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Literature / The Scarlet Gospels

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The Scarlet Gospels is a novel by Clive Barker. It is the long awaited sequel to The Hellbound Heart (the novella on which the first Hellraiser film was based), although the canon universe of the book is closer to that in the films. The book also features the character of Harry D'Amour, a deconstruction of the Hardboiled Detective archetype who has appeared in several other stories by Barker including the short story The Last Illusion (which was also adapted to film as Lord of Illusions), and the novels The Great and Secret Show and Everville.

The story centers on Pinhead and Harry, depicted as adversaries. A friend of Harry's is taken hostage by Pinhead, and Harry must track the Cenobite down into the lowest levels of Hell to affect a rescue. Roughly two thirds of the story will take place in Hell, leading to a confrontation between Pinhead and the very forces of Satan's kingdom themselves.

This work provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Felixson's service to Pinhead ends a bit more suddenly than you might expect.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Pinhead's seemingly never-ending bid for more and more power is essentially what drives the plot forward. A stark shift in character from the more neutral Sense Freak of The Hellbound Heart.
  • Ascended Extra: Pinhead was a minor character in The Hellbound Heart, but is a central character here.
  • Back for the Dead: Pinhead kills off the rest of his order, the Cenobites. Among them is a female cenobite that he had worked with (likely the Female Cenobite) and one that is clearly Butterball.
  • Berserk Button: The Hell Priest doles out especially sadistic killings for anyone who calls him "Pinhead" to his face. Doubles as Clive Barker reiterating his own well-known dislike of that nickname.
  • Big Bad: Pinhead.
  • Blind Seer: Norma Paine is blind but can see ghosts. Later, after Harry is blinded, he develops the same ability.
  • Body Horror: Par for the course for Clive Barker, especially when Pinhead is involved.
  • Call-Back: Pinhead's infamous 'We have such sights to show you' is repeated in a different context. "Jesus wept", the notorious last words of Frank Cotton in Hellraiser, are also said at the beginning of the book by one of the magicians.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Hell has a bureaucracy. For example, entering the Cenobitical Monastery requires permission papers signed in triplicate or else the attempted intruder will suffer immediate execution.
  • Crossover: Harry D'Amour (from The Last Illusion) versus Pinhead (from Hellraiser).
  • Canon Discontinuity: Pretty much, with very few exceptions, virtually every aspect of the Hellraiser film series is ignored past the first one. Pinhead's background as the human Elliot Spencer is never directly acknowledged. The Cenobites and other demons revere the fallen angel Lucifer and do not serve the monolithic entity Leviathan. And Hell is now more of a Dante's Inferno city, and not the stark, orderly Labyrinth of Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
  • Death by Irony: A meta example. Pinhead stars in the Hellraiser series. His death finally comes about when Hell literally falls on top of him.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: One of Dale's abilities.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: For Lucifer of all people. After enduring endless suffering in the absence of God, and having his chance of 'rest' disturbed, Lucifer finally manages to escape from Hell and is able to settle down and live among humans.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Pinhead" has become one in-universe. People who dare say it to the Hell Priest's face... don't tend to fare particularly well.
  • Expanded Universe: The nature of Hell and its inhabitants will be greatly expanded upon, as will the Order of the Gash and Pinhead's role in it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Barker has made it clear for years that the novel would end in Pinhead's death.
  • Grand Finale: For The 'Verse in Clive Barker's work, tying up loose ends in the stories of Harry D'amour, Hellraiser, and some of his Urban Fantasy stories.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Lucifer has been missing from his throne. Pinhead's goal is to find Lucifer and serve him in a resurgent Hell.
  • Iconic Item: Pinhead's pins, which are actually rusty nails driven into his skull. At one point Lucifer starts tearing them out, one by one. Pinhead breaks down and begs him to stop. When asked why, Pinhead says "They are who I am."
  • Hell Seeker: Harry wants to meet the Devil.
  • Killed Off for Real: Pinhead is killed at the end, and so is Norma Paine, a minor recurring character in D'Amour's stories.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: Pinhead savagely beats Norma, an 80-year-old blind woman, For the Evulz.
  • No Name Given: Aside from 'Pinhead', the character is only referred to as the 'Hell Priest'.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The few we see are pretty crude, even by human standards.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons in this 'verse are either fallen angels, the offspring of fallen angels and humans, or hellish animals of questionable origin.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Harry's mismatched companions he assembles to rescue his friend from Pinhead. They all have some experience with supernatural events but only know each other through Harry and come together by chance.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Like some of the later films in the franchise, Pinhead seems to have grown a fondness for pointing out his victims past sins and flaws before eviscerating them.
  • Ret-Canon: A number of elements, such as the descriptions of the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration, are taken from the film adaptation of the original novella rather than the novella itself. Also, Barker repurposes some iconic quotes (such as "Jesus wept" and "I have such sights to show you") from the film that weren't in the source material. Pinhead's megalomaniac personality also oddly enough hearkens back most closely to how he was depicted in Hellraiser: Bloodline.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Pinhead, of course, although the seal appears to have loosened considerably. Lucifer - yes that one - fits the bill as well.
  • Sea Monster: Quo'oto. Described as resembling a gigantic water-dwelling millipede. Its top two segments alone are described as being easily the size of a Blue Whale.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: The fat Cenobite, who was the main Cenobite in The Hellbound Heart, only briefly appears in order to be killed by Pinhead along with the rest of the Order of the Gash.
  • Take That!: The name 'Pinhead' is seen in-universe as a demeaning name for the Hell Priest; calling him such serves as a bit of a Berserk Button for the character. This is a result of Barker's feelings towards the name; the character was never meant to be called as such but it stuck and Barker found it undignified.
  • To Hell and Back: Harry D'Amour chases after Pinhead into Hell to rescue his friend, who is taken hostage by the Cenobites.
  • Unwanted Revival:
    • A group of sorcerers raise one of their peers, who was killed by Pinhead, from his tomb in an attempt to save themselves from the Cenobite. The dead sorcerer is less than pleased that they've given Pinhead an opportunity to kill him twice.
    • A much worse one near the end of the book. Pinhead finds Lucifer, dead by suicide, loses it, and takes his armor to rule Hell. This accidentally returns Lucifer to life, resulting in an epic fight that ends with Lucifer tearing down all of Hell just so no one can revive him again.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Lucifer is cursed with immortality by God, something that's not a standard feature for angels, fallen or no. He puts enormous effort into killing himself, and gets pissed when it doesn't stick.