CarniesCarnies
Martin Livings
Cohesion Press; April, 2014
ISBN 978-0992502355
$16.00 PB, $4.99 Kindle
284 pp.

Reviewed by Alex Scully

The carnival’s in town. Only this carnival has always been in town. For a century, Tillbrook has been home to a strange carnival that has become tradition to the locals. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why they continue to go, they just… do. However, this is no ordinary collection of games, rides, and junk food. For a down-on-his-luck reporter, it could be the story of a lifetime, or the end of life as he knows it.

Quite by coincidence, I was deep into Daniel Knauf’s Carnivàle when Livings’s book came across my desk. With images of tarot readers, blind mystics, and side shows like no other in my head, I paused when the carnies here turned out to be werewolves. It wasn’t what I expected going in, but Livings does a nice job with the story. He sticks to the traditional werewolf tale, and it’s refreshing to get away from some of the modern angles and return to the Hammer/ Chaney wolf motif.

While less a story about the darker side of carnival culture, this is more a tale about desperation. David and his brother Paul are both on the downside of life, and they are both looking for a way out. David sees his chance in the journalist scoop, while Paul finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the darkness of the carnival. Rachel is a seductive lure into this world, and Paul succumbs to the call of the wolf blood. Yet even in his new life, he screws up and disaster follows. Livings asks important questions here. Is failure a destiny or do we make choices that lead us down a path from which we cannot escape? And what is failure? Can seemingly bad choices be, in the end, the only salvation?

The story takes quite a few twists and turns, and the ending is a surprise. Livings leaves room for a sequel, but this is definitely a stand-alone work. Carnies challenges the notion of good and evil, and presents a complex view of destiny, choices, and dark outcomes all wrapped up in a tasty wolf tale.

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