“The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Travelling Circus”
by Clive Barker
read by Bruce Donnelly
Published by Crossroad Press
Approx 2 hours
The first thing that grabbed me about this audiobook was that it was written by Clive Barker, I have always loved horror novels and Barker’s horror novels are some of the best. I knew this was a fantasy book, and was prepared for this because I have read a few of his fantasy books including the young adult fantasy series “Abarat.” What I wasn’t prepared for, once I started listening was the depth of the language and the way the story completely engulfed me. What is more amazing is that these stories were written in 1974 when Clive Barker was only 17 years old. At first listen it is an amazing book by a young author, but more to it, it is an amazing book that will take you on a magical fantastical journey in and of itself, regardless of the age of the author.
On a side note regarding this audio book version, I think the non-emotional, straight forward read actually works. I have recently become a fan of audiobooks where the author actually acts out the book and even provides different voices for the characters, or even better yet a full dramatization with a full blown cast of actors. These types make the audiobook more of an exciting experience, but for this book, where the language used by Clive Barker is the star, the nearly monotone emotionless reading by Bruce Donnelly works. This approach took some getting used to but once the book was rolling I found myself completely lost in the language. The words used by Barker in this book flow like poetry.
Maximillian Bacchus is the ringmaster and owner of what he considers the greatest show in the world. Traveling with a Crocodile named Malachi, a trapeze girl named Ophelia, a strong man named Hero, and a clown named Domingo de Ybarrondo. All travel in a wagon pulled by a giant “Ibis bird,” the troupe wanders from adventure to adventure.
The book consists of four interwoven stories beginning when Indigo Murphy, the best bird handler in the world, leaves the show to be married to the Duke Lorenzo de Medici. During the feast where this announcement is made Maximillian Bacchus announces the circus will travel to the fabled Xanadu built by the Khan named Kubla. From there, the magic never stops. On the road they meet a young apple thief named Angelo with glowing eyes who tries to redeem himself by helping to find a lost girl. The troupe next rescues an orangutan named Bathsheba from what seems like the evil and opposite form of the travelling circus. The Circus then arrives at the end of the world where the people living in a town on the edge of the world are terrorized by a band of trolls. Finally arriving in Xanadu the troupe sets to perform for Kubla Khan. After the troupe performs the daughter of the brother of Kubla Khan is abducted and the sun is stolen from the sky, the Khan gives in to the sadness of the event but Maximillian Bacchus and his travelling circus volunteer to rescue the girl and bring back the light of the sun by venturing into the crystal caves beneath Xanadu.
With magical prose and fun short stories, this is one book that is great for all ages. This would be the perfect bedtime story book, and in audiobook form would be the great travelling companion.