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Dr. Potter's Medicine Show

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  291 ratings  ·  72 reviews
The year is 1878. Dr Alexander Potter, disgraced Civil War surgeon, now snake-oil salesman, travels the Pacific Northwest with a disheartened company of strongmen, fortune-tellers, and musical whores. Under their mysterious and murderous leader they entertain the masses while hawking the Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic, a vital elixir touted to cure all ills both physical and spir ...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Angry Robot
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Eric Fischl Ha, typo ... somehow that made it through about 12 drafts, beta readers, an editor, copy-editor, AND proofreader. You are the first person to find it,…moreHa, typo ... somehow that made it through about 12 drafts, beta readers, an editor, copy-editor, AND proofreader. You are the first person to find it, apparently ... I didn't know about it until just now. Will be fixed in the next printing. -ESF(less)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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Peter McLean
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This book starts out feeling like a standard Western, but it’s from Angry Robot so of course you know it isn’t going to be exactly that.

There’s a sense of something not quite right almost from the very first page, where Doctor Potter is hawking his Sagwa Tonic to the rubes of whatever small town the medicine show has rolled into this time. The creeping dread builds in a way reminiscent of Ray Bradbury at his best, and while it’s still not clear exactly what is wrong, the book will have you itch
Dark and violent, this is a story of an alcoholic, former army surgeon fronting a travelling medicine show post Civil war and an alchemist/body jumper. The members of the medicine show live in terror of the actual leader of the travelling show, who has some sort of relationship with the alchemist. The various members of the show also have some sort of dependence on an alchemical product. There are various mysteries at work (not particularly complicated) and no one is likeable in this story.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, magic, reviewed, arc, gothic
A story of alchemy in the late 19th century set in a travelling freak show.

The main characters were all very morally ambiguous, and most of them were not very likeable. Dr Potter is the main narrator and he is an alcoholic that has done, and is still doing, some very bad things.

Lyman is the man who is really running the travelling show and he is a nasty piece of work. Reading about him and the way he controls people makes my skin crawl - he's a villain but written in a way that is realistic en
Kara Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim Ebner
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Follow me at:

Publication Date: 7 February 2017.

This is a story about alchemy in the late 19th century. The story follows a group of entertainers and misfits in a freak show led by the violent and coldhearted, Lyman. Together with Dr. Potter, an opium addict and regular drunk, they are using the show as a platform to sell Chock-a-Saw Sagwa Tonic, a tonic that will cure all ailments of both body and mind. But for some, the tonic is anything but a help and l
Aaron McQuiston
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: angry-robot
"Dr. Potter's Medicine Show" starts with a snake oil salesman, a charlatan, and a drunk, Alexander Potter, selling Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic in a travelling show. He is plotting his vengeance on Lyman, the boss of the show and a really cruel human being, one that the reader sees as a villain from almost the first page. Fischl's writing is so good that you can feel the dampness and cold, smell the sickness and filth, and visualize the muddy, sleepy towns that are the targets of Dr. Potter's traveli ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Familiarity in a story can be a double edged sword. It may be comforting to the reader like in romance novels purchased at the grocery store, to others it may be annoying and trite; to always know what is coming next, to not be surprised and maybe even at length be talked down to or taken for a simpleton. Naturally this might be dictated by what you read. An experienced fantasy reader with books by Stephen Donaldson, Ursula K. Leguin or Peter Beagle on their shelf might find Rowling’s Harry Pott ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Potter is a disheartened, broken surgeon, once the fastest bonesaw on the killing fields of the civil war. He's been reduced to selling "snake oil" to the rubes in the broken down, cheerless pockets of misery that his traveling show visits in the sodden and dreary Northwest. This miracle cure-all is an elixir that is, however, a potion that dooms some to a fate worse than death. These few who respond to the call of the Choc-A-Saw Sagwa, are the raison d'etre for the Medicine Show.

The story s
Arianne Thompson
You know what really sucks about books? They don’t come with the genre equivalent of nutrition labels. It’s the dumbest thing. The back cover and the blurbs and all the advertising pitch this book as a historical dark fantasy, which it is, with murder and occult magic, which it has, to put you in the mood for some arcane sideshow grotesquery, which it does.

But the packaging will not tell you that this book comes with a Laurel-and-Hardy pair of bickering rustic clownshoes, or one of those headst
Saoirse Milotte
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexander Potter, a disgraced American Civil war surgeon who was once known for being the quickest with a bone saw, now spends his days hawking a cure-all tonic to the poor, desperate public of the Pacific Northwest, and drinking himself to death. He travels with a seedy, rundown circus, boasting no more than a strong man, an exotic singer and a smattering of unremarkable acts. At night, however, the circus transforms into something much more nefarious. The ‘dark tent’ opens to those willing to ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite imaginative, I must say. Very good for a first novel by Eric Scott Fischl. I sort of felt like I was immersed in the game-world of 'Red Dead Redemption' alongside of Nigel West Dickens, trying to hock some sludge passing off as Medicine. And a little like Freak Show (season four of American Horror Story). I look forward to the next book by Fischl, coming out around October ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I read the blurb it sparked my interest. I just found the twists and plot a little too simple and predictable. The characters were definitely not likeable but like some fantasy novels that works. I think it was more just where the story ended. Just kinda felt myself say "oh was that it?". Will probably appeal to some but maybe as I read too much ( haha) it just didnt work for me. ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this at Emerald City Comicon, and the author signed it for me! He also corrected a mistake. I don't know if Mr. Fischl reads his book's reviews on here, but if he does, there is another error on page 272, and one on the last page. Lol.

Now to the book.
The cover and title are awesome. There is no need for a synopsis on the back of the book. You get the setting and mood just by looking at it.

For a book that is not too long, it has a lot of characters. I was worried this might make it hard t
Aug 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I have read many books in this type of setting, which is what appealed to me in the first place. While I am sure the book is well written and will appeal to many, after attempting to engage with it three times it is time to admit defeat. Thanks Netgalley and the publishers for letting me try!
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first glance, the plot of this novel appears to be relatively straight-forward. Alexander Potter is a charlatan, little more than a con man. He travels from town to town with his medicine show, separating the locals from their hard-earned cash. The Sagwa tonic he is peddling is nothing but a sham, it has no medicinal properties at all. Of course, looks can be deceptive, there is far more to the story than that. It turns out that one form of the tonic is utterly fake, but there is another vari ...more
Almost 80 pages in and had to give it up. So many characters. Too much character development (let's save some for later, eh?). Lots of references to a "big event" but I don't even give a shit. ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely awful. The character development is subpar, the plot is nonexistent, the ending is rushed and simply doesn't make sense. I can get something out of most books, and I am definitely not one to hate on a book, but I am 100% hating on this book. Additionally, the female characters in this book are subjected to brutality that is described in detail. Not a fan of that either. And it isn't to make a point, or to enlighten the reader, or develop a character. It's simply brutalit ...more
A.I. Black
Dec 12, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for one of my college classes. I don't have a lot to say about it. Just DON'T READ IT EVER IF YOU CAN POSSIBLY AVOID IT!!!! It was awful. Literally the worst book I've ever read--as you can tell from the cover, it's rather sketchy, though the guy with tattoos has nothing to do with the plot.

It's just awful. So much swearing on every page and just a terrible story about alchemy, a snake oil medicine show, and evil people who do horrid, cruel things that kept me up at nigh
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark and dirty. Fischl creates a dismal and depressing atmosphere for the dastardly deeds of the truly despicable Lyman Rhodes. None of his characters are heartwarming or even particularly likable, but all are deep and complex enough for the reader to hold out some hope for their redemption and maybe to even revel their demise. At least a few of them.
I will not rate this book because I did not finish it.

I must say I was really intrigued by the book descriptions and had expectations.
After reading 23% I gave up for three reasons
- I found the story confusing
- I could not connect to one of the characters
- I could not cope with the writing style of the author

This happens. One can't love every book.

Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply dark and rich with horror and wonderful morally grey characters.
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5

Alchemy seems to be in fashion. This is the third book in about as many weeks that I have read with alchemy taking a prominent place in the story.

Alexander Potter was a Civil War doctor who has gone above and beyond the normal atrocities that doctors were noted for during the Civil War (that primarily being a great deal of amputations). Now Potter travels with a freak-show/circus where he hawks his snake-oil cure-all. Mos
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Dr. Potter's Medicine Show, author Eric Scott Fischl uses the conventional western trope of a traveling "medicine" sideshow and upends it to explore themes of power, abuse, and the drive for immortality.

The first third of the novel has the feeling of a good side-story from David Milch's Deadwood - complete with a ruthless boss (in the form of one of the most menacing villains ever conceived -
Lyman Rhoades) controlling his flawed crew with unyielding cruelty. Written with a keen depth of cha
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Because I liked this book a lot, I am going to write a long review. I honestly do not know where to begin.

The story telling in the book is slow, but at a decent pace for the type of book it is. The first few chapters give you a feel for all the characters and who they are, and it mixes in the story so its a nice even amount of information so you are not overwhelmed with too much information.
About 75% of the way through, you feel like it could be a finished product but it surprises you at the en
Rachel Noel
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*Book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

I'll start with a warning that this book is not for the faint of heart or stomach. More than once I wished I wasn't eating while reading. It starts out innocently enough but there are some scenes that made me think of Red Dragon. So, fair warning, not a book for everyone.

That being said, I actually did enjoy this book a lot more than I thought I would. Yes, the book is full of dark and depressing scenes, but, thankfully, Fischl has a good number o
May 16, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
They had the weight of righteousness on their side, after all, but Sol is now beginning to get a hint that, in the real world, maybe righteousness doesn't mean a goddamn thing, not when you're put in opposition to that which is stronger and meaner than you are.

This book takes place in late 1800’s America.

Alexander: Ostensibly, the titular Dr. Potter is in charge of the traveling medicine show peddling a cure all tonic readers will correctly identify for the snake oil it is. In
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one. The characters are well drawn and the writing is well crafted with great dialogue and descriptive language. The book moves along at a fast clip and does a good job of building suspense in a natural way. I also found the historical setting interesting. It’s set in the Pacific Northwest, which is a different part of the country than I’m used to seeing in a “western” and I liked that greatly. I also liked that although there were fantastic elements it did not go overboard ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this story a lot. I liked the writing, the situations and the characters. I thought the characters were very well written. The bad guys were really, really evil (and hard to kill), and the good guys, even though some of them had done things they abhorred, were essentially good and their hearts were in the right place. I don’t consider this a horror story, but more of a historical/scifi story. Dr. Potter has a medicine show, with a strong man, a beautiful singer, a tarot reader and a fe ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was well-written and I enjoyed it a lot. Fischl manages to capture a dark 19th century environment quite good. The book explores the moral of several people who have performed near inhuman actions. In the beginning it is a tad bit slow, but towards the other half the story is truly captivating and fascinating. I recommend reading this book.

Even though the book was good, it wasn't perfect. I wish the book was a little longer and explaining towards the end. The end happened a little too
Caroline Mersey
Dr Potter's Medicine Show (Eric Scott Fischl, review copy from Angry Robot) is a dark and lush gothic horror set in frontier America.  The titular Dr Alexander Potter is a seller of snake-oil, taking his touring circus and freak show round the Western states of America.  But the mystery potion that Dr Potter is selling - The Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic - is not your usual concoction, part placebo, part laudanum.  This Tonic is an alchemical preparation, part of an experimental series designed to unl ...more
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Eric Scott Fischl writes novels of speculative historical fiction and the supernatural. He lives in Montana's Bitterroot mountains and writes his author bios in the third person. ...more

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