First UK edition
Poseidon Press (US)
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Weaveworld is a novel by Clive Barker. It was published in 1987 and could be categorised as dark fantasy. It deals with a parallel world, like many of Barker's novels, and contains many horror elements.
It was nominated in 1988 for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
The novel, set in Liverpool, England, in the late 1980s, revolves around the secret existence of The Seerkind – a race of people with the capacity to invoke magic, or "raptures" as it is described and their struggles to remain hidden from the non magical world which they refer to as "The Kingdom of The Cuckoo". Many decades prior to the book's opening, the Seerkind combined all of their powers to create a secret world known as "The Fugue" – a carpet into which they wove their most beloved locations, animals, possessions and indeed themselves as a safe haven after being hunted down and eradicated by humans for centuries (with humans most commonly depicting them as demons and fairies in their mythological tales) as well as being decimated by a destructive being known as The Scourge. This creature's form is entirely unknown to the Seerkind, given that none of those assaulted by the Scourge survived to describe it. The Fugue, resembling an ordinary, albeit exquisitely woven carpet is left in the care of a normal cuckoo woman, married to one of Seerkind named Mimi Laschenski. As the story begins Mimi has reached advanced old age and been hospitalized following a stroke whilst concurrently the novel's protagonist – a young Liverpudlian man named Calhoun Mooney – chases one of his father's escaped pet homing pigeons which leads him unknowingly to Mimi's house. In her absence the house is being cleared by removal men and whilst attempting to coax his pigeon down Cal is given an aerial view of the laid-out carpet and glimpses the full magical splendour of The Fugue, which profoundly affects him. Simultaneously Mimi's granddaughter Suzanna Parrish, arrives in the city at Mimi's behest. The mystery surrounding Mimi and the full potential of the carpet brings Cal and Suzanna together and quickly into confrontation with the primary antagonists: Immacolata - an exiled and extremely powerful Seerkind bent on revenge, Shadwell - a cuckoo salesman with limitless ambition and Hobart, a rigidly dedicated to the point of corrupt policeman. As the novel progresses Cal and Suzanna acquire new allies and abilities in their goal of protecting The Fugue from destruction, even venturing into it themselves twice. When Shadwell's actions result in The Fugue's seemingly total obliteration, the surviving Seerkind scatter and in a last desperate attempt to finish them once in for all, he locates and awakens The Scourge which begins systematically destroying any and all traces of rapture it can find. In the book's final act, Cal, Suzanna and their remaining allies make one final stand against Shadwell by using his own tactics against him and convince The Scourge to abandon its cause and leave the planet in peace. In the aftermath a severely traumatized Cal is cared for by Suzanna whilst their friends adjust to permanent life amongst the cuckoos. In a moment of profound realisation, Cal emerges from his withdrawal with the knowledge of how The Fugue is still alive and can be restored to its full glory.
- Calhoun "Cal" Mooney: A bored young man whose unremarkable life takes on a dramatic turn when he witnesses the Fugue. Immediately captivated, Cal attempts to simply observe the beauty of the Fugue once again but in doing so becomes embroiled in Immacolata and Shadwell's plot to destroy it. His salvation comes in the form of Suzanna as well as the Fugue's inhabitants who collectively encourage him to fight for it. Part of Cal's character development is a rite of passage less so of a boy to a man or even the reverse, but of a person self actualizing. His progression is charted through his recollections and imaginings of his grandfather; a poet dubbed "Mad Mooney". Through Cal's contact with the Seerkind he gradually inherits the identity of Mad Mooney himself.
- Suzanna Parish: A young woman who pays a visit to her dying grandmother, Mimi Laschenski and is given clues to her family's secret past. Suzanna carries both Seerkind and Cuckoo blood in her veins. After accidentally obtaining the "Menstruum" by an attack from Immacolata, she becomes almost as powerful and develops a complicated kinship with her as the story progresses. Suzanna is a sculptor/potter and a self-described pragmatist, initially hesitant to comprehend the bizarre situations she comes to find herself in she adapts quickly and learns to rely more on her instincts and less on her "cuckoo thinking". The object of Cal's affections from the onset, Suzanna politely rejects his advances believing their friendship is based more upon trust and the shared experience of the Fugue rather than romantic intimacy, instead she forms a relationship with Jerichau up until his demise, at the novel's conclusion it is hinted that she has developed feelings for Cal.
- Immacolata: A cold, ruthless sorceress, who was exiled by her own race for practising evil magic and desiring too much power. Already exceptionally gifted by the standards of the Seerkind, Immacolata is also a possessor/avatar of The Menstruum - a subtle, powerful and seemingly sentient form of rapture that manifests only in women and differently with each individual - where Suzanna's is described as a heavenly silver light Immacolata's takes the form of her own weaponized blood. Introduced as the main villain of the first half of the book she has many aspects associated with the wicked witch trope such as avoiding sunlight and a predilection for surrounding herself with bones/body parts. Similarly her characterisation bares some resemblance to Lady Macbeth as both women are traditionally portrayed as possessing an exterior beauty belied by a cold malevolence, both of which are wielded with devastating effect. Unlike her counterpart Shadwell, Immacolata acts out of revenge with no desire for personal gain. In achieving her goal she unwittingly brings about her own undoing when Shadwell betrays, humiliates and kills her. A sympathetic character in her final appearances she redeems herself by giving Suzanna the means to prepare for the return of The Scourge.
- Shadwell: A charismatic, middle-aged salesman, little is revealed of his origins or even his full name, he is simply an ordinary-looking salesman and through years of experience has honed his trade to an art. Shadwell can persuade, charm and intimidate any prospective buyer through his own talent and through the use of a gift given by Immacolata; a jacket with enchanted lining in which viewers see whatever their heart most desires. At an unspecified time prior to the book's opening he was approached by Immacolata to be her ally in unmaking The Fugue, the existence of which he seemingly accepted with ease. He initially accepts her mission as an exciting challenge; the ultimate sale, with both knowing that the selling of something so powerful into any inexperienced hands would result in disaster for both buyer and goods, as is Immacolata's plan. Shadwell's dishonest yet humble role is abandoned when he too witnesses raptures with his own eyes and decides that ruling The Fugue himself would be preferable. Re-styling himself as a prophet destined to lead The Seerkind to prosperity he converts many of their more gullible folk as well as Hobart's policemen and takes The Fugue by force in a coup that fails through Cal, Suzanna and eventually Immacolata's actions but nonetheless cuts a bloody swathe that destroys the very thing he wished to possess, leaving him with nothing. Beaten and disgusted he then turns his anger into wiping The Seerkind out entirely and successfully locates The Scourge.
Immacolata and Shadwell share a complex relationship that in itself is a dark reflection of Suzanna and Cal. There lies at all times an unspoken chemistry between the two that despite any physical or even verbal affection verges on intimacy, one which both parties are aware of but only Shadwell acknowledges aloud. At first he is subservient to her obvious power but as this begins to wane their roles reverse and he plots to remove her, as had always been his intention.
- The Scourge: a catastrophic, ancient power of unknown origin that was present at the first emergence/evolution of the Seerkind. When they left their mutual garden home it reacted to their abandonment violently and slew them by the hundreds if not thousands. When its quarry vanished from sight into the rug The Scourge returned to their ancestral garden to stand guard over the rest of time. In its lonely watch The Scourge slowly succumbed to madness forgetting itself, its duty and The Seerkind as well (although Immacolata given her great power could still sense its dormancy and inevitable re-awakening much to her terror). Secluded in time, when its garden (which is situated in a vast desert wasteland) is discovered by human explorers it learns from them the story of Genesis and after killing them takes its home for the garden of Eden and sees itself as an avenging angel; Uriel. Physically the Scourge (when not controlling a human host) is described as indefinite and full of paradoxes, genderless and at once dark and bleached, towering and infinitesimal and always surrounded by a smothering fog. Its only physical qualities, if any are innumerable eyes that rotate seemingly on wheels of fire throughout its shapeless form, indeed Barker attributes The Scourge to a being of geometries and fire rather than a corporeal entity. Perhaps The Scourge's only Earthly feature is its broken (and as Shadwell attempts to exploit) decidedly childlike mind.
- The Hag: one of Immacolata's triplet sisters, whom she strangled while all three were in the womb. The Hag survived as the ghostly presence of a gruesome old woman, always accompanying her sisters as a crone to their being a maiden and mother and helping when necessary. She can divine knowledge by examining the afterbirth produced by her prolific and likewise ghostly sister. The Hag is permanently killed by her sister's progeny when Shadwell gains control of them.
- The Magdalene: Immacolata's other triplet sister who also survives after her prenatal death as ectoplasm. She frequently rapes defenceless men and gives birth to brutally deformed abominations (called by-blows) within hours of their conception. Terrifying to behold yet sensual in appetite The Magdalene and her children are arguably one of the most horrific elements of the entire novel. She is later killed permanently by a distraught and increasingly powerful Suzanna after she abuses Jerichau.
- Hobart: A British police inspector with unwavering dedication to the law, Hobart is contemptuous of civilians and criminals alike believing everyone is guilty of something. Practical and narrow minded to a fault, when first confronted with the after-effects of raptures he deduces they are the result of unknown terrorist actions. When Suzanna and Jerichau accidentally incite a riot in down-town Liverpool he becomes convinced they are criminal masterminds and from there onwards become Suzanna's personal nemesis leading a nationwide manhunt for her. When Shadwell's attempt at selling the Fugue is interrupted he recruits Hobart and his forces into re-obtaining it. Despite then coming into contact with raptures and entering The Fugue himself under Shadwell's orders, Hobart remains resolute that Suzanna is the real threat leading to a confrontation between the two where they enter yet another magical world and change shape before he reveals his secret desire to die and be done with it. Suzanna at that moment pities him and hesitates ending their encounter unfinished. Alive and bitter Hobart continues to aid Shadwell when he goes in search of The Scourge, only to be offered sacrificially to it as a host.
- The Rake: A hideous phantasm of a former sorcerer named Domville who tested Immacolata by becoming a necromancer in an attempt to seduce her, believing himself to be more powerful than her. The attempt failed when he brought forth 'the Surgeons' (although it is never confirmed, it is heavily implied that these were the Cenobites from Barker's earlier work 'The Hellbound Heart' and its subsequent film adaptation 'Hellraiser'), who proceeded to fillet him. He is resurrected by Immacolata as a terrifying boneless demon and sent to assassinate the Seerkind which he does, claiming the life of Lillia before being destroyed by a passing train after being lured onto the tracks by Cal and Nimrod.
- Jerichau St. Louis: one of the Seerkind who is among the first five to be unleashed from the rug. He later becomes Suzanna's friend and companion, choosing not to return to the weave.
- Nimrod: another one of the first five Seerkind to be unleashed from the carpet after Cal tears off a piece of it. He is a shape-shifter, initially trapped in the form of the infant which he used to escape from a jilted husband whose wife he had seduced.
- Mimi Laschenski: Suzanna's grandmother, the guardian of the rug. At the time Immacolata tracks her down, she is too old and weak to use an effective magical trick and willingly dies to prevent herself from disclosing any secrets, under Immacolata's pressure.
- Romo: A Seerkind lion tamer and husband of Mimi. During an encounter with Immacolata, his lions grievously wound her in revenge for Mimi's death at the hands of the dark sorceress.
- Balm de Bono: A Seerkind rope-dancer. He becomes friends with Cal during Calhoun's first visit to the Fugue, and later warns he and Suzanna of the approaching Scourge following a failed attempt to invoke the Old Science to combat it.
- Lemuel Lo: Owns an orchard of enchanted fruit (Giddy fruit) in the Fugue, which is later burned to the ground by Hobart's invading forces.
The novel contains several religious references, particularly in the form of character names:
- Immacolata's name is a reference to an epithet of Virgin Mary, in association to the Immaculate Conception, a central belief of Roman Catholic Church. Immacolata is often described by Barker as a perverse version of Virgin Mary. She persists on her "virtue" by keeping her virginity. She is also called in the novel by the alias Black Madonna.
- One of Immacolata's ghost-sisters is named "the Magdalene". The Magdalene is a lusty, nymphomaniac ectoplasm. Her namesake denotes a contrast to the "chastity" her sister's name declares, by having a vague association with Mary Magdalene, disciple of Christ. Mary Magdalene has often been identified with the nameless adulteress whom Christ saved from an angry crowd, as chronicled in the Bible.
- The Scourge is a being of unknown origin, whose mission was to guard a garden, wherein the Seerkind were born and remained captives, until their escape. Immacolata mentions that different religions have called the garden different names, including Christianity which has acknowledged the fabled garden as the Garden of Eden.
- The Scourge presents itself to Shadwell as if it is the incarnation of the angel Uriel, with the mission to punish the Seerkind due to their escape from the Garden of Eden.
"The Scourge rose from its throne of sand, and in an instant it grew blindingly bright. Shadwell covered his eyes, but the light shone through flesh and bone, and into his head, where the Scourge was pronouncing its eternal name. I am called Uriel, it said. Uriel, of the principalities."
- Jerichau's name is a reference to Jericho, the city (in the Occupied Palestinian Territories) that is mentioned in the Bible.
- Nimrod's name is a reference to the evil Mesopotamian king, Nimrod, who built the city of Babel.
Reviewing Weaveworld in the Toronto Star, Henry Mietkiewicz stated "Barker proves to be far more accomplished and self-assured than in any of his previous work...Weaveworld depends upon a relatively intricate narrative structure and a host of finely crafted characters". 
Comic book adaptation
A possible film or television adaptation of the novel has often been deemed problematic, mainly due to the epic scope of the book which demands an extensive use of special effects, many costumes and scenery and a potentially huge script. It has frequently been rumoured that the novel would be adapted into a mini-series. Such rumours have spread throughout the years, since Showtime obtained the legal rights for a mini-series in 1996 but so far, despite the occasional rumours, no project has come to fruition. Novelist and screenwriter Michael Marshall Smith completed a first draft of a script for an eight-hour mini-series in 1995. Smith was later asked to write a complete script, but the project has fallen into hiatus and he is no longer involved. In 2001, Barker stated in an interview that a Showtime six-hour mini-series was about to enter a two-year preproduction stage, directed by Queer as Folk director Russell Mulcahy, probably shot in Australia. Barker announced that shooting was slated to start in 2003, with Stephen Molton as the screenwriter. In 2005, Barker stated that "finally, finally, finally!" the book had been adapted into a mini-series. In 2006, Barker again claimed that the mini-series adaptation was about to enter production.
- Henry Mietkiewicz, "Gloom with room for redemption". Toronto Star, October 31, p.M-5
- The Official Clive Barker Resource – Revelations – Uncompleted TV Projects
- Science Fiction News of the Week – Weaveworld Near Production
- The Book Blog at ReadersRead.com
- Talking Comics with Clive Barker
- October 2007 is the 20th Anniversary of Weaveworld Archived information and illustration from Revelations – The Official Clive Barker Resource.