In the dead letter room in the middle of Omaha, Randolph Jaffe has stumbled upon a secret. At first, the secret isn’t clear, just vague references to something called the Art. The Art begins to consume Jaffe, taking over his life. Its secrets continue to elude Jaffe until he cracks part of the code.
The Art are laws governing an alternate reality called Quididdty. Quididdty is the dream see, the dreamscape, the magic that runs through all our fantasies. Jaffe can think of nothing else except the Art and becoming a master of it. Quididdty is his for the taking.
Taking a scientist named Fletcher under his wing to further his growing evil, Jaffe hopes to get one step closer to mastering the Art. Fletcher creates a transforming drug they call Nuncio, which uses the principals of the Art. What they don’t realize is that it will become their undoing.
Fletcher realizes that Jaffe is evil and attempts to stop his plans by destroying the Nuncio. He knows that the drug is capable of transforming anyone into what ever they are most on the inside. Good becomes great. Evil becomes more so. Except, the Nuncio has other plans. It transforms Fletcher and then Jaffe into Demigods. Not content to let the other live, (after all, good must always triumph over evil) Fletcher and Jaffe engage in a battle that brings them to Palamo Grove, a small town and an ideal place to hide and rest in the earth while regaining the energy to continue fighting.
Years pass. Then something unthinkable happens. Four girls, dubbed The League of Virgins, become pregnant after swimming in a river that appeared on the edge of town. When the girls start talking of being raped in the river, gossip in the small town grows to an all time high. No one knows the truth, however, no matter how crazy the rumors.
Jaffe and Fletcher have impregnated four women in hopes of producing offspring to continue the battle they began so many years ago. Fletcher knows that he cannot allow Jaffe to gain access to the Art, to Quididdty; otherwise, it could mean the end of the world, and dreams, as we know it…
What Barker does here is create myth and he does so beautifully. It’s a difficult thing to create an epic myth from the ground up, but Barker does so in “The Great and Secret Show” with such skill and mastery that you know he has a gift. The plot mentioned above doesn’t even begin to describe the plot for this book. It is a big, wonderfully sprawling dive into wonderland.
What I love about books by Clive Barker is that they are usually character driven. This is also the case here. While there is a lot of focus on myth and legend here, Barker also focuses on the people filling his tale. It’s a good thing he does – there is a cast of hundreds here and we get to know almost all of them through out “The Great and Secret Show”. What’s wonderful is that this is actually the first novel in a trilogy, The Books of Art.
I devoured this book. Quididdty now floats through my dreams and haunts my waking hours. This is an amazing book. It’s a big one, but it’s worth it. An amazing piece of literature, a great beginning to an epic fantasy, any way you look at it, this is an amazing read.