Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl is a book set in 19th century America about a failed Civil War surgeon who has since become a snake-oil salesman and quack doctor. Dr Potter is part of company of travelling salesmen, circus performers and fortune tellers, selling a special elixir said to cure all manner of ills. However, the Sagwa elixir has some sinister side-effects.
Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show is structured in 3 parts, so I’m going to structure my review into 3 parts.
Part One: The Medicine Show
The characterisation of Dr. Potter as a fraudulent doctor was immediately apparent, which was good. However, the reader is not given much time familiarising themselves with Dr. Potter before lots of other characters are swiftly introduced. I felt that more characters were added to the beginning of the story than was necessary. Subsequently, it was difficult to remember each character’s individual personality and role within the group. This worked to the book’s detriment as it meant Dr. Potter didn’t wholly stand out as the main character. The story developed fairly slowly; some parts of the narrative made complete sense but other parts I found somewhat confusing to understand.
Part Two: The Great Work
By the second part of the novel, the story was more coherent and I could clearly distinguish between characters and follow different narrative strands. I liked the overarching themes of body-snatching / body invasion, alchemy and medicine in the book, and I think the book’s genre is an interesting combination of horror, science fiction and historical fantasy. I also enjoyed reading about the secrets of different characters’ backgrounds, which were revealed through flashbacks. However, I still think there may be too many characters involved in the overall story.
Part Three: The Stone
I liked the final third of the book the most, even though there is a small printing error, as it is labelled Part 2 instead of Part 3. There was much more action, gore, character interaction, and exciting supernatural moments. The story seemed to make much more sense, and the writing was easier to follow too. The antagonist is desperately searching for a stone that seemingly grants immortality (is it an irony there is a stone which provides immortality and one of the characters is also called Potter?), experimenting on unwilling victims until he has the right scientific formula, and he must be stopped at all costs. Because of these scenes, it was apparent Fischl has done some detailed research into alchemy, medicine and how scientific experiments were conducted in 19th century America, which I found interesting.
Whilst I did enjoy reading this book, for me, it took a while for the story to get going. As a side note however, I really like the cover design.
Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show is available to buy as an e-book directly from Angry Robot Publishing. Many thanks to Angry Robot Publishing for providing me with a free copy!
Star Rating: 3/5 Stars