Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I reread this book for my book club, as it was this month's very apt pick. I first read it when I was a freshman in high school, so I remembered only the most distinct images and themes. It was a pleasure to reread as an adult.
On a dark night in October, at precisely 3 AM, the carnival comes to Green Town, Illinois. Two boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, watch its magical arrival, but find the next day that it looks as ordinary as any traveling show, but for the mirror maze. The boys return at night to find it's as sinister as they remember, to Will's horror and Jim's delight. They enlist Will's father, Charles Halloway, to help them escape its clutches. Halloway has to confront his own mortality, which, at 54, he feels nipping at his heels.
It's a quick read. The mystery draws you in swiftly, and the chapters are short. It's easy to keep turning pages, thinking, one more chapter, until there's nothing left. The language can get bogged down in places, but it still rolls along at a nice clip. Bradbury needn't have waxed so poetic about libraries and their contents, for instance, but that might be my favorite passage in the whole book.
Though the story is told mostly from the boys' perspective, Halloway is the true hero of the story. He's the one who finds the antidote to the fear the carnival sows, who gives Will the answer for saving his friend. The fears the carnival inspires are most horrific to Halloway, who has to overcome the most to confront them.
The book will resonate most with older readers, but can still be enjoyed by younger ones as a chilling tale. There's a lot of depth and subtlety that would be lost on too young a reader, and it may be too scary for some.
Something Wicked This Way Comes was adapted into a movie by Disney, back in their creepy as heck phase in the 80's, between The Watcher in the Woods and Return to Oz. I'll have to rewatch it, to see if it holds up half as well as the book to my childhood experience.
I'll just make sure I watch it during the day, in case it does.
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