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The Pilo Family Circus Paperback – March 24, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

WILL ELLIOTT's debut novel, "The Pilo Family Circus, " co-won the Aurealis Award for best horror, won the Golden Aurealis for best novel, and the Australian Shadows Award. "The Pilgrims "is the first title in Elliott s visionary fantasy, The Pendulum Trilogy. Elliott was born in Brisbane, Australia.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Underland Press (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980226023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980226027
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Schtinky VINE VOICE on May 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On his way home from work late one night, Jamie almost runs over a strange man in a clown suit. The very next night his car breaks down and he's pushing it off the road, he sees the same clown on the roof of a gardening store across the parking lot, a second clown trying to coax him down. One of the clowns tosses a bag near where Jamie is hiding, and he absentmindedly picks it up. He'll soon discover his mistake. Living in house with junkies for roommates, he sprinkles some of the powder in the milk his roommate Steve has been stealing from him. He also tries some himself, thinking it could be drugs.

Next, he comes home to a house completely and utterly trashed, nothing left unbroken and feces smeared everywhere. There's a note for Jamie, "Pass your audition, feller, you're joining the circus". Dreading the countdown, Jamie finally does something outrageous and finds himself awakening in the Pilo Family Circus. He's given a clown outfit, a bag of the powder, and facepaint. Now partners with leader Gonko, wordless but shrieking Goshy and his brother Doopy, Rufshod, and Winston. After putting on his facepaint, Jamie becomes JJ the clown, outrageous, mean, and out of control. There's something in the facepaint that changes him. You'll meet the members of the freak show ran by Fishboy, and created by MM (Master Manipulator) who turns normal humans into hideous freaks like Tallow Man and Nugget. The clowns pretty much have free run of the circus, only the acrobats dare to challenge them.

Kurt Pilo, a giant of a man, religious and strange, runs the circus with his dwarfish brother George. There's something very strange about Kurt, you'll be put on edge just reading about him. Clowns are scary enough, but after Pilo's Family Circus you'll be terrified of them.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have never been a fan of circuses, especially not of lame clowns. What we have here, though, is an entirely different beast -- and in the case of director Kurt Pilo you can take it quite literally. The aimlessly drifting young man, Jamie, finds himself catapulted in the midst of bizarre folks consisting of troublemaking clowns, tormented freaks, carnies and gypsies, and other weird persons.

"Beneath Jamie's attempt to live a rational life where all was clearly marked and set in order, there was a wellspring of eccentric behaviour waiting to be tapped, which Jamie seemed instinctively at pains to keep from spilling over. It looked to be a daily battle. And the more fight he put up, the more impressive the results when the guy either temporarily cracked, or permanently bent. No one bends further than someone made of completely straight lines" (p. 40).

We vaguely learn about the dark rationale behind the existence of the confined zone of the showgrounds, and by extension the human world at large:

"Each part of the show is designed to part the tricks [i.e., the audience] with the most precious thing they have: the human soul...We steal them by the dozen...Every human weakness is catered to by some part of the show. Everyone has a pressure point, and like moths to flame they are drawn to whatever attraction will best be able to milk them" (pgs. 214, 216).

My issue with this novel, however, is that despite all the squabbles, nasty rivalries, potty mouths, spectacular mayhem, and grotesquely funny situations, the story never gains enough momentum to lift off; while at times the subplot is needlessly drawn out and becomes tedious: the hide-and-seek involving the fortune teller's crystal ball, for example.
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Format: Paperback
Here's a book sure to grab your attention: grab it, shake it, chew on it and spit it out! The Pilo Family Circus is one part comedy and one part comic book violence.

Comparisons with "It" and other evil clowns are a little misplaced. The clowns are a rough and ready bunch to be sure: lead by the scheming, sadistic Gonko, the masochistic Rufshod, the creepy space-cadet Goshy and his puppy-dog psychopath brother Doopy as well as the mysterious Winston, the clowns draw the protagonist Jamie into the Pilo Family Circus when he accidentally comes to their attention. But the clown troupe is not the real evil of the Circus, no sir. That would be Kurt Pilo, the bestial proprietor who snacks on teeth and his Napoleonic brother George. Even these two serve shadowy masters who reside... elsewhere.

In between the clowns' struggles to win Kurt's favour and sabotage other acts of the Circus (their running battle with the camp-but-deadly acrobats is hilarious) we witness Jamie's struggle with his alter-ego J.J., who emerges when Jamie is forced to don his magical face paint. This battle of wills can only have one winner - and one dead loser.

The action is fast paced, the dialogue is witty, salty and colours the characters very nicely. Subsequent readings of this book have revealed deeper allegorical elements to this story, for example the Jamie/J.J. struggle could be a metaphor for someone's struggle with addiction or schizophrenia. The circus itself may be a comment on our need for and addiction to distraction and entertainment, even as our souls are sucked our of our bodies.

In all this was a cracking read and I would recommend not reading it on the train or bus, as there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. For fans of The Young Ones and H.P. Lovecraft alike, enjoy this fine debut.
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