Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong. It’s a bit under the wire at 8:30 PM, but I’m determined to get this done before this last day of February is over. So, here we go!
Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon. Here, everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job. When the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him, or face vivisection.
With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down together. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better.
***Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot Books for a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience. There are some spoilers in this review, but they are clearly marked.***
This book was odd. There were quite a few things I really liked and just as many (maybe more) that I didn’t. Overall, I’m torn about what to think of it, and if I had to choose one word to describe it, I’d probably choose ‘alright.’ It didn’t wow me, but it wasn’t completely awful either.
I really liked the world the author built. The different alien races, their powers, and the council that governed them was really cool, and I enjoyed learning about all of the different cultures. Anything to do with the circus was also really awe-inspiring. I found myself sitting and daydreaming about what all the acts might look like and enjoyed the descriptions of them. In general, the author did a great job of setting scenes, and I loved it. My favorite thing about the book was the descriptions on the characters’ trip hopping around the moon. I really felt like I was there and experiencing all of the amazing sights with them.
The LGBT representation was fantastic in this story, as well. I particularly liked getting to enter the point of view of someone who was not just asexual but sex-averse. It is so far outside of my personal experience that I found it incredibly eye-opening to see the thoughts and feelings that someone with that identity might have day to day. The growth of Jes’ romantic relationship, as well as his friendships, and the exploration of his boundaries in each were definitely highlights of the book for me. There was a range of other LGBT folks in the story too, and I liked that the world was pretty much accepting of all sexual and gender minorities. My only complaint is that quite a bit of the dialogue felt forced and almost clinical in nature, especially the conversations between the characters about their sexualities.
The found family vibes of parts of this book made me fall in love with the characters, even if they were all a bit two-dimensional. Anytime the circus crew were together, it just felt heartwarming. This brings me to the first major thing I didn’t like. It felt like I was reading two very different books. There would be a heartwarming scene and then we’d be off to torture, death, sex clubs, or destruction. I’m not sure if it was a pacing or transition issue, but it felt jarring to go back and forth. It’s not even that I didn’t like the harsher aspects of the book because I thought they were well-written. I just didn’t like the mashup of them with this circus family. It just felt off.
Despite liking certain aspects of the character and the exploration of asexuality he provided, the characterization of Jes got on my nerves a lot. It was super inconsistent. He was smart, until he wasn’t. He was good, until he wasn’t. He made some DUMB choices here that made no sense for someone on the run. I get that he was dealing with trauma and still quite young, which could easily explain some of the inconsistency in his character. However, he made some choices that had me wanting to chunk my kindle across the room in frustration, while other times he was portrayed as the smartest person in the room. It just seemed like he was smart or dumb depending on what the plot needed him to be rather than there being a real motivation behind the choices.
Finally, the ending of this book knocked a star off of my rating. I honestly hated almost everything about it. ***SPOILER ALERT*** One of my favorite things about the book was Jes’ growth from connecting with others in a healthy way, and the ending felt like it threw away those connections with very little set up. It also made Jes a murderer, which really made me mad after seeing his struggle with not crossing that line throughout the rest of the book up to that point. The ending also made me hate the bug character (I forget his name), who I had really liked up to that point, because he could have prevented it all, including Jes becoming a murderer, if he had just taken Jes before the council from the very beginning instead of waiting until the exact second he was going to destroy a star system. Like, WTF bug dude. WTF. ***END SPOILERS***
Overall, I loved the world, asexual rep, and found family feels of the book. I didn’t love the characterizations, and I hated the ending. So, this one gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.