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Goldenland Past Dark

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  94 ratings  ·  25 reviews
A hostile stranger is hunting Dr. Show's ramshackle travelling circus across 1960s America. His target: the ringmaster himself. Struggling to elude the menace, Dr. Show scraps his ambitious itinerary; ticket sales plummet, and nothing but disaster looms. The troupe’s unravelling hopes fall on their latest and most promising recruit, Webern Bell, a sixteen-year-old stunted ...more
ebook, 300 pages
Published March 15th 2013 by ChiZine
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  94 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is exactly the kind of book that makes reading such a joy. For all the pedestrian and average and slightly entertaining books out there, one of these makes it all worth the effort. My friend had given it to me for my birthday based solely on the fact that I liked stories about circus and sideshow freaks. From Chizine publications (new to me and of excellent quality) I had expected this to be horror, but it defies any such genre categorization. It's simply such a marvelous work of fiction, ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I selected this book rather randomly while browsing the shelves at a local bookstore looking for something that would be appropriate for me to read with my new prison penpal. I didn't want anything violent, prison related or with too much sexual tension and it had to be something I thought a man who'd spent the last 20 years of his life in prison might enjoy reading. And something I wanted to read myself. Wow, did I do a good job! (My penpal got the physical book and I read it on my kindle.) ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
...Readers intrigued by intelligent narratives and complex themes should not hesitate to seek out this haunting debut novel...

Full review:
Scott Bailey
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very cool book. I admit that I resisted it for the first couple of chapters, because I'm not particularly a fan of circuses or sideshows and I don't like clowns, but Ms Smith has created a wonderful Kafkaesque dream novel in which she performs a very neat trick: she presents the normal world, and she presents the circus as viewed by the normal world, and then she shows us the "circus behind the circus" where the performers know that the whole thing seen by the normal world is just a ...more
Nicholas Kaufmann
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An accomplished and beautifully written debut novel from an author from whom I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more. A coterie of circus "freaks," a cynical helper monkey, and a seriously disturbed family all share the spotlight in this affecting tale of a circus clown named Webern who is losing his grip on sanity. Webern may be the protagonist, but it's the female characters in his life who are the most interesting to me: Nepenthe, the reluctant "lizard girl" of the freak show; Bo-Bo, Webern's ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Goldenland Past Dark is a very impressive first novel. It held my attention start to finish, very creative and inventive, at the same time, grounded in the universal truths of humanity all across the board. The novel reminds me of a spiral in how it moves, going from the outer layers, the outer pictures of the main character, Webern, the clown,spiraling down to the more and more surprising inner world and history of Webern. It is a heartfelt, deep and true story, wonderfully told.
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who prefer the journey to the destination
Recommended to Katy by: ChiZine Publications
Shelves: ebook
Book Info: Genre: Dark speculative fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of the journey
Trigger Warnings: murder, clowns

My Thoughts: I think this book would have been better if it had focused more on Dr. Show's circus. As it is, about halfway through the action jumps ahead five years and Webern and Nepenthe join another circus. A lot of the heart goes out of the story when that happens with the loss of so many characters with whom we had bonded.

Don't misunderstand, this is a
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: weird fiction lovers
Recommended to Shellie (Layers of Thought) by: ChiZine
Original review posted at Layers of Thought.

Shellie’s quick take: A sweet yet dark and mind-bending coming-of-age romance about a sensitive and small clown who is traveling with a circus during the 1960s.

Shellie’s description: It’s a slightly bizarre novel based upon the experiences of its relatable main character Webern (Bernie) Bell. What is special about Bernie is that he is only about 4 feet tall and has a hunch on his back. Not a typical person physically, he is, however, a natural fit as
Jeff Dick
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chizine
Beautiful Prose

I was introduced to Chandler Klang Smith by an interview she did with Writer’s Digest. She suggested that “a novel is a fractal”. The recovering mathematician in me found the idea intriguing and elegant, so I posted a rather detailed response in the comments. Sadly, that response vanished into the bowels of the Interwebs never to be seen again, so I re-posted with a simple “I love the idea of a novel as a fractal”. For my efforts, this lucky (and random) responder was rewarded
Mattie Schraeder
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mattie by: Chandler Smith
While Goldenland Past Dark was far from my normal genres to read, by the time the book was over I really got sucked into it. The first half is a bit slow, starting as a book about circus life and those that live it. All the characters are written as "normal" people (or at least as "normal" as circus freaks in the sideshow can be) just doing an abnormal job.

Slowly, their lives begin to devolve from the mythical, mysterious, and wonderful world of the circus into more and more of a mess as things
Beth Roberts
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
I wavered between 4 and 5 stars. This first effort really rates a 4.5. The story is imaginative and well-thought out. There is some choppiness and bouncing around and a 5-year-gap between Part One and Part Two, for no real reason I could tell. Ultimately, it was a little bit different story than the blurb leads you to believe, but ultimately that was okay. The story was very good, the characters well-executed and there was an actual ending.
Karen Heuler
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Vivid characters, strong plotting. I was a little concerned that the circus background might seem too familiar--and it did, for the first few pages, until the story pulled me in. The book is rich with freaks who are all too human and who are forced to face changes. The main character, Webern, hits highs and lows and learns along the way. His clown acts become more and more creative and in a strange way grow in emotional resonance.
Scotti Cohn
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writing is superb -- but beyond that, the way Chandler Smith blends the bizarre and improbable with the common and familiar is both startling and immensely satisfying. As I read I constantly shifted back and forth from thinking "how is that even possible?" to "yes, that's the way life is" and back again. I know that many of the characters and situations will remain in my thoughts for a long time, and I applaud the author for creating such a masterpiece.
Jan 28, 2013 marked it as to-read
Can't wait to read this!!!
Eric Smith
A perfectly good read, but a huge disappointment after the manic surrealism of "The Sky Is Yours".

If I had a more sentimental attitude towards clowns and circuses, I might have enjoyed this more. Despite my distaste for clowns, at first I found Webern quite appealing and interesting, but over the course of the book his self-pity makes him increasingly obnoxious.
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this story and it ended perfectly. It is strange, imaginative, and unique. A great story.
Jessie B.
Not what I thought it would be but still compelling
Zoe Brooks
This review first appeared on the Magic Realism Books Blog - http://www.magic-realism-books.blogsp...

As I read this book I found myself asking what is reality. The question is of course highly pertinent to this blog: How do we define realism, the background against which the magic is projected? The world which the author creates and in which the hero Webern finds himself is the world of the freakshow, but is that unreal? Clearly not. Throughout the first half of the book I assumed that there was
Tyrannosaurus regina
I feels like a cop-out to say that the book didn't connect with me without being able to articulate why, but despite the fact that it has many elements that I like and the writing is definitely strong, it somehow just didn't. Maybe it was something to do with the pacing, the way the story tended to jump around without quite connecting the dots. But I will say this: I have never read anything quite like it before, and I mean that in a good way.
Leslie Fisher
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, circus
Interesting book about the lives of circus people. It wasn't quite as weird/dark as I was hoping/expecting, but it was interesting nonetheless. The characters were interesting and relateable, despite being considered "freaks." I just didn't find that I "had" to keep reading this one - that is to say, it really didn't pull me along, page-by-page, like other books that I've read. I would still recommend it to anyone interested in circus life, which is why I picked it up to read.
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
his book almost seemed to be two separate stories. The beginning lead me in one direction and then switched in the middle and headed off in another. I expected the entire story to follow the exploits of Dr. Show's circus. There were a lot intriguing story lines in that first half that were suddenly dropped in the second half. Lots of loose ends.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and emotional story. A mix of adventure, coming-of-age story, tragedy, and comedy. Well worth the read.
Brian Richardson
Feb 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
What? I didn't get it. This book dumps you straight into action that feels like a carryover from a previous novel and then doesn't really compel you to care about the results.
Victoria Shepherd
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A weird, magical tale of circus "freaks", and their vulnerable, ordinary humanity.
rated it liked it
Jan 01, 2014
rated it it was amazing
May 02, 2013
rated it it was ok
Sep 15, 2013
Chris Blossom
rated it really liked it
Oct 28, 2019
Tony Myles
rated it it was amazing
Mar 15, 2013
Roger Wetlaufer
rated it it was amazing
Sep 05, 2014
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Goodreads Librari...: Fix book cover 6 45 Jan 21, 2013 10:45AM  

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Chandler Klang Smith is a graduate of Bennington College and the MFA Creative Writing Program at Columbia University. Her new novel THE SKY IS YOURS is now available from Hogarth/Crown. She lives in New York City.
“Someday you're going to realize that there's more to life than making fun of everything you don't understand.” 1 likes
“... for the first time, it occurred to him [Webern] that maybe God wasn't an old man with a beard, but just a spoiled child.” 0 likes
More quotes…