Book Review: Freakshow by Lori Safranek

Freakshow by Lori Safranek is a fun group of stories about a band of freaks weaved together with such skill, you’ll wonder if the author is a contortionist.

We all feel like freaks at one time or another so it’s easy to relate to these sideshow performers the way the author shows their weaknesses and strengths in such a vulnerable way. Reading this book, it makes you understand what the life of a freak might really be like and that we aren’t as different as they are. It’s really refreshing to see freaks in the hero roles because normally they’re seeing as the bad guys.

Marie is The Fat Lady with charm in such abundance that someone tries to steal it from her. Lily Dean is a snake charmer whose skills inspire a psychotic priest to attack her. Smudge is a tattooed man who is tortured by a demoness tattoo who tries to suck the life out of him. They’ve all been collected by the sideshow owner, Steiner, who tries to protect them in his one-of-a-kind REAL freak show, but around every turn someone is trying to undermine his show or kill his entertainers.

The best thing about this book is the character development and the relationships between them. Reminiscent of the Midnight Texas TV Series, Freakshow  has a cast of characters that could easily inspire spin-offs. If you don’t fall in love with Marie–who has my undying admiration–there are plenty of others to enjoy. Blade the sword swallower, Jason the gator boy, or the lovely Gypsy, a fortune teller extraordinaire.

The villains, too, are fun to read as each tale has a mystery and you never quite know who the baddie is until the last bit. Sometimes the bad guy doesn’t even know! This is a great read and enjoyable from beginning to end. I can’t wait to read more tales of the freaks.

Carnival Arcane by Midnight Syndicate

“The train smoke drifting through the pale moon light signals the arrival of the Lancaster-Rigby Carnival. In a forest clearing, these mesonoxian visitors await your arrival. Stroll along the midway and behold wonders both fantastic and macabre from every corner of the globe. And be sure to ride their one of a kind carousel for an experience you’ll never, ever forget.”

As we swiftly approach Halloween, I can’t resist going through my music collection and digging up some gothic and ghoulish tunes. Without fail, I gravitate to Midnight Syndicate. In my mind I equate them with more than Halloween parties and haunted houses, they fill the season itself for me. I still enjoy listening to both Vampyre and Born of the Night. So it is with mischievous glee that I listened to their latest album, Carnival Arcane.

As usual, Midnight Syndicate has crafted another wonderful “soundtrack for the imagination”. The new album centers around the Lancaster-Rigby Carnival, a turn-of-the-century nighttime traveling circus. Naturally some of the tracks are playful and whimsical while others have decidedly twisted and dark machinations. Not only will this album appeal to goth listeners and those seeking a new Halloween classic but to the steampunks who fancy something a little dark with their Victoriana.

Each of the songs on the album introduce the listener to the Carnival Arcane and the carnies who are part of it. Emz has already played some of the tracks so I’d like to review some of my favorites, though to be fair it was hard to choose only four to shine the limelight on.

As I said many are whimsical, but it is with “Agent of Fortune” that some of the shadows begin to play and can be found lurking. What dark magicks does Madame Zora call upon to tell you your fortune? Only by peeling back her tent’s door and paying the price will you know for sure.

Ah, the “Freakshow” — this is one spectacle I would really love to see become tradition again. This song really brings these curiosities to life, and in my mind it represents the somber life of the geeks and freaks.

Are you feeling poorly and out of sorts? Then step right up ladies and gents and dispel your maladies! “Dr. Atmore’s Elixirs of Good Humour and Fortification” will lift your spirits (and lighten your pocket). I love the way the crowd interacts with this one.

Are you afraid of clowns or jacks-in-the-box, boys and girls? Then “Goons and Greasepaint” will send chills up your spine as the cackles and antics of these dark jesters will really get to you. This one gets my vote for creepiest track of the album.

Old fans of Midnight Syndicate will not be disappointed as their trademark epic instrumental soundtrack feel is here in abundance, and you can see also that they have grown in their musical storytelling. I think this album will also be a great starter for those who might never have heard their music or for anyone who might have written them off in the past as “just Halloween party music”. For those steampunks out there who would like a soundtrack full of the ambiance of the freak shows and carnival days of old, you’ll be pleasantly impressed.