Circus World

By Barry B. Longyear

Rating: 4 stars

Two hundred years ago, a circus ship crash-landed on the planet Momus and was unable to escape. Its star-travelling circus had to forge a new life and build a new society for themselves. Now, galactic politics infringe on the Moman way of life: with the 10th Quadrant about to invade, the 9th Quadrant sends an ambassador, Lord Allenby, to the world to plead with them to allow them to send their own fleet to defend the world.

This book is similar to Longyear’s Manifest Destiny in that it is composed of a collection of linked short stories that together tell a single story and it’s just as good. I wasn’t entirely impressed with the opening story, The Tryouts, as it felt a little meta-fictional, with the protagonist, a Newsteller, telling the background to Allenby’s arrival on the planet to a group of travellers. The issue I had with this story was that the listeners kept interrupting and commenting on both the story and style of telling, offering critique and comment to the Newsteller that stopped me getting involved with the story he was telling. But as you read further, this, and the rest of the strange society that the Momans have built for themselves, is explained and I think that on a re-read, I’d find this much less of an issue.

The other story that didn’t work for me was a short one called Dueling Clowns, which mostly revolved around trading puns and a punchline that I didn’t get. But mostly I found myself caring for the society that the circus had build on Momus, the clowns and fortune tellers, the magicians and storytellers and acrobats, and wanted to see their world preserved against the external threats.

Longyear is a writer whose writing is warm and friendly and easily draws you into the story and makes you care about his characters and settings. He’s definitely joined the list of authors for whom I’ll pick up any of their work on byline alone.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356086293
Publisher: Macdonald and co
Year of publication: 1980

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