Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
A travelling circus rife with freaks and geeks galore travels the nation in 1800s America but with a sinister purpose in Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl.
The titular Dr. Potter is a disgraced Civil War surgeon roped into leading a carnival caravan from town to town, hawking a mysterious snake-oil called Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic. While most of the tonic is a harmless liquid mixed with low dose of opium, select bottles contain an experimental serum. Meanwhile, two hapless bandits hired by a drunk hunt down the scientist behind the serum. Everything will collide in a supernatural explosion of horror, steampunk, and violence.
As a piece of speculative historical fiction, this novel is fantastic. Fischl sets a story of alchemy and horror against the Civil War, with interesting observations. He populates his strange cast with outlandish characters and pits them against a ruthless and nearly immortal baddie. While it does tend to suffer from some classic “show, don’t tell” hiccups, it is overall a well-crafted story. It combines horror and historical fiction incredibly well and describes the scenes, actions, and characters disturbingly well. Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show is violent, gory, and uncomfortable but ultimately a hell of a read.
Eric Scott Fischl