My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Galilee, for me, is Clive Barker at his storytelling best. It may not be as inventive as Cabal (Nightbreed), Imajica & Everville, or as mind-bending as The Hellbound Heart (Hellraiser), nor as imaginative as Weaveworld, but it’s the best written, the best ‘told’ story of all of his with elegant, seductive, magnetic prose that’s as smooth as butter. His prose in this book can make even the most boring, mundane things seem worthy of your attention.
It should be stated right up front Galilee is not a horror novel, at least nowhere in the singular sense (though it has parts that may certainly exist on the periphery of that description). It’s a bit of a wonderful, odd beast. It’s my favorite kind of tome, running the gamut of several flavors from epic saga, historical suspense, myth-making, inter-familial drama, forbidden romance, light metaphysics, a teasing amount of the supernatural (almost maddeningly understated) and, being a Barker story, a touch of the dark fantastic, naturally.
It’s truly the hardest novel to nail down with a description that I’ve ever encountered, and I am honestly and thoroughly bummed that I have yet to encounter something of its ilk since. That’s over a decade of let down. Thankfully it’s so invitingly re-readable and continuously rewarding when you do so.
I love all the extraordinary elements . . . everything about the Barbarossa family, whom I did not ever think of as fantastical creations, but more supernatural. However, Barker wrote that Cesaria, the matriarch, was essentially a goddess-like being, more or less a demigoddess (in other words, she’s a direct descendant of, well, God) than a typical fantastical invention Barker is typically known for creating. Certainly a more metaphysical approach than his norm at the time. Like urban fantasy it’s a great merging of the mundane with the extraordinary.
As a writer, this book was such a defining, eye opening read for me. It was an “Ah, so THAT’S how you do it!” revelation. Part of that is due to the character-driven literary device he uses (kind of as a cheat) that allows him to tell a birds-eye view kind of sprawling epic story without sacrificing an ounce of the first-person intimacy since it comes from the MC’s near-omniscient point of view. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cheat, but damned effective. But I won’t get more into that because it’s a real treat of reading the novel and I’ve probably teased enough details.
After the book came out Barker mentioned a sequel one day that would essentially focus more on the Barbarossas instead of the Gearys, who get the bulk of the focus in this book. I so hope he gets around to it before he retires.
Note: I’m giving this book 5 stars because there is no option for 4 & 1/2 stars.