How do you feel about cannibal serial killer clowns? If you threw up in your mouth a little reading that, you will not like author Tim Miller’s Welcome to Happytown. If you are sick and twisted like me and thought “Hey, I’ve gotta know more!” then trust me, you will be a happy horror literature buff. As the Amazon description and my review title says, Welcome to Happytown is the second book in the April Almighty series. While I was ambivalent on the first April Almighty book Dead to Writes, this one was delicious. It’s not perfect and you’re absolutely going to hear an explanation for that, but think of it as your favorite candy. You know it’s bad for you (the book flaws) but oh my god you can’t get enough (the book as a whole). The narrator for this book is omnicient but primarily tells the story in April Kennedy’s thoughts. The cannibal serial killer clowns (more on that later) get their fair share of voice time, but we’re not in their twisted minds too long for it to be uncomfortable. In addition, the thing that works in this book’s favor is that the majority of character deaths are well-deserved. Nobody is an innocent victim. Even April makes choices that are questionable at best, evil at worst.
Your spoiler-free summary is as follows: Bad things happen when April Kennedy is your friend. That is literally the only aspect of Welcome to Happytown that isn’t a spoiler. Right from the beginning when viewers are told that April, her best friend Stacy, her new friend Kimberly (known as “Kim” through the majority of the book), and her adversary/Kim’s boyfriend Todd are going on a road trip, you know it won’t end well. You also know that there will be lots of sex and death. How to put this in a not-too-weird way? April developed a very unique ability to make men ejaculate when she talks dirty or threatens them and then hack their minds in such a way that they could (and have!) kill themselves if she told them to. April knows her ability is too easily used for evil and basically shut herself down to human affection (even the real deal) knowing that she could slip up and kill good people. If this is mentioned within five pages, you know it’s foreshadowing. The rest of the book: April and her friends break down in a creepy little town that they can’t leave unless they go through the Funhouse. A bunch of pychotic cannibal serial clowns make the Funhouse their home and torture headqarters. Main characters die or get turned into clowns. The community decides to get rid of the Funhouse for reasos that aren’t entirely clear. April goes on a killing spree of the townspeople. In the end, April is punished for her actions but we don’t learn her fate. Lead in to Book Three? It is nearly impossible to write a non-spoilery review for this book. Be warned that my take on the book will definitely spill some surprises. The book is still worth reading, however.
There are two things I liked about this book. First, none of the so-called good characters are saints. Second, these clowns are definitely a Tim Miller creation. There was also a major problem in the “Did this book make sense?” department, which I’ll discuss as part of my clown discussion (pardon the redundant language).
In these heavily violent stories you probably want at least one heroic, clearly “good” character to cheer for. Tim Miler isn’t going to give you that in Welcome to Happytown. April Kennedy is your heroine but her killing spree is anything but heroic. Kimberly is a sweetheart/pushover and look where that got her! Hint: Clowns can reproduce if they have a woman’s body to use as a vessel/incubator in a short amount of time (like, under an hour). Stacy was insignificant, which surprised this reader because she had been April’s best friend and rock. Todd? Well, Todd’s turning just goes to show that the bully always wins, even if “winning” is similar to losing. At least he got disfigured in the process, I guess. These characters don’t fit the traditional mold. That’s actually a good thing.
If you read my review of Dead to Writes (April Almighty Book One) then you knew I was uncomfortable with certain scenes. I didn’t mind the torture scenes or the cannibalism scenes, but the rape scenes were too much. The characters were completely innocent with no bad qualities that I could see. For all readers knew, they hadn’t even written negative reviews of a book (the reason the cannibal serial killers went on their revenge spree) in the first place. Welcome to Happytown had a different vibe, even where there was a very long, very weird rape scene of April’s friend Kimberly. I felt bad for Kimberly because, well, ewwwww! The entire atmosphere of the scene was different, however. I didn’t get the sense of injustice and true violation like I got from Dead to Writes. A part of me wonders if the author toned the scene down to be less “real” and another part of me wonders if I’ve come to expect a certain style from the author. More realistically, it seems like these characters being so flawed makes readers a little less sympathetic to them. I worry that this could be dehumanizing in some aspects (analyzing sexual assault in real life, for example), but for getting through Welcome to Happytown and appreciating the book for its fictional qualities, I can’t thank Mr. Tim Miller enough.
Now, let’s talk about the cannibal serial killer clowns. I have this craving for novels about evil clowns in general so it’s pretty much a given that I’ll read any novel dealing with evil clowns. Cannibal serial kiler clowns are the best type of clowns, I’ve decided. What’s interesting about Tim Miller’s clowns is that they’re a new type of entity. These aren’t clowns like what we’re familiar with, people wearing tacky make-up and horrible outfits. These clowns are entities that have always been clowns. According to the head clown Uncle Monkey, these entities have been around since Ancient Egypt and nobody, not even the clowns themselves, know exactly what they are. Todd and Stacy, when they become clowns, have to make a full-body change and forget their old identities because they’re no longer human. It’s convoluted but I, who always look for flaws in novels, didn’t question it too much. Props to Tim Miller for creating a new monster!
The only problem I have with the novel is that certain major aspects aren’t explained well but you’re supposed to accept them as if they are. For example, Kimberly giving birth to a clown later named Tiny Bubbles was just weird. The act of reproduction and giving birth was exactly like it is with humans except performed in about an hour and the clown offspring grows sort of in the uterus but explodes through the stomach, leaving behind a trail of female reproductive organs and innards. As horror fans we expect weird scenes like this, but I’m sure we also like some explanation. I have a few questions off the top of my head. Is this a normal method of clown reproduction? Is it normal for the baby clown to eat its mother/vessel’s organs after exploding out of her body? How exactly does all this occur in less than an hour? How are these clowns fertile if they’re non-human entities? Inquiring minds need to know, Mr. Miller!