Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, edited by Joseph Nassise and Del Howison, contains 22 original stories set in the universe of Barker’s displaced creatures. While the anthology does not include a Barker story, there is an introduction by him (reprinted from The Nightbreed Chronicles, 1990.) The assembled tales are generally very fine, playing upon the mythology created by Barker, while reflecting the unique voices of the writers.
In Weston Ochse’s profoundly unnerving “The Devil Until the Credits Roll,” a military team accompanied by a government agent lay a trap to destroy one of the Nightbreed. The team’s leader, who has an apparent vendetta against the creature, harbors sadistic memories that include mutilation and a particularly disturbing form of necrophilia. It becomes apparent that monsters come in many shapes and forms. Ochse takes no prisoners in his brilliant and savage depictions of violence. He set the action in Afghanistan, while deployed there, lending a creepy verisimilitude to this aptly titled tale.
The disintegration of their underground city of Midian leads the dispersed Nightbreed to different locales. Integrating into human society is understandably problematic for nocturnal flesh-craving entities. In the stories “The Moon Inside” by Seanan McGuire and “The Kindness of Surrender” by Kurt Fawver, adolescence compounds the complexity of adaptation. In McGuire’s yarn, even a lively city like Seattle offers little pleasure for a teenager when proximity to humans reminds her of “the blood in their veins like sugar candy and communion wine.” The frustration factor is high, since “It’s rude to the eat people in your neighborhood.”
Fawver’s story points out the difficulty from a surrogate parent’s point of view: “What was the proper way to approach one’s ersatz daughter when one had found her shape-shifted into a vaguely reptilian form and in the throes of gastronomical delight?”
Stressful familial relationships lead to an embracing of the Nightbreed in “The Farmhouse” by Christopher Monfette and “Lakrimay” by Nerine Dorman. In Monfette’s poignant narrative, a young boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness discovers “monsters” occupying the basement of his rural home. The ravages of cancer have radically altered the appearance of his mother, somewhat inuring the child to the grotesque visages of the creatures. The give-and-take between the kid and the cellar dwellers proves literally transforming.
Dorman’s tale concerns a little girl in a distasteful domestic environment. A maternal member of the Nightbreed offers the child a form of hopeful solace—as well as potential retribution. The story’s last line has definite bite.
In an essay written for the anthology, Lisa Majewski states that “Although Barker engineered Midian’s destruction, he also left among the ruins pieces of hope. For the Nightbreed came together as one, not because they were the same, but because they were different.” In Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, co-editors Joseph Nassise and Del Howison seem to hearken to Majewski’s summation. The anthology’s stories are harmonious with the theme. Barker’s Nightbreed, based on his seminal novella Cabal, is the inspiration and springboard for the writers. It permits them to exhibit their uniqueness of style and expression. This admirable collection is indeed a balance of unity and individuality.
Midian Unmade is available now: https://www.amazon.com/Midian-Unmade-Tales-Barkers-Nightbreed/dp/0765335425/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8