Clive Barker’s Imajica is about the hedonistic artist John Furie Zacharias’ travels through surreal lands populated by bizarre cultures, while his ex-lover Judith uncovers a sinister conspiracy that hints at the forgotten past of both characters. Clocking in at over eight-hundred pages, Imajica is a treat for the dedicated fantasy reader.
Barker is well aware that fantasy, as a genre, contains possibilities beyond Tolkien knock-offs. Imajica demonstrates this by containing wonders such as giant snails, brutes with two hands for heads, and affectionate shape-shifting assassins.
I first came across Barker in his brilliantly illustrated Abarat series. Imajica is something of a predecessor to those books, concerning someone from Earth travelling through fantastic environments. The Imajica itself is a world-system that consists of five dominions, with Earth being the fifth dominions, separated from the rest. Two centuries ago, five magicians tried to reconcile the dominions, and that’s where the trouble begins.
The other dominions come across as a combination of Oz and the developing world. Although there was a city that recalled New York and another that was the ultimate capital city, no fictional location felt like an obvious rip-off of a real one. These were fantasy worlds that genuinely felt foreign.
While I don’t have any objection to any smart kids reading the overwritten sex-scenes, I think you’ll need to have reached at least the latter end of high school to fully appreciate how Clive Barker plays with sexuality and gender. Barker illustrates the inherent sexism of Abrahamic monotheism by having God travel the Imajica killing goddesses. One of the key characters, the aforementioned shape-shifting assassin, is a genderless being who takes the appearance of whatever its observer finds the most appealing.
Although Imajica impressed me, I’d only recommend it to readers looking for wonders with large amounts of time on their hands. If you’ve got cash to splash, I suggest buying the illustrated edition. Pictures make everything better, and Barker is a great artist.