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Book Review: Clowns, cowboys, and clocks run wild in “The Escapement”

Author Lavie Tidhar has created a Frankenstein genre combining Westerns, surrealism, and retro circuses in his upcoming September release, “ The Escapement.”


Welcome to the Escapement–a Westernesque world of clowns with a dash of Salvador Dali surrealism. The Escapement isn’t a merciful world; murderous clowns, train-robbing aerialists, and stone giants fighting an ancient war run rampant throughout this desolate landscape, all while a lone gunman–the Stranger–is set on an epic quest to save his dying son.


The Escapement possesses intimate connections to the Stranger’s son, a kid who loves circuses and clowns. It makes it the perfect setting for The Stranger’s search to find the mythical Plant of Heartbeat and potential cure.


There’s no denying the worldbuilding of “The Escapement” is spectacular. Like the Big Rock Candy Mountains, the surrealist creatures and extravagant landmarks can only be described as one of Salvador Dalí’s more elaborate wet dreams. Everything from the landscape and lore to this dangerous world’s inhabitants has been carefully woven into the tale and the Stranger’s quest. Even taking figures from reality, such as casting serial killer John Wayne Gacy as the murderous, giant clown and infamous showman P. T. Barnum as a clown slave owner, darkens this novel to something other than a heroes quest. Tidhar masters the art of creating a world so maniacally realistic and epic that it almost seems like you, too, can step through to the Escapement, just like the Stranger did.


With its cast of eclectic, nameless characters and strange stirrings in the land, the novel is a quick page-turner and won’t have you reading chapters worth of useless worldbuilding to drag your excitement down. Although undeniably epic, “The Escapement” often confuses with its allusions to real-world events and people that, for some, will make them scratch their head.


This novel isn’t a heart-pounding thriller but is a decadent and showstopping story of hope, adventure, and at its heart–love.



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