It’s time for a reading challenge entry again! It is amazing how much faster I am going through these when I actually enjoy the books. Today I’m discussing Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, first published in 1962. This one definitely caught me off guard, but in a good way.
I was not prepared for this book.
I had some vague recollections of the plot from the movie, which I hadn’t seen in decades. I remember liking it as a kid but I don’t know how well it would hold up now. Especially after reading the source material. I’ve read my share of creepy and horror novels, from classics like Lovecraft, staples like King, to more current offerings. I’m by no means an expert, or even an enthusiast, really, but I figured I’d seen enough to know how I feel about them, and how they make me feel. But while zombies still give me nightmares and clowns are freaky no matter what the context, nothing I had read before really prepared me for the unsettling creepiness of this book. I think it is largely because it reads like a poem that reads like a story. Bradbury isn’t just telling a tale, he’s excavating it out of some dark secret place in the earth and weaving it with the nightmare dust from your subconscious. It is on an entirely different level from his work in The Illustrated Man. Regardless of the plot or the characters, the feeling evoked by reading this book was a strong enough experience for me that it justified its placement on this “Top 100″ list.
The story follows two kids, Jim and Will, as a creepy carnival rolls into their mid-western town in the middle of the night. They eventually discover that there’s something rotten with the hall of mirrors and the carousel and the freak show. As they start to uncover what is going on, the carnival becomes aware of them, and starts trying to distract them, entice them, and eventually stop them from disrupting their plans. If that sounds slightly cliched it’s probably because so many other authors have paid tribute to this book over the years.
I’m going to avoid more details because I would honestly suggest you just read it if you are interested at all. This book is about the nature of friendship and fear and age and death. It is about why we believe some things and not others. And it is about how there’s no better response to the inevitability of time and death than to get on with life, laugh and keep laughing and steal joy where you can. I fully recognize that this book might not resonate with everyone the way it did with me, but I still highly recommend it.
TL;DR: A fantastic tale of good and evil and a creepy carnival, that shines because of the writing and the mood at least as much as the story.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Rating: 5/5 stars
Next up: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin