LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay, Lesbian
Reviewer: Gordon, Paranormal Romance Guild
About The Book
When Coulroptopia—the world’s only circus where the performers are all animatronic clowns—comes to your town, you know you’re in for a show like no other. From the knife-throwing of The Juggla to the attempts to tame the monstrous Boozle, there’s something for everyone.
But when an accidental power outage sees the mechanical monstrosities loaded with a new, murderous AI, the screams turn from awe to fear. Now, a man on the run, a happy couple, and a handful of staff members are fighting just to survive the night.
So, sit back and enjoy the thrills, chills, and blood spills as these killer clowns take you through a mascot horror tale where death just became part of the show.
The story’s title, “Coultropia,” as the author explains in his afterword, is a portmanteau of coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) and utopia, which he says he thought “fit as a name for an edgy, robot-clown circus.”
The story starts off in a romantic mode, with Rodney and Dalton on a date. They are still getting to know each other, so there are small issues to be worked out—such as Dalton’s choice of venue for the date being a robot clown circus. The discussion demonstrates insight into the characters and is very well executed. They enter the circus, and the scene switches to another character and his situation. And so, it begins.
In the early part of the story character after character is introduced, almost one a page. And if this seems to indicate something misguided in the writing, a kind of overkill or something, it turns out not to be the case. It works and works well, partly because Doyle does a good job introducing each new character, their situation and something of their personality, but mostly because those characters are there for a reason.
Rodney and Dalton enjoy the show in the big tent, where edgy robot clowns perform for the entertainment of the audience, but then they win the VIP raffle, which allows them to hang out with the crew after the show—and this is where things get really interesting.
Laura, the show’s co-owner and creator of the robot clowns, an interesting and sympathetic character, is the pair’s guide. But her brother, Jerry, is visiting; he is a computer games developer, and he connects his laptop in with the electronic system of that controls the robots to make a kind of demonstration. But there is a bad guy there too, who wants to rob the place. The result is a brief power outage, after which various elements reboot into unexpected activation states. So, Rodney and Dalton, the members of the crew, and the bad guy, are surrounded by animatronics of dubious intent.
Doyle weaves the story with considerable skill, and includes just enough humor to elicit periodic chuckles in the reader. And if these chuckles are a bit ghoulish, what’s wrong with that? The characters are on an adventure not unlike that of Jurassic Park, and the reader is brought along for the ride. The pace is fast, the action powerful, and the humanity (or lack of it) of the characters is presented with consummate skill in each new situation.
The end is as satisfying as the story arc, and the reader is left with the warm sense of pleasure, delight, and relief characteristic of the scariest of midway rides.
Along with everything else, Matt Doyle is simply an engaging writer. His afterward, “It All Began in the 90s: The Story of Some Scary Robot Clowns” is as entertaining as the story itself.
About Gordon: Having received formal training in the world of science, Gordon has always found relief from the strictures of present-day reality in reading fiction, mostly fantasy, horror and sci-fi, fiction that explores regions of what is sometimes called the Kingdom of If. Here the rules can be virtually anything, allowing for greater possibilities of wonder and strange discovery. Gordon also writes, among other things, stories of M/M romance within these genres. This provides the opportunity for exploring how characters, some of them possibly not fully human, might act and react in truly strange circumstances. He writes romance because, of all the mind-blowingly possibilities inherent in the creation of imaginative worlds, the most mysterious and magical are the operations of the human heart itself, including its curious ability to grow when broken.
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