This is the review that matters!
The Ginger Nuts of Horror review, Monday, 26th April, 2021.
'There has always been something eerie about travelling fairs; the transient nature of their existence has always made them something I have been wary of. From urban legends hinting at some unpleasant activities to the misconceptions implanted into my psyche thanks to Something Wicked This Way Comes, they are things that I usually try and steer clear well away from.
Gary Power's novella The Art of Anatomy does absolutely nothing to put these fears to rest. When Gregori Dragan's carnival of the bizarre rolls into Snake Falls in the Summer of 1936, you know that the lives of the residents will never be the same ever again.
The Art of Anatomy is a highly effective novella; the multistranded narrative works exceptionally well, allowing for each of the individual stories to breathe while at the same time interweaving intrinsically with each other creating a nightmarish main narrative thread that leads the reader to a chilling and shocking final act.
Power has an eloquent, dreamlike narrative style that draws the reader right into the heart of the story. It is almost impossible to read a story like this without being reminded of Bradbury's classic novel of small-town horror. However, The Art of Anatomy is in no way a piece of fan fiction. Power has ensured that this novella has it's own voice, and while some of the tropes used are commonplace in these types of small-town horror, his handling of them ensures that you will never feel like you are treading old ground.
I loved how, during the early stages of the novella, the ambiguity and wariness about the true nature of the townspeople and the people from Dragan's carnival is developed. Who are the actual monsters, is it the carnival workers, or is it some of the resident, like the husband desperate to kill his wife.
Both the town and the carnival leap of the page, thanks to Power's gift of creating a strong sense of place. The sights, sounds, and smells of the carnival assault the reader in a cacophony of sensory overload, just like the real thing would, hell you can almost smell the popcorn dripping in butter as you read the book.
The almost casual way in which Power builds the sense of tension and drama as the narrative unfolds is a remarkable example of gifted storytelling.
There are hints of what is to come early on in the story. However, no one could have prepared me for the left-field turn it takes when the murder is attempted. The imagery and inventive nature of the body horror that comes towards the final act of this novella is perversely appealing; there is a macabre sense of beauty in these passages, reminiscent of Barker's early work.
Power's portrayal of the characters is handled with a keen sympathetic eye; it could have so easy to paint the denizens of the carnival as a bunch of freaks. However, Power never resorts to such a cheap use of the characters.
The Art of Anatomy is a nightmarish fairytale, filled with wonderous inventive characters, inhabiting a gripping tale of lust, revenge and redemption.'