from the back of the book:
In the little town of Palomo Grove, two great armies are amassing; forces shaped from the hearts and souls of America. In this New York Times bestseller, Barker unveils one of the most ambitious imaginative landscapes in modern fiction, creating a new vocabulary for the age-old battle between good and evil. Carrying its readers from the first stirring of consciousness to a vision of the end of the world, The Great and Secret Show is a breathtaking journey in the company of a master storyteller.
In an interview Barker said,
My reality is open every minute to transformations, to transfigurations - a ghost haunted, vision haunted world in which magic and demonic doings can erupt at the slightest invitation... What preoccupies me in The Art is the idea of the dream show, what happens to us in the 25 years of our lives when we sleep. Our psychologies are so complex. We are telling stories to ourselves all the time. In the Great And Secret Show, the story is one which turns out to have a relevance beyond the realm of sleep. In other words, what we discover in the first book (albeit briefly, because there's a huge story yet to be told) is that sleep is a door, that dreams are more than casual fictions we whip up for our own delectation. Dreams are part of a matrix of mythologies where we are given clues for our survival and that intrigues me immensely. It's one of the reasons I love this kind of fiction. I value it because it's a manual for survival."
The New York Times review closes by saying,
From ''The Great and Secret Show,'' it is clear that Mr. Barker's intention is to force the horror genre to encompass a kind of dread, an existential despair, that it hasn't noticeably evinced until now. This is a tall order, one that this novel, which is skillful and funny but ultimately overwrought, doesn't quite accomplish. But, having announced the intention of writing a trilogy about the Art and its mysteries, he may yet achieve his goal.