Cabal is one of those stories that I know is great writing, but I just didn’t enjoy it. Too much blood and guts for me. It is mercifully short, however. There were some great plot twists, but also some faults in logic. For example, the fact that Dr. Decker makes Boone believe that he (Boone) has committed a series of gristly murders that Decker has actually committed it pretty ingenious. But when Boone is running away he coincidentally runs into Narcisse who directs him to Median where Decker is waiting for him. How did Decker know that Boone was going to go to Median? He didn’t send Narcisse (who is one of the Nightbreed and therefore good.)
Lori, Boone’s girlfriend, goes through such hellish nightmares trying to find him. It wasn’t originally set up why the pair have such a bond other than the fact that they are both dysfunctional. I really had to suspend belief to think that Lori wouldn’t have quit pursuing him long before she did. It’s a point of irritation to me when people in books and films keep going and going even when injured beyond the point when they would still be functional. Lori keeps going after she’s been slashed with a knife by Decker.
When Lori’s friend Sheryl goes into the burned out restaurant to look for her date and gets killed, it reminded me of those films where the dumb girl goes into the basement to investigate the strange sound, in other words kind of an idiot plot. We don’t feel sorry that she dies because she deserves it. After that, it’s not very logical that Lori wouldn’t go to the police. There’s a brutal killer on the loose. Come on. Then she finds the scary graveyard where Boone might be and enters, knowing that there’s a maniacal killer on the loose, with this excuse, “The mingled intoxication of blood loss and exhaustion had dulled all fear of this place.” Right.
Another thing that bothers me is that Barker seems to be making up his mythos as he goes along. When Boone is bitten by Peloquin, it changes him into a kind of super-undead. What is he at that point? He isn’t Nightbreed, because they are beings who can’t stand the light and cower at the thought of being food for the monster. When Lori finds the young, wounded animal, she turns out to be Babette, a Nightbreed child, yet nowhere else in the book is it referred to that the Nightbreed turn into animals. Through the course of the story, Babette becomes a vehicle for sympathy for the Nightbreed. We see her living in a refrigerator-sized underground room playing with crude toys she has made herself. When the Nightbreed’s underground is being burned by vigilantes, we see Babette’s struggles to get out, making us feel compassion for her. They are only a different kind of human, after all.
Outside of these little annoyances, Barker does a great job in setting up his dark fantasy world then gives a no-holds-barred depiction of it in all its gristly details. Barker has a great command of language. His descriptions of the brutality read like a stylized film. Barker handles the multiple point of views brilliantly. We see into the heads of the characters with great depth, giving us insight into them
The ending was less than satisfying. I hadn’t realized that Cabal had ended and I continued reading into the next short story, thinking it was a continuation. In looking back it seems as though he is setting it up for a sequel.
In summary, Barker has an evocative style, but it doesn’t resonate with me.
Artwork is by cover artist Dominic Harman.