When a man named Lewis rents a vacation house on Long Island for a few days, he doesn't expect to end up on a crazy circus train ride to nowhere.
His one night in the house, he burns it down. Then he meets charismatic Joseph Dillon, manager of the Circus of the Grand Design. Knowing he needs to leave the area in a hurry, Lewis agrees to join the circus as a publicist, despite Dillon's warning that he might not be able to return to the place he began. The circus's private train travels an infinite dream-loop to unknown lands, and Lewis becomes lost amongst crazy acrobats, sexy elephant riders, a magical mechanical horse, a giant woman and her savage, prehistoric rodent bears, an egotistical juggler, and . . . a fertility goddess who takes exceptional interest in him.
The train, its residents, and the places they visit form a complex puzzle that Lewis feels compelled to solve.
Praise for Robert Freeman Wexler
"Robert Wexler is an author who walks between the sea and the sand. He has a genius for configuring the state between waking and dreaming, and the delicious anxiety of never confirming which of these states presides. It's a superb trick, used to brilliant effect in Circus Of The Grand Design."
— Graham Joyce
"Circus of the Grand Design belongs up there with Nathanael West's The Dream Life of Balso Snell and Robert Silverberg's Son of Man. A swell, almost-hallucinated novel that moves with a logic all its own."
— Howard Waldrop
"Robert Wexler works without a net in The Circus of the Grand Design. Smooth writing, a vibrant vision, and beautifully rendered characters makes this show well worth the price of admission."
— Jeffrey Ford
"Springdale is the kind of pocket universe it is dangerous to visit, as strangers are likely either to be absorbed into the story of the place, or repudiated, perhaps fatally."
— John Clute
"A surreal tale of identity confusion that's worthy of Gene Wolfe . . . As his first major publication, this marks him as a writer to watch."
— Paul Di Filippo, Asimov's