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Literature / Weaveworld

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Weaveworld is a story about a carpet which contains a world. This carpet, called the Fugue, is the refuge of the Seerkind, a Mage Species that was was nearly wiped out in the late 19th century by an unstoppable force known to them as the Scourge. In desperation, they used thier magic to weave themselves and their places of power into a tapestry in order to elude the Scourge. They left the Fugue in the hands of sympathetic human Custodians to protect it until the world is safe for the Seerkind again.

But now it is the 1980s, and the last of the Custodians is on her deathbed.

Enemies of the Fugue have nearly located it - the exiled Seerkind witch Immacolata and her undead sisters the Magdalene and the Hag want to destroy the Fugue, and they enlist a human accomplice, Shadwell the Salesman, to aid them. Called to the Fugue's defence is Suzanna Parrish, the granddaughter of the last Custodian, even though she is entirely ignorant of magic and the Seerkind. But the first to find the Fugue is ordinary young professional Calhoun Mooney, who sees in it the Wonderland he's dreamed of since childhood. At that point, a story full of wonders and terrors begins...

Clive Barker's second full-length novel, and his first novel that could more easily be classified as Urban Fantasy than Horror. The story was adapted as a graphic novel under the Epic Comics label in 1991. There has been a slow trickle of news about potential screen adaptations for decades, but as yet nothing has progressed beyond the planning stage.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Adventure-Friendly World: Invoked by Cal the very first moment he sets eyes on the Fugue.
    How fine it would be to walk there, he thought, with so much variety pressed into so little space, not knowing whether the turning the next corner would bring ice or fire. ...To be there, in that world, would be to live a perpetual adventure.
  • Aerith and Bob: Suzanna Parrish is a very commonplace name. While Calhoun Mooney is more unusual, it doesn't remotely compare to the sort of names the Seerkind have - such as Jerichau St. Louis or Balm De Bono.
  • Agent Mulder: Anthony Gluck, a character briefly introduced in the middle of the book, catalogues unexplained phenomena in England but ascribes them to extraterrestrials. He reappears much later in the story and proves to be a good ally to Cal.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The story never conclusively settles the Scourge's true nature, specifically as regards its belief that it is the Archangel Uriel. Immacolata believes that it's just some kind of spirit, or Starfish Alien, which had thoroughly forgotten its original identity when it was found by human explorers, and plucked the Biblical story out of their mind altogether, while others, including Shadwell after seeing into its mind, believe that it really is the truth behind the myth even if the Biblical account is a distorted version of what really happened. The apparent Shared Universe with ''The Hellbound Heart (see Crossover below) does lend some credence to the possibility of such an entity "really" existing.
  • Another Dimension: The Fugue, the magical places of our world that were hidden in the Weave.
  • Archangel Uriel: The Sourge believes itself to be Uriel, former guardian of the Garden of Eden. Whether this is (partially) true, or a complete delusion, is left ambiguous.
  • Arc Words: "That which is imagined need never be lost." It first appears in the book of fairy tales Suzanna's grandmother, Mimi, gave her. It shows up again at least twice after this and at the very end, the exact meaning is made clear.
  • Auction of Evil: Shadwell the salesman's initial goal is to sell the Fugue. He considers presiding over the sale of the most wonderous thing in the world to certain wealthy, elite daydream belivers to be the ultimate expression of his profession. Of course, he never troubles himself with the moral implications of selling a world and its inhabitants.
  • Big Bad: Immacolata, at least at first. This trope is played with rather interestingly, as Shadwell is actually the instigator of most of the conflict throughout the story, but only briefly holds any genuine power.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Downplayed with Suzanna's family, which she definitely remembers as distant, unaffectionate, and secretive. However, she put her childhood behind her so studiously that its effect on her is minimized. Her parents are dead and little is said of them.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The Fugue is this trope by its nature, particularly the township of Nonesuch. The buildings have a bewildering array of architectural styles, and are set so closely together the streets are practically tunnels.
  • Body Horror: That ol' Barker classic. The Rake comes to mind. The Magdalene's children are horrific mishmashes of bodies twisted into every conceivable form of mutilated, warped wrongness.
  • Braving the Blizzard: The finale of the book is set during Britain's "bitterest December in living memory." Not only does Cal venture out in these conditions, he also has a close call with death by exposure. Fortunately, a talking monkey acquaintance of his happened to be nearby to steer him toward shelter.
  • Break the Badass: Immacolata starts the story at the top of her game, focused on her goal and practically unstoppable. Her downfall is a gradual death by a thousands cuts, orchestrated mainly by Shadwell as he reduces his dependence on her. Despite repeated degradations, she does eventually destroy the Fugue just like she wanted. Shadwell kills her in the process, but she gets the double satisfaction of the vengeance she always wanted while thwarting him at the same time.
  • Cain and Abel: Immacolata killed her triplet sisters the Magdalene and the Hag when they were in the womb together.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The Marvel Comics version squeezes a 700 page novel into what readers describe as a "200 page plot summary."
  • Continuity Nod: Immacolata refers to an incident where a man she knew was hunted by the Cenobites (not by name).
  • Corrupt Cop: Hobart, who might have been an Inspector Javert, were it not for the fact that he's stone-cold insane.
  • Crossover: At one point, Immacolata makes reference to mysterious demons she calls "The Surgeons". Better known as Cenobites.
  • Cuddle Bug: Lemuel Lo, keeper of the Jude Pear orchard, quickly befriends Cal and is quite demonstrative with his affection. He hugs Cal when they first meet, and every time thereafter.
  • Death Equals Redemption: After death, Immacolata is substantially better adjusted - even helpful.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Jerichau is horribly tortured by the Magdalene and dies in Suzanna's arms.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Shadwell has a knack for saying exactly what people want to hear throughout the book, especially when dealing with beings that would think nothing of killing him should he misspeak. He walks the line very well with Immacolata. However, he is pushed to his limit with Uriel, and eventually seals his fate by overstating his power over the ostensible angel.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Shadwell, the Salesman. Initially content to aid Immacolata in destroying the Seerkind, his desire for power goes to his head and he seeks to become a god of the Fugue, discarding Immacolata the instant her usefulness is spent.
  • Epigraph: Each of the thirteen parts of the novel begins with a quotation from a famous poet, philosopher, or playwright.
  • The Fake Cutie: Nimrod initially appears as an infant. He is actually a fully-grown Handsome Lech who shapeshifted into the form of a baby to elude a cuckolded spouse, but ran out of power to shift back. He is not happy to be stuck this way - but he does get to cop a feel from an unsuspecting woman cooing over the "baby."
  • False Prophet: With the help of Immacolata's magic, Shadwell assumes a false identity as a prophet. He uses promises of deliverance to mobilize the Seerkind who are living in the human world to locate and awaken the Fugue. As always with Shadwell, caveat emptor - those who accept his lies and walk away merely disappointed are lucky.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Jude Pears/Giddy Fruit, the fruit grown in Lemuel Lo's orchard, have different effects each time Cal eats them. During the party in the orchard they are intoxicating and give Cal a sense of well-being and connectedness. When Cal finds one in his pocket months later, it jogs his memory about his adventure in the Fugue and induces an out-of-body experience.
  • Fertile Feet: Played straight in the Gyre, which is so chock-full of magic that any disturbances (such as walking through it) sprouts a lush undergrowth. The Scourge's domain in the Empty Quarter is a subversion - an Eden-like setting covered in flora which withers away and turns to sand when someone walks through it.
  • Fighting Spirit: Suzanna thinks of the Menstruum as an ethereal extension of her body, and it acts independently in an expression of her will. It is certainly useful in physical combat, but Suzanna calls on it for many other tasks as well.
  • Forgot the Call: The Kingdom of the Cuckoo gets the better of Cal after the Seerkind reweaves the Fugue as a carpet. The excitement dies down, Cal goes back to his everyday life, and within a few months he completely forgets all the fantastic things he participated in. His memories of Suzanna are the only link he manages to retain.
  • Fugitive Arc: Suzanna and Jerichau spend months on run with Hobart on their heels. Between Suzanna's Menstruum-driven foreknowledge and Jerichau's genius for theft, they actually manage to shake the Inspector after a while. If Hobart hadn't teamed up with Shadwell, they could have disappeared completely.
  • Godhood Seeker: After the auction of the Fugue falls through, Shadwell's new goal is to keep the Fugue for himself and use the Gyre, the magical hotbed at the heart of the Fugue, to become godlike.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The Seerkind consider envy to be humankind's defining trait.
  • Hate Plague: When Immacolata comes back to her senses after her Villainous BSoD, she induces this in a group of would-be defenders of the Fugue.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Immacolata, the Magdalene and the Hag are a thoroughly evil manifestation.
  • It's Personal: Pretty much everyone in the story. Immacolata felt rejected, hence the desire to destroy the fugue. Shadwell finds more power in it than what he could ever imagine and drops the professional act. Cal is so emotionally overwhelmed when first meeting the Fugue that he can't help putting himself in danger to find it again.
  • Last-Name Basis: Readers may assume that Shadwell and Hobart have Christian names, but the book never reveals them.
  • Last Stand: Rayment's Hill, the place where the Seerkind hid from the Scourge while the Fugue was woven into the carpet. They return there when the Scourge reappears to finish the purge it started.
  • Layered World: When the Fugue unweaves, it overlays the existing area while avoiding "Cuckoo stuff" like houses and vehicles. This leads to interesting situations during the unweaving in the outskirts of Liverpool. Muggles could observe the effects of the Fugue's presence there, like overturned cars, but since they do not expect to see the Fugue they cannot figure out what caused it to happen.
    • Shadwell took lessons away from the first unweaving and plans the second one to occur in a remote valley in Scotland, which is of a sufficient size to accommodate the Fugue and far enough away from civilization to go unnoticed.
  • Mage Species: The Seerkind secretly lived outside the bounds of human civilization since time immemorial, ceding territory to the might of humanity's Weirdness Censor bit by bit, until the Fugue was all that remained.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: Magic, and particularly the means by which magic is invoked, is refered to as "Rapture" throughout the story.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: This is secretly Hobart's motivation.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Ambiguity is the norm in interpersonal relationships in Weaveworld. Suzanna and Cal love each other, but not like that (probably). Cal is little more than ambivalent towards his presumptive fiancée Geraldine, and Suzanna is even lukewarm on Jerichau until he really demonstrates his commitment. The only unreserved displays of romantic love are for lost love, like Brendan's longing for his recently departed wife, or Romo eulogizing Mimi.
  • Meaningful Name: Immacolata, who is a virgin.
    • While "fugue" is probably more widely known as a musical term, it derives from a Latin root meaning "flight" which also gave rise to the words "fugitive" and "refugee".
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: The Magdalene's children are twisted monstrosities created as dark mirrors of the men whose seed creates them.
  • Muggles: The Seerkind refer to humans as Cuckoos, and the (ever-expanding) regions of the world controlled by them as the Kingdom of the Cuckoo.
  • Muggles Do It Better: In general, guns eliminate opposition much faster than raptures can. In specific, Shadwell devises a variety of ways to use Immacolata's magical arsenal that would never have occured to her, including using them against Immacolata herself.
  • Mundanger:
    • The antagonists include hideous, malformed monsters with human intellects, murderous goddess-witches, and Eldritch Abominations made of fire and mathematics, but the most consistent threat? A Con Man.
    • Mixed in with the wonder and horror is the mundane young-adult dread of watching as your parents' bodies and minds fail, and being unable to do anything about it.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: While most wouldn't shy away from bloodshed, Immacolata gets the prize here. Using a foe as a pawn? Turn them against each other? Spread confusion amongst them? Those are things Shadwell could do, but she would be happy with massacring everyone.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Cal and Suzanna come to love each other, but the book does not firmly put their relationship into either the "platonic" box or the "romantic" box.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Shadwell's threat-level steadily ramps up over the course of the book. At first, he seems like Immacolata's fixer; he makes threats on her behalf, but is not remotely as threatening as she is despite being a large, solidly built man. Shadwell does attempt to beat Cal to death at one point and would have succeeded had the police not intervened, but what truly makes him dangerous is his ability to convince other people to do things that benefit him, but detriment themselves. With Immacolata's backing, he starts a small war this way.
  • One Size Fits All: When Cal puts on Shadwell's jacket, he discovers that it can change its dimensions to suit its wearer.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Cal nearly dies at the hands of a by-blow (the by-blow he fathered, in fact,) in a bid to get the Fugue before Shadwell can. Suzanna, newly empowered by the Menstruum, uses its power to save his life.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Uriel is exactly the sort of Eldritch Abomination described in Biblical accounts - except that it isn't really the angel Uriel, just a being serving a similar function who went insane and latched onto the story of Uriel guarding the gate to Eden as a means of justifying its existence.
  • Patchwork Map: The Fugue, quite literally. Justified, since it's made out of whatever odd patches of reality the Seerkind could take without being noticed.
  • Police Brutality: Suzanna forms a very dim opinion of law enforcement after being hauled in by Hobart.
    She'd lived all her life in England, and - never having had more than a casual acquaintance with the law - had assumed it a fairly healthy animal. But now she was in its belly, and it was sick; very sick.
  • Power at a Price: Hobart gets to wield the cleansing fire he always longed for, but regrets it once there's no turning back. Uriel uses him as a host, but the Possession Burnout is severe - and exacerbated by Hobart's growing reluctance to go along with Uriel's madness. Hobart ends up a charred mess.
  • The Power of Language: Words are sometimes more than words for Suzanna. There are several examples of this, like when she and Jerichau renew their relationship. However, the two big ones are when Suzanna and Hobart are drawn into Geschichten der Geheimen Orte and become fairytale archetypes in a world of words, and when Suzanna and Cal jointly write the Fugue into that same book.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Inspector Hobart repeatedly refers to Jerichau - both verbally and in his mind - using a racial slur. Suzanna even rebukes him for it.
  • Rail Enthusiast: Cal's knack for memorizing British train tables turns out to be useful.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The task of saving the Fugue from Immacolata and Shadwell falls to Cal, Suzanna, and a small group of Seerkind ne'erdowells and petty criminals who argue incessantly, even about whether or not the Fugue ought to be saved.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: When Suzanna breaks out of Inspector Hobart's custody to save Jerichau, she uses the Menstruum to toss Hobart's men around like ragdolls.
  • Scully Syndrome: An obvious outward sign of the super-charged Weirdness Censor. Cal comes down with a case of this when he forgets the call. Hobart offers a long series of darkly comic examples - for instance, his interpretation of the destruction left by the protagonists' encounter with the Rake. Hobart hopes to pit himself against Bomb-Throwing Anarchists, so he either ignores or willfully misinterprets any evidence that contradicts the notion that anarchists are responsible. It takes him much too long to acknowledge that he is surrounded by the supernatural.
  • The Shut-In: Mimi Laschenski sealed up the doors and windows of her home in order to protect the Fugue. She was suspcious of her neighbors and kept to herself even after the electicity and gas service was shut off.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Magdalene and the Hag to Immacolata.
  • Stable Time Loop: In his first visit to the Fugue, Cal is brought to see an old man who, though clearly happy to see Cal, does not (or cannot) speak to him. Cal can't figure out why he seems so familiar. The old man is Cal himself. Once the Fugue is safe, Cal settles down there in a region close enough the the Gyre that time is not consistently linear.
  • Unintentional Backup Plan: Immacolata and Shadwell thwart the protagonists' attempt to steal the Fugue from them, killing one of their companions in the process. Faced with massacre at the hands of Immacolata, Suzanna and Cal spontaneoulsy come up with a plan: MacGyver the Fugue into unweaving itself using a handful of unlikely objects and gestures, including the Menstruum, a kitchen knife, and a gaze held between them across the carpet.
  • Villainous BSoD: Immacolata's breakdown during the war in the Fugue. She is already diminished at this point after her encounter with Mimi's husband Romo, who disfigured Immacolata in an attempt to avenge his wife. When her sisters, the Magdalene and the Hag, are killed in quick succession, Immacolata lapses into a psychosis that renders her unrecognizable, even to the Kind.
  • Virgin Power: Immacolata makes her magic stronger by retaining her virginity.
  • Weirdness Censor: Stated to be the power of the Cuckoos, aka normal humans.
  • Wild Magic: The Menstruum, the women-only magic wielded by Immacolata and Suzanna, is very powerful but it has a mind of its own. Suzanna is afraid that the Menstruum will dominate her when she first gains access to it, but makes her peace with it before long. Even Immacolata, who once used her mastery of the Menstruum to found a Seerkind cult in the days before the Scourge, cannot count on it to respond to her every time she needs it.
  • Your Heart's Desire: Shadwell has a talent for sniffing out the desires and motivations of others, and his ability is boosted - even weaponized - by the raptured jacket gifted to him by Immacolata.