Review: Hellraiser The Toll (Spoiler Free)

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Clive Barker fans know, and hopefully have made peace with the fact the he will never follow every thread, write every sequel or even finish every book or story he’s begun. Thankfully, we have Mark Miller and his awesome team at Seraphim Films / Seraphim Ink, to help us fill the gaps where Clive’s drive and vision to move on may have left us hanging a little bit.  While Clive Barker is up to his eyeballs in the sea of Izabella, writing the fourth book of the Abarat, the good people at Seraphim are always looking for old and lost ideas to develop.

And so we arrive at the novella that is the subject of this review (don’t worry, short and spoiler-free).  It began its life as a draft of a shory story called “Heaven’s Reply”.  In the author, Mark Miller’s words,

“It evolved from Heaven’s Reply. That’s how it began, as the short Story Heaven’s Reply. Clive didn’t know where to take it, and [we] had the idea that it could tie into The Scarlet Gospels. So I thought about how to do it, and then sort of backwards engineered it from there and made it my own.”

In this novella, Kirsty Singer (remember, this novella is a bridge between The Hellbound Heart and The Scarlet Gospels, so she is not Larry’s daughter, she is Rory’s friend and secret admirer) is, in the present day still haunted by her dealings with hell and the presence she calls, “The Cold Man”.  Kirsty is reluctantly drawn back to “The Wastes” in a way that is a delicious reminder of our favorite detective Harry D’Amour’s own reluctant struggles with the Gulfs and Hell.  There are also ties to a loose end in the Scarlet Gospels to help us cope with the brevity of that quick dip into the inner workings of Hell.

Like Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Clive Barker has entrusted this work to a good friend and team that lives and breathes his work, and the loving dedication shows.  Thanks to Mark Miller, this story crept up from the wastes and we are treated to a story that may have stayed hidden forever in the vast collection of Clive Barker’s abandoned works, and for that we should thank him.  I love this book, and hope that the team at Seraphim will continue to find and develop more lost material like this.  Is it a negative that I wanted more, or I wanted it to be longer?  According to fans of the Scarlet Gospels it can be, so I give this book an 8.5 / 10.  Maybe Mrk Miller will write a sequel and we can adjust the score up.

Right now it’s in limited supply, and I recommend buying it before it disappears, leaving its mark on this world of rain and failure. You can pre-order it here at Subterranean Press.  Due to ship early 2018.

Edi 10/1/2017: After a conversation and revisiting the book, there are some elements of this advance uncorrected proof that seem to make it a hybrid between the Hellraiser movie universe and the literary Hellbound Heart / Scarlet Gospels.  Please keep this in mind if this kind of thing bothers you.  I would mention them here, but I’m still trying to keep it spoiler free.

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