First published back in April of 2009, Clive Barkers ‘The Adventures Of Mr Maximillian Bacchus And His Travelling Circus’ was released by Bad Moon Books in a limited run of signed editions (1500 signed trade editions, 300 signed/numbered/slipcased editions, 26 signed/lettered/traycased editions, or 10 signed/ultra’/traycased editions).  Each one of the editions was published in a beautifully presented hardback containing the impressive illustrative artwork of Richard A Kirk (cover, signature page and five separate black & white illustrations within the main body of the text – one for each of the stories, plus an extra double-page illustration).

The ‘Maximillian Bacchus’ stories were first written by Clive Barker as a youth, pre-dating the likes of the ‘The Books Of Blood’ books (1984 - 1985) by some way.  Barker never intended for the ‘Maximillian Bacchus’ stories to be published for the eager eyes of the general public.  However, the ever dedicated Phil and Sarah Stokes (Clive Barker ‘Revelations’ website as well as the incredibly in-depth Clive Barker biographical books) convinced Barker to allow this limited run of books to become available, deeming his early works of great importance and significance.  The result is this absolute collector’s delight; beautifully presented with an obvious love and care for the work (the hidden sketch of Thoth the giant Ibis-bird under the dust-jacket being just one such attention to detail).

The book is split into four ‘Maximillian Bacchus’ stories, which follow on perfectly from each other, detailing the journey of the magical travelling circus to a magnificent  palace beyond all dreams.

DLS Synopsis:
The Wedding Of Indigo Murphy To The Duke Lorenzo De Medici And How Angelo Was Discovered In An Orchard
- 17 Pages

In the middle of a field, outside the walls of the Duke Lorenzo de Medici’s palace, the wedding ceremony between the Duke and the circus performer - Indigo Murphy (the greatest bird-girl west of the Ochre Nile) - is taking place.  Amongst the many throngs of guests in attendance are the circus performers of Mr Maximillian Bacchus’s travelling circus, of which Indigo Murphy will now be parting company with.  After the proceeds have taken place (albeit somewhat disastrously) Bacchus takes his travelling circus back on the road in search of other villages and towns in which they can perform.  At a crossroads, they encounter an old man who directs the travellers along the road that leads to Asia the Deep and on towards the supposedly mythical place of Cathay where a Khan named Kublai rules over the land in the magnificent palace of Xanadu.  Bacchus decides that they will go to this magical place.  However, upon their travels, they encounter an apple thief named Angelo, who has been caught stealing apples by the angry orchard keeper.  The circus troupe intervene, when all of a sudden the whole party learn that the orchard keeper’s daughter has gone missing.  The last time the young girl was seen was playing by the dark woods that border the orchard grounds.  However, in the depths of the forest lies an untold number of beasts.  The circus performers offer their services to help the orchard keeper in locating his daughter, as does the young thief who has a magical surprise of his own up his sleeve...

The Face Of The Flying Lion Fish And Why Doctor Jozabiah Bentham’s Theatre Of Tears Sailed North - 18 Pages

Along the road to Cathay, Mr Maximillian Bacchus and his travelling circus are suddenly alerted by a thumping upon their caravan’s roof.  Fearful that the commotion may be from a vicious Flying Lion Fish (a possibility that is voiced by the opera-singing crocodile Malachi), the troupe prepare to investigate the matter and hopefully catch this Flying Lion Fish for their circus.  However, once the beast is within the confines of their caravan, it turns out to be Bathsheba – the circus orang-outang that had recently escaped from Bacchus’s rival travelling circus - ‘The Theatre of Tears’.  Before much more of the situation can be explained, Bathsheba is hastily hidden within the caravan, when all of a sudden, Doctor Jozabiah Bentham (the owner of ‘The Theatre of Tears’) appears.  Bentham manages to find out that Bacchus is indeed hiding the orang-outang from him, and orders his tear-inducing circus people to reclaim their circus performer.  In the ensuing struggle, Bacchus manages to shatter the Doctor’s silver cane, which sends the mob fleeing from the caravan.  However, further along their travels the circus performers discover that they are being followed by the performers of ‘The Theatre of Tears’.  Unfazed by this revelation, Bacchus has a cunning plan that will see their angered pursuers cast away into the great sea and off to the Arctic regions...

How The Clown Domingo De Ybarrondo Fell Over The Edge Of The World - 15 Pages

Further along the road to Cathay and eventually on to Xanadu where the travelling circus hope to perform to the Khan known as Kublai; the group of performers encounter a small town where they decide to set up their circus and put on a performance that very evening.  Bacchus sends his performers Angelo and Bathsheba into the town to collect together the townspeople for the performance.  Whilst they are gone, the clown Domingo De Ybarrondo discovers that the field in which they have set up in is perched on the very edge of the world.  After the field ends there is nothing but a sheer drop into oblivion.  Bacchus decides to continue setting up his circus within the field regardless.  Meanwhile, Angelo and Bathsheba have returned with news that all of the townspeople are hiding within their homes with their doors and windows bolted shut.  Bacchus takes his troupe of circus performers into the town with him to entice the people from their homes.  Slowly they do indeed emerge and speak of trolls who cause mayhem for the people at the town.  However, Bacchus dismisses this and eventually leads the people to his circus whereby the troupe begin their performance.  But lurking over the world’s edge are the mischievous trolls, who having heard the commotion of the circus, descend upon Bacchus’s caravan and begin towing it towards the edge of the world.  The clown Domigo De Ybarrondo witnesses this, and in a rage, hurtles towards the trolls atop his big performing ball.  Alas, his anger at the trolls has clouded his judgement and before he has time to realise his error, he topples over the edge of the world.  The townspeople quickly disperse in fear of the trolls, but this is not the last we will see of the great clown Domingo De Ybarrondo...

How Mr Maximillian Bacchus’ Travelling Circus Reached Cathay, And Entertained The Court Of The Khan Called Kublai In Xanadu, How They Sought The Bearded Bird, And How, At Last, Angelo Was Lost - 23 Pages

Having now left the world’s edge, Bacchus and his travelling circus continue to make their way through this treacherous but impressive landscape until at long last, they arrive at Xanadu.  Upon arriving they are greeted by the second secretary to the aide-de-camp to the assistant Grand Vizier to Kublai Khan.  They are led to the throne room where the Kublai Khan is residing, and after being introduced to all of the Khan’s court-people, are given the honour of meeting the Khan’s niece.  The group are informed that the princess’s father, Khan’s brother Kuyuk, has been tricked into thinking he is now half-man-half-bird, which has resulted in him fleeing into the caves below Xanadu in a state of utter madness.  That night, Kuyuk is spotted stealing the fragment of the Sun that Xanadu uses to light up the great palace.  In the blackout, Kuyuk kidnaps his daughter back and descends into the caves below with his captive.  Upon hearing this terrible turn of events, Bacchus and his troupe of performers promise to go deep into the depths of the caves below Xanadu and retrieve the princess and hopefully the stolen fragment of Sun.  The circus performers will find each one of their abilities put to the test in order to finally confront the madness of Kuyuk and rescue the princess.  And guiding them down into the caves below, there is more than just a glowing light in the eyes of Angelo...

DLS Review:
Throughout the four stories, glimpses of inspirations for future elements of Barker’s written work pop up here, there and everywhere.  As Barker himself explains in his insightful forward, the character of Domingo de Ybarrondo was so fondly recalled by the author that he used his name within a fictional quotation for the novel ‘Cabal’ (1988) so as not to have his brilliantly inspirational name lost forever.  Other such hints towards future work can be found in the troll’s name ‘Rawhead and Bloody-Bones’ - later used as ‘Rawhead Rex’ from 'The Books Of Blood - Vol 3' (1984), and the ferocious ostriches that prowl within the depths of the dark forest - later appearing in ‘Coldheart Canyon’ (2001).

The four stories are each packed with numerous magical adaptations from that of our own reality.   Barker repeatedly delves into the nooks and crannies of what is perceived as or understanding of the world; dragging out new hidden and more magical possibilities.  Barker’s ability to portray the most fantastical and imaginative in such a matter-of-fact way, thrusts the reader into his magically inspired world with the greatest of ease.

The characters are each and every one of them a delight to get to know, with their own unique characteristics that are not over-emphasized during our first meeting; but merely mentioned in passing, then accepted as a norm from there on.

Magic and the bizarre is certainly no stranger to the text.  Indeed, the limitless properties of magic allows Barker to run unhindered through the fields of his imagination, drawing out moments of inspirational madness mixed with the most surreal and over-the-top manifestations.

Although the four stories that together create ‘The Adventures Of Mr Maximillian Bacchus And His Travelling Circus’ are somewhat short in length, Barker injects a truly enthralling story into each one, telling of the adventures that behold the circus performers on their way to Xanadu.  With each tale, the reader comes to further believe that nothing is impossible within the world of magic.  This is a true breath of fresh air, allowing for the reader's own imagination to run wild with each turn of the page.

The four tales eventually conclude with a heartfelt sigh as we leave the travelling circus to continue spreading its wondrous joy across this truly fantastical land.   The adventures that we have encountered seem to be just the tip of the iceberg for these characters, whom a firmly established life seems to have already been breathed into their very existence.

The book begins with a five page foreword by Clive Barker entitled ‘The Fool Rises’ that was written for the book’s publication back in January 2009.  The book also concludes with a seven page afterword by the author David Niall Wilson (‘This Is My Blood’, ‘The Grails Covenant Trilogy’, etc) in which he pays Barker an abundance of admiration for his time-honoured imagination and inspirational writing.  The book ends with a quick ‘About The Author’ in which it quite simply states “Clive Barker wishes he has a circus.”  What a perfect ending to a truly magnificent publication. 

The book runs for a total of 107 pages which includes the foreword, afterword and about the author passages.

© DLS Reviews

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