Monday, May 11, 2015

Booknote: ClownFellas

Carlton Mellick III, ClownFellas: Tales of the Bozo Family. New York: Penguin Random House, 2015. ISBN (for e-book): 9780804179355.

Note: Link to publisher page as no WorldCat record at time of this post. The book is actually under their Hydra imprint. Book is due out in July 2015.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: bizarro fiction, urban fantasy, clowns, humor, mafia, mobster.
Format: e-book
Source: Received from the publisher as e-galley via NetGalley for honest review.

From the book's description:

"In a topsy-turvy world where clowns are killers and crooks, Little Bigtop is a three-ring circus of crime, and no syndicate is more dangerous than the Bozo family. From the wildly original mind of Carlton Mellick III comes the short-story collection ClownFellas—an epic mob saga where life is cheap and the gags will slay you."

I have to say this is one of the weirdest and most unique books I have read in a good while, and I do mean that in a good way. In a world where comedy is prohibited, and clowns are real (and not just folks with painted faces. Those folks are offensive to real clowns), the Bozo Family controls the underground traffic of comedy and humor. Yet like pretty much every good crime boss, Don Bozo faces issues within his family and threats to his empire from outside.

The book falls within the genre of bizarro fiction (the publisher labels it as "urban fantasy," which I would say it's close but not quite) but do not let that deter you. If you have enjoyed tales like The Godfather or the film GoodFellas, you will appreciate the humorous take on the mobster and mafia genre. If you like clowns, you may enjoy the concept of clowns as mobsters. Actually, when you think how ridiculous things like a prohibition on comedy sound, you may realize how ridiculous real life prohibitions are. You can't help but smile at some of the jabs the novel takes at pop culture. 

The novel is really a collection of six interconnected tales of the Bozo Family. You still want to read them in order since as the tales progress, you learn more about the family, the clowns in society, and how the rest of the nation and world sees them. The tales' structure allow the write to focus on specific characters, and put together, the tales bring out a full and very entertaining narrative.

The author gets us into the tale right away where we learn, via the story of a veterinarian who is afraid of clowns, that clowns are real people. They are not ordinary clowns; they draw on clown gags and abilities for humor as well as for other more lethal endeavors. They may have clown weapons, but they are very lethal. They may even kill you with laughter. There is a certain element of magic that gives readers a sense of wonder. Plus, the book features quite an array of characters, like this guy:

"He showed them firsthand how, when it came to causing pain and dismemberment, Bingo Ballbreaker was a true artist" (195).

Overall, this was a fun book to read. It was entertaining. It had some ridiculous moments and some outrageous ones. I really enjoyed how the author constructed this world, and I enjoyed most of the gags. If you are looking for something different to read, this is a good choice. I will certainly look for other books by this author.

I really liked it, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

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