Call me old-fashioned, but something about haunted carnivals has always appealed to a very base level of my horror fandom. I have no idea why, I know I sure didn’t go to many when I was younger or anything; there’s just something sinister in general about carnivals that I’ve always enjoyed.
That being said, I think it’s safe to assume I went into Smith’s latest offering with some positive bias, much the same way I approach a vampire story with disdain until it can prove itself to me. The Freakshow only had to have a lot of freaks and maniacal havoc and I would love it, and thankfully Smith is of the same thinking. After House of Blood and Deathbringer, I was afraid the author would’ve hit some kind of slump, especially considering how fast those books came out, but if anything the man is in peak form with The Freakshow.
The action kicks in from the first page and doesn’t let up for the entire book and while I know that sounds like hyperbole, it’s the truth. We immediately find ourselves plunged into the hell that Pleasant Hills, Tennessee has become thanks to the arrival of The Flaherty Brothers Traveling Canivale and Freakshow. The tale is told to us through a survivor of the carnage the carnival caused throughout the town, which drew in nearly all of the Pleasant Hills residents through some sort of mind control; a man named Mike, who somehow escaped the mass execution of everyone he’s ever known.
We’re also introduced to Heather, heading to Pleasant Hills with her incredible asshole of a boyfriend, Craig, to check on her mother, since the town has been out of the communication loop for a while now. These are our primary characters, though they never meet face to face even once, which allows Smith to show us two very different aspects of what happens when this Freakshow shows up in small town America, something it’s apparently been doing for centuries.
Through Heather we see the sickest of the freaks, a mind-controlling two-headed hyper bitch known as Miss Monique, who revels in causing the worst possible indignities to the human race that her twisted pair of minds can muster up. And believe you me, this girl is creative. Through Mike we’re shown the political side of things, as it were, learning the history of the freaks and their reasons for wanting to decimate the human race.