Freak Night at the Slee-Z Motel by Amy M Vaughn

In the world of bizarro fiction, there tend to be two main styles which are common. The first is plot-driven stories with character development, typical story arcs and the traditional conflict and resolution typical with most books. What marks them out as bizarro is the inclusion of something odd, off-kilter and generally weird. While these tales demand a suspension of belief, they often do have a realism within their own worlds.

The second common style are stories where character development, story arcs and realism within the constructed world are jettisoned for the sake of sheer insanity. These often include cartoon-like violence, extreme characters and unbelievable events which unfold at a breakneck speed. Fast, furious and fun, they career through a bombardment of craziness until they reach an explosive ending which, more often than not, isn’t as happy as many would expect it to be.

It’s fair to say that Freak Night at the Slee-Z Motel by Amy M Vaughn falls into the latter camp, and while that doesn’t make it any less worthy of attention, it does filter out some readers who might find the excessive pile-on of conflicts and gory episodes a bit too much without any real reason other than they’re happening.

Freak Night at the Slee-Z Motel is an unapologetic romp through a twisted landscape occupied by weird and unnatural characters, who are immersed in a senseless night of depravity and violence. If that’s not your thing, then steer clear, but if it is, you’ll love the novella.

A van-load of side-show freaks are caught out in a storm and take refuge at a rundown roadside motel. If that sounds like a glaring clue something untoward is about to unfold, it is. The van occupants include a fire-eater with four arms who is in love with the side-show’s headless woman, a human dog, conjoined twins and a mind-reading fat lady.

The motel isn’t busy, the only other residents being a G-Man and a couple of petty crooks hiding out. The owners of the place also have a secret: a lizard-like girl who’s been banished to live in the wishing well. Sounds pretty normal so far? Well, add in the fact that the hotel owners are decidedly anti-freak, and have a desire to ‘fix’ their guests, and the conflict is established pretty early in the book.

Earlier I mentioned the violence was cartoon-like, and that’s the key to Freak Night at the Slee-Z Motel. Everything is over the top, but it doesn’t read like a story which sets out to glorify violence or deliver distasteful descriptions of torture and suffering. It’s no more disturbing than watching a mouse dropping an anvil onto the head of a cat, but it’s twice as much fun.

There aren’t any hidden meanings, metaphors or messages about the state of the world, which – given the state of the world – is a positive point. It’s also, if the truth be told, not a book that will stay with you for a long time. It’s a short, sharp injection of fun, and we all need one of those every now and again.

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