Author Katherine Dunn
This is the spoiler free review of Geek Love, if you would like to read the spoiler full review go here.
I picked up Geek Love after finding the title on a list of body horror books. I was looking for something for October, something horror, something creepy, maybe something kind of gross. The description of a carny family that creates their own freak show caught my attention and I dove in. I was not prepared. I don’t know that I would call it horror but I’m not sure what else it would be. It’s creepy, but not in a spooky way, more like a sex offender stalking you at the park way. And gross? Hoo boy! Is it ever!
The Binewski family does create their own freak show but I thought it’d be in a kidnapping and mutilating strangers way. Somehow this is worse. They purposefully cause birth defects in their own pregnancies in order to build up their circus acts. They have Arty, the Aqua Boy with fins instead of arms and legs, Iphy and Elly, the conjoined twins attached at the pelvis, Oly, our narrator and albino, hunchback, dwarf, and Chick, who appears perfectly normal from the outside but developed a secret gift. Together they are the most cruel, evil, vile, dysfunctional family I think I’ve ever read about.
Everyone in this book is disgusting. Not because they are deformed in any way, but because they are f@$ing garbage human beings who manipulate each other and strangers in ways so malicious that I started to question the author’s mental health. They solve their problems in the most extreme ways possible, almost always involving violence and never involving sitting down to talk it out. I thought Oly was going to be the sympathetic one at first but by the end she proved to be just as bad as the worst of them.
Speaking of the worst of them, Arty, the Aqua Boy, is a whole new level of psychopath. The things he does in this book upset me to my very core and at one point I even got a little emotional and almost started crying when recounting one of his acts to my bf. My imagination can’t conjure up anything much worse.
So that’s where this book gets difficult to rate. I don’t think I enjoyed reading it. It was extremely disturbing and not at all in a laugh it off kind of way. Additionally, it was one of those books that, for me at least, I found myself spacing out and then zapping back to the page at something shocking thinking “wait, what’d I miss?”
However, I really enjoyed telling people about it and writing the spoiler full review gives me quite a kick. And if nothing else this book is truly original. I always have to give points to something that I have seen nowhere before. I have never and probably will never again read anything like Geek Love.
My younger self that more actively sought out exploitation films probably would have loved this book. I am no stranger to shock value gross out cinema, even just this year I went out of my way to finally watch A Serbian Film (largely considered the shockiest of the shocking) but just because you can sit through an hour an a half of a movie doesn’t mean you want to read it in book form. Have you seen The Human Centipede? Imagine stretching that experience out for the 20 days it took to read this book. It’s too much, it’s tiresome. It’s maybe not for me anymore. It’s definitely not for most readers. But for that special audience, this will be your new favorite book.
2.5/5 sets of twins 👭 👭 🙍♀️
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Buy it here: Geek Love: A Novel