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Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Friday, October 3, 2014

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury

Genre: FantasyHorror
Paperback: 263 Pages
Publication: 2008 (originally 1962)
by Gollancz

It's the week before Hallowe'en, and Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois. The siren song of the calliope entices all with promises of youth regained and dreams fulfilled... And as two boys trembling on the brink of manhood set out to explore the mysteries of the dark carnival's smoke, mazes and mirrors, they will also discover the true price of innermost wishes...


October is one of my favorite months of the year (Halloween being my favorite holiday), so I figured this book would be a great way to start off the month. This was my first time reading a Ray Bradbury novel, and needless to say, I was amazed.

I absolutely loved our protagonists, lifelong best friends Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. They serve as wonderful complements to each other, Jim being the brash one of the duo while Will is more passive. What makes them so relatable is the fact that they're at an interesting point in their lives, a few days before turning fourteen. As I once heard in sixth grade, they're at the age where they're too old to play with toy cars and too young to play with real ones. Being at this point in their lives is what makes them the most vulnerable to what the newly arrived carnival has to offer. Their conflicted feelings about the carnival and the questions that come up concerning their friendship serve to test the relationship between the boys and highlight their differences.

Another thing I really loved was the contrast between the two boys and Will's father. Just as the boys serve as foils to each other, so does Mr. Halloway serve as a foil to the two of them. Where the boys have opposing personalities, Mr. Halloway is their opposite age-wise; he states that he is fifty-four, and often feels that he is too old to be the father of a teenage boy Will's age. When the carnival rolls into town and Mr. Dark tells him what it has to offer, Mr. Halloway becomes part of the conflict Jim and Will are already a part of, leaving Will in a position where he has to save not just his best friend, but also his father. This leads Will to becoming more active in the story, thus providing him with great growth as a character.

Every great horror story should have a great antagonist, and Mr. Dark, the proprietor of the carnival, is a great antagonist. Though there are other characters featured in the carnival, particularly Mr. Dark's partner Mr. Cooger and the Dust Witch, he is the one who interacts the most with the protagonists. I think what's most scary about him is the fact that we don't know anything about him, other than that he is the owner of the carnival and a member of the freak show. Just like the mist from the Stephen King novella of the same name, this lack of information about Mr. Dark just makes him a great boogie man, an idea that comes up within the story. How do you fight something you know nothing about?

The only Bradbury work I had read prior to this book was the short story "The Veldt." Just like in the story, this novel had great suspenseful moments. Though most of these involved Mr. Dark, many of them revolved around the carnival itself, specifically the carousel. Even though we also get moments in the freak show and house of mirrors, the carousel itself is pretty much the centerpiece of the whole carnival and the thing that causes the most friction between Will and Jim. Again, Mr. Dark is characterized as an amazing monster, and the eerie details given about the carnival just make you feel really tense whenever the protagonists are there.

A slight problem I had with this book was the prose. Before anyone jumps on me, let me say that the prose in general was really great, but there were a few moments when it got a little dense, But besides these moments, the rest of it is really, really well done. The characters were painted well, and I especially loved all of the details paid to Mr. Dark and the carousel. I still find it amazing that there isn't a huge horror franchise revolving around a spooky carnival, but if one were to come up at some point, it should definitely take a few pointers from the portrayal of Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show.

Ray Bradbury himself once said that life is too serious to be taken seriously, and that idea is reflected in this book. The way to defeat the horrors of the carnival is so simple, so outrageously simple, that it almost makes sense. The whole temptation that the carnival offers is the ability to shed or gain years, to get a head start or go back and start over, but at an incredibly high cost (this revelation also increases the scariness of Mr. Dark). It raises what I think would be a great topic for discussion, which would be the question of what would you do to grow up faster or relive the glory years, and could the price the carnival asks be considered too much?

This novel has a great message that I think a lot of people can relate to. It would be a great read for teenagers, since they can relate to the fact that adolescence is a crazy and confusing time, just as it is for Jim and Will. But I also think this is a great read for adults, especially when viewed from the perspective of Mr. Halloway. The prose is very good for the most part, the descriptions were well done, the scares well executed, and the characters were overall incredibly well developed and a pleasure to see, protagonists and antagonists alike. I highly recommend you add this book to your collection. We may be a few days in already, but Happy October, readers. The wicked time of the year is upon us.

Rating: 5 stars

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3 comments on "Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury"
  1. I'm glad to see you liked this book, it's one of my favorites!

    1. I'm glad my aunt recommended it! Makes me excited for my next Bradbury review.

  2. Really,this is a great and interesting book.Thank you so much for sharing with us.
    best seller


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