Carniepunk: an anthology by Gallery Books
Reviewed by Kristin Luna
ISBN: 1476714150 (Paperback)
Gallery Books — 440 pages. Ebook also available.
Are you into some weird stuff? Good, because Carniepunk is into you.
In this anthology of carnies, horror, and big tents, various urban fantasy authors join together to tell you all about the creepy things that happen within the traveling entertainment world. Here are four stories featured that give future readers a good taste of the tales they can expect:
“Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lovely Sea” by Seanan McGuire. In this well-written backwoods carnival folk story, Ada and Duncan try to convince the townies of Huntsville to visit the Miller Family Carnival, which boasts of having the Alabama Mermaid, Ada’s mother. Little do they know, Ada’s mother has history in Huntsville. Will Ada inherit her mother’s fate?
“A Chance in Hell” by Jackie Kessler. Wherein an incubus tries to trick ex-demon Jezzy into giving up her soul while it gives her oral pleasure. Naturally (and frankly, who doesn’t) Jezzy goes to a traveling show afterwards to sulk, but ends up having to kill a demon and save her friend instead.
“The Sweeter the Juice” by Mark Henry. A transitioning male to female transsexual can only continue her process if she brings her doctor a new street drug, Zed, so he can study it. Problem is, there’s a world full of zombies out there and people willing to do just about anything for a high.
“Werewife” by Jaye Wells. This story is just as it sounds, but with the inclusion of the husband’s point of view as well. There’s just enough marital believability that I wondered if my husband would bury my half-eaten kills should I turn into a werewife at some point.
Some of the best stories in this anthology have a flavor akin to Geek Love, Kathrine Dunn’s tale of a side-show family, in that they show an in depth view of the camaraderie of a unknown world within our own. However, some of the other stories share some qualities of C-horror films that are released straight to video. It should be noted many of these short stories are continuations, stories between books, or parts of a particular series written by the authors.
Authors featured in this anthology are Rachel Caine, Delilah S. Dawson, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Gay, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Hillary Jacques, Jackie Kessler, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicohol D. Peeler, Rob Thurman, and Jaye Wells.
On a scale of all of your niece’s activities you’re obligated to go to, best being her Quinceañera (there was alcohol there) and worst being a babysitting session when she was three and had explosive diarrhea, I give Carniepunk an elementary school holiday play. The one girl in your niece’s class who sings like Christina Aguilera knocks it out of the park, as expected. That one smelly kid forgot his lines, as expected. Overall, an okay and acceptable way to spend one’s time when there was nothing better to do on a Thursday night.
From Jaye Wells’ “The Werewife”: “So instead of telling her husband she’d rather brush her teeth with barbed wire than go stare at the ridiculous freaks in the red-and-black tent, she pasted on a smile and let him lead the way. Just like when we have sex, she thought – another observation she wisely kept to herself.”