Review: Katherine Dunn’s “Geek Love”

41HALiraTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Geek Love

An odd book that, oddly, I was sad to have end.
Al and Lil Binewski are the owners of a traveling carnival featuring traditional carnival fare alongside a show built of things from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.  They have fire-eaters, beautiful redheads selling popcorn, a tiger trainer, siamese twins, Arturo the Fish Boy…wait, what was that last one?
Yep, you heard me right.  The Binewskis began intentionally causing birth defects to keep their business afloat, essentially taking part in voluntary genetic mutation.  The results are quite interesting in Arty the Fish Boy, Iphy and Elly the siamese twins, Oly the albino dwarf, and the newcomer, Chick.  Sure, the results are interesting, but more interesting is the humanity invested in each of the children.
Already, we might have an interesting enough story, but all of this is explained in the first chapter or two.  The real fun begins when the children begin to grow, both physically and in their ambitions.
The characters are miraculously flawed.  Oly is an unreliable narrator, reverent of her brother, and wise to the ways of manipulation.  Arty is the true definition of a puppet master, and it’s difficult to say more without giving the plot and its many twists away.  I’ll simply say that each character has his or her moment to shine, but they also have moments where you wonder how you ever cheered for him or her at all.
All of this ignores several of the suplots that weave in and out of the main story,

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                            Art by Jandruff

some of which post-date and pre-date its beginning in the story’s timeline.

If you like Game of Thrones and the fact that every character can be both loved and hated, then imagine Geek Love as a microcosm…just in a nomadic carnival of oddities instead of a high fantasy world.  There is a struggle for power, the fantastic, sexual objectification, betrayal…a bit of everything and then some.  Even Jamie and Cersei Lannister may give a nod of approval.
Was Geek Love perfect?  Not quite  I feel like there were questions in some of the characters’ motivations (then again, they are living an unusual lifestyle), but it’s the humanity of the characters themselves that drew me in.   Dunn also creates some damn nice prose.
It just goes to show that a book does not have to be perfect to be enjoyed immensely.  If you like stories that are “out there,” then Geek Love is for you.
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4 thoughts on “Review: Katherine Dunn’s “Geek Love”

  1. I loved this book! Read it many years ago and no longer remember much about the actual details, but remember how much I enjoyed it. Just from the blurbs and the plot, I thought I wouldn’t like the parents because of what they were doing. Wrong, lol.

    Like

    1. Yep. Had a great friend recommend it to me, and it was really incredibly how each character was simultaneously fantastic and a complete bastard. The name definitely throws you off, though…not what I expected at all.

      Liked by 1 person

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