The Freakshow

The Freakshow

by Bryan Smith

The Flaherty Brothers Traveling Carnivale and Freakshow has rolled into Pleasant Hills, Tennessee, and the quiet little town will never be the same. In fact, much of the town won't survive. At first glance, the freakshow looks like so many others - lurid, rundown, decrepit. But this freakshow is definitely one of a kind . . . The townspeople can't resist the lure of the tawdry spectacle, though it isn't mere morbid curiousity that draws them into the freakshow's inescapable web. What waits for them behind this curtain are hardly the usual performers and tricks. The main attractions are living nightmares, the acts center on torture and slaughter . . .and the stars of the show are the unsuspecting customers themselves.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Horror
  • Rating: 3.64
  • Pages: 324
  • Publish Date: February 1st 2007 by Leisure Books (Dorchester Publishing Co.)
  • Isbn10: 0843958278
  • Isbn13: 9780843958270

What People Think about "The Freakshow"

THE FREAKSHOW, although a less than perfect novel, has in no way diminished my desire to continue working my way through the rest of Smith's wonderfully wicked oeuvre.

I'm a sucker for carnie books but still haven't found one as good as Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.

I had a brief exchange with Smith in which I asked him about his novel Depraved, at the conclusion of which someone else weighed in with a query about The Freakshow. Where other authors would spend 200 pages detailing characters before subjecting them to the soon-to-be-arriving freakshow, Smith fleshes out his characters while they are pursued, captured, dismembered, raped and murdered by the freaks who cavort about the small town of Pleasant Hills. If these opening pages disturb you overly much, my recommendation would be to discontinue reading and pick up something more cerebral in nature. Which is to say that though is may not be for everyone, Smith's The Freakshow is a nasty, perverse trip into the sordid mind of a talented pulp writer, and earns this reviewer's recommendation.

Disturbing images, a claustrophibic vibe, and a wicked woman ringleader make this a must-read novel.

Given the title "The Freakshow" and according to the synopsis on the back cover the plot would center around The Flaherty Brothers Traveling Carnivale and Freakshow and the horror it brings to town when it arrives- I thought mayhap I would be in for a good Halloween week read. I have never read any Bryan Smith before and after this outing I will be staying far away from any book that bears his name, as quite simply he is quite the talentless writer. The plot of the novel was actually one of my largest complaints because when I opened this book I was expecting a creepy tale of a freakshow full of the oddities of nature that Tod Browning populated his classic 1932 feature with. Freak example number one: "A big man who looked like a seventeenth-century pirate grinned at them, displaying a mouth full of bleeding gums and rotting teeth. Freak example number two: "It looked like Quasimodo on steroids, a huge, hulking, humpbacked thing." Oh, how scary! Freak example number three: "The little clown looked more like some horror show nightmare than a jolly circus performer. There are some other human characters in the book, and they are drawn in the same inept manner as Heather and Craig, i.e. crude stick figures on a napkin. The only "freak" truly given any page time is the two-headed woman, rather simply described as "something from a Vargas painting, an exaggerated man's idea of the feminine ideal," with the exception she has two heads- one that matched her beautiful form and another "withered and hideous." This freak is an artlessly handled caricature of a villain which is unfortunate as with some care and planning the latter could have truly been interesting (but the latter could be said time and again about many elements of this or any other bad book). As it turned out she was simply like all the other freaks just a simple vehicle for the violence Mr. Smith relishes in painting the book red with. Another main issue I had with the book was the dialogue as it was painful to read when it was good, and laughable when it was bad. Truly, the dialogue was some of the worst I have ever encountered, and the best way to put it was that it felt as if all the characters had the same voice, but it was just coming out of various mouths- simply unbelievable: Craig degrading Heather: "And that tedious f**kin' shit you read, like David Foster Wallace, like you're some kinda f**kin' intellectual. At other times characters would simply speak in such a staged and stilted manner (i.e. the above monologuing of the two-headed villain) it was the very antithesis of natural sounding dialogue. For those out there wanting to read a masterful horror tale about a traveling circus may I point you in the direction of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes," which is as a superb a book as "The Freakshow" was an awful one!

(I hate writing spoilers, so I'll just say this goes from a creepy gore-fest to a completely different dimension.) It's not the genre bending that I have problems with; it's the execution.

I always have an awesome time with Mr. Smith's books. Instead you get the taste of something completely extraordinary that you cannot put the book down until you reach the fantastic conclusion.