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The Circus of Dr. Lao Mass Market Paperback – 1964


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Mass Market Paperback, 1964
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Circus of Dr. Lao is a fascinating work: a labyrinth of meanings and images that sucks in the imagination, teases it and impishly plays with it. It gives nothing away, but offers much sustenance to those willing to take the risk of stepping into the tents housing its bizarre attractions.”—Locus Online
(Locus Online ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Charles G. Finney was born in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1905. After serving in the 15th Infantry in China (“I wasn't a very good soldier but finally I did make Private, 1st Class, and got an Excellent Character on my discharge”) he settled in Tucson, Arizona. He lived there, writing and working on the staff of the Tucson Star. Charles Finney is the actual creator of the genre of “dark fantasy". Not being a particularly prolific writer, he wrote the novel that became the most famous and popular in his oeuvre. Finney by himself became a significant representative of the pre-war fantasy and horror literature. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (1964)
  • ASIN: B0007F8YIS
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,154,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book is now sadly out of print and will probably never be published again.
Tom Munro
The imagery in this book will transport you into the author's universe - a bizarre circus full of equally bizarre creatures.
Greg
I found this a brilliant work that doesn't necessarily fit the modern science fiction genre.
Tim Boulay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mark Shanks VINE VOICE on March 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Finney writes as though he had been possessed by the spirit of Ambrose Bierce, and to me, that's a GOOD thing. More of a short story than a novel (I last read it in the space of a single afternoon), "The Circus" shines light in many directions and is best appreciated after more than a single reading. Frankly, I'm astonished that it got published in the first place, and even more surprised that it here receives what amounts to a "Criterion Collection" sort of treatment, including reproductions of the illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff from the first edition.
The citizens of Abalone (plus a few visitors) are scathingly protrayed in amazingly understated passages. Presented with actual unicorns, satyrs, sea serpents, mermaids, and other "fabulous" creatures and miracles, hardly any of the townspeople can muster more than a yawn and a shrug. The ultimate spectacle, the sacrifice of a virgin to the giant bronze god of the rotten-to-the-core city of Woldercan, is absolutely a gem.
The use of several racial epithets does nothing to reflect on Finney - it doesn't take a super-astute reader to understand Finney is reflecting on his *characters*, yes, even in 1935.
As most reviewers have noted - this is NOT a children's book. And while the Tony Randall film of 1960 has some of its own charm (thank you, Barbara Eden!!), it is a kiddy-fied, watered-down version of this story. It was probably Finney's experience as a newspaperman that soured him on human nature - it must be an occpational hazard, since he shares that experience with the afore-mentioned Bierce as well as with another arch-cynic, Cyril Kornbluth of "Marching Morons" fame. The writing style varies (intentionally) from pulp to inspired to crisp and concise, sometimes all on a single page. Obviously not a book for everyone, but I find it refreshing, enlightening, and supremely entertaining.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Into the drab, sleepy world of Abalone Arizona, where each resident thinks he's seen it all, comes a circus run by a "Chinaman" featuring, not elephants and bears, but the mermaid, the roc, the Hound of the Hedges and the ancient city of Woldercan. This astonishing short novel's narrative ranges from rustic yarn to elegant scientific speculation to bizarre flights of fancy. Added fun comes in the index featuring commentary on every human, animal and morsel of food mentioned in the story. Ignore the Tony Randall movie; the book beats it by miles.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Triona Terry on August 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
the seven faces of doctor Lao was a favorite movie of mine as a child and i was very happy to see that the book far outshone the movie. it was a beautifully rendered snapshot of the most unusual circus on earth. Finney creates for us a place we would like to visit while giving us local characters who manage to be both satiric and realistic. I was sad to see that a few readers found the book to be inadequate....but it's bound to happen...due to the media of the day people can no longer understand anything that isn't spelled out for them and then cleanly ended, people don't want to have to think about what they've read or make even the smallest attempt at pondering it.
and a note on the derogatory or racist terms used in the book for anyone who was upset by them....notice that they are not often used by the author but by the inhabitants of the town during a time when many people were very much against foreigners of any kind....they speak in a racist manner because a lot of people were that racist....we can't pretend they were all well bred and politically correct . it would be a lie.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Zothique on April 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Reading the other reviews here reminds me of the old saw about the blind men and the elephant -- how one (feeling its legs) describes it as resembling a tree; one (feeling its trunk) describes it as like a rope; et cetera. The simple fact is you can't experience this particular elephant unless you read it for yourself. It is truly sui generis.
As for the negative comments that some have lobbed at this book, I can only laugh bitterly & loudly. For the whole concept of the book is about a small-minded town that's exposed to an act of real & genunine magic -- and how the town misses the point utterly. They're limited by their blinders, and perceive only that which can be easily categorized within their existing worldviews. Draw what parallels you may....
Be warned that despite its labelmates in the Bison series, this "Circus" has as much in common with William S. Burroughs as Edgar Rice... and psychedelic / anarchist philosopher Robert Anton Wilson owes this slim tome a debt of gratitude. (His "catalog" of characters and ideas at the back of his "Illuminatus! Trilogy" is an obvious homage to the similar catalog appendixed here.)
The "Circus" is luminous and lyrical, shifting gears from rhapsodic flights of fantasy to bitter and insightful jibes at humanity's foibles. And it's probably my all-time favorite book, ever. It invites and withstands re-reading after re-reading.
And somebody out there really needs to reprint Finney's even harder-to-find (and even more peculiar) short novel, "The Unholy City." If you love "Circus," track it down.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Keith McEwan on July 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Much as I love the movie, the book is so much better, more mysterious, more idiosyncratic, more cynical and even funnier. I have loved this book dearly for 40 years now. You can read it in two hours, if that, and then reread it an infinite number of times. I've bought 3 or 4 editions over the years as I keep wearing them out, but this new edition, a facsimile if the first edition with the bizarre original illustrations, is a thing of beauty, an edition worthy of this great classic. READ THIS WONDERFUL BOOK!
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