A tale about an irresistible femme fatale succubus and the two sides of her vampiric kind: the Sanguines who feed off blood, and the Seminals who feed off, shall we say, the energy of males. I really enjoyed this story and the history of the factions. It was a very fresh approach and one of my favorites in the collection. A full length novel based on this would be amazing.
The Cilicium Pandoric– We follow Sister Celice, now a Cenobite, as she crosses over to our world from hell with the desire to start her own Order. This story offers a further expansion of Clive Barker’s mythos, drenched in pain and desire.
Gaia– A lady living in fear, due to stories of Greek mythology from her heritage, and abuse from her uncle, seeks solitude and safety in a custom built basement. Two intruders find that they have messed with the wrong lady. Gaia was a fun and pretty cosmic tale.
Polyp– This one is truly bizarre, as a polyp leaves the bowels of its host to grow and go on a murder spree. It’s a real spree too. There is plenty of gore and unpleasantness in this one. This story will resonate well with body horror fans and will definitely make the squeamish squeam.
Botophobia– Following the death of her parents, Lorraine returns to her childhood home. She finds some unexpected things. I didn’t see the twist in this one coming. A very surprising ending.
Writer’s Block– An unusual answer to Bart’s writer’s block comes in the form of a stunning muse at a convention. Be careful what you wish for.
The Cilicium Rebellion– Sister Cilice leads her order of female Cenobites in a civil war against hell’s establishment. It’s a fantastic end to the trilogy and the Voices of the Damned. I’d really love a whole book about the adventures of Sister Cilice. That would be amazing.
This is an outstanding anthology, and I enjoyed every story. A delightful collection of the darkest hors d’oeuvres. There are no weak links here. I raced through the entire book in no time. The themes of sex and death are inextricably linked, dripping a dark eroticism through many of the stories. Another common theme is that of strong female characters. They are powerful, they are in control, and they are the hunters. When crossed, their vengeance is absolute. Wilde has a strong voice. In a genre that is often dominated by male authors, she has taken on a leading role. I can’t recommend this highly enough. These dark tales will entertain, and come back to visit you in the dark of night.
Voices of the Damned is available through SST Publications https://www.sstpublications.co.uk/Voices-of-the-Damned.php
Book Cover Blurb:
Enter into the mind of Barbie Wilde, whose disturbing interior world teems with the voices of rebellious female demons, devilish witches, semen-hungry neo-vampires, raging gods and home invaders, the fiends of sleep paralysis, pint-sized store-front preachers with a whiff of sulfur, body horrors of the most grotesque kind, clandestine aliens and Zulu zombies.
Video related to the Cilicium Trilogy: