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Something Wicked This Way Comes Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1998
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About the Author
In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. An Emmy Award winner for his teleplay The Halloween Tree and an Academy Award nominee, he was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, among many honors.
- Publisher : Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (March 1, 1998)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0380729407
- ISBN-13 : 978-0380729401
- Item Weight : 5.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.19 x 0.76 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #343,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Taking place at some point in the 1930's (or 40s I'm guessing), the book tells the tale of two young teenagers named Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway; two boys born on the cusp of Halloween, who also happen to live next door to each other, and are best friends to the point of being like brothers to one another. But one fateful October, a mysterious carnival rolls into town....a circus that only truly comes alive at night, with enchanted magic acts and rides, including a mirror maze one can literally get lost in, and a carousel that can make someone grow older or younger depending on if they ride it forwards or backwards. Fearless and adventurous Jim is instantly enamored with this funhouse of horrors, while the more quiet and reserved Will remains cautious.....especially when it soon becomes clear that there's a sinister, evil force using the carnival as a way to harvest souls. But with the help of Will's father, Charles, these two friends might find a way to face their fears and save their souls....and learn what it truly means to live life to the fullest.
I can definitely see this story's influence on modern urban fantasy and horror. Many tropes that permeate throughout current horror movies all happen in this book. From a mysterious horrific force plaguing a small town community, to a group of teenagers trying to tell people about the monster(s) but no one will believe them, to the heroes doing some sort of historical research to figure out the mythology behind the urban legend, to figuring out some sort of clever loophole or trick to defeat the monster. Anyone who's a fan of slasher/monster/horror movies will probably be surprised to find that this book was one of the earliest examples of so many tropes we take for granted today.
Equally strong are the characters and the respective lessons they learn. I find it interesting how Jim and Will are polar opposites of each other, but get along so well to the point of being like brothers. Jim is headstrong and adventurous, but as such, he's the one most easily tempted by the carnival's false promises of making him an adult faster (via the age-changing carousel). But he eventually learns the hard way that even if he changed his age, he wouldn't be changed on the inside, and in real life, there are no shortcuts. And though Will is the far more well-behaved and cautious of the two, he very nearly gives in to his fears, and must learn how to be brave to save his friend. Even Will's father, Charles, goes through an arc---wishing that he were young again and to better connect to his son. But upon seeing how the evil carnival takes advantage of its victims' self-centered desires and ensnares them into becoming the circus' new freak show acts, Charles realizes that age doesn't matter if one focuses instead on the knowledge and affections gained with it.
Though, I'd argue that once Will's father gets more involved in the plot, he basically takes over the action and becomes the real main character. The book can be very slow moving at first; building in atmosphere and tension, but for me, the plot FINALLY kicked into high gear at the literal halfway mark once Mr. Halloway got swept up into the adventure and the trio finally buckled down to try and figure out the mystery behind the carnival and how to stop it. His speech to the boys about all the research he did, his theories about who Mr. Dark really is, and how to fight back against evil lasts a good three or four chapters and is easily my favorite part of the whole book.
My only real major problem is that the prose is TOO flowery. Make no mistake, Bradbury can sew together a scene like a tailor with clothes, and can describe emotions like no other--putting indescribable feelings into words.....but there comes a point where the descriptions become SO flowery and SO poetic that I had a hard time understanding what was even going on in a scene. (And I'm glad I'm not the only reviewer here who thinks so.) Oddly enough, I've read "The Martian Chronicles" and got through that just fine, so maybe Bradbury's writing style changed slightly over time? This probably just comes down to a matter of personal taste, but either way, if you're used to a more modern "to the point/workman style" way of reading and writing, be prepared to re-read some paragraphs two or three times.
In the end, this is a book that I respect more than I like. I recognize its status as a classic piece of literature, and any fan of the horror genre should give this a read through at least once. Just make sure you have a thesaurus and some patience.
Know what else I've found I enjoy? Books with strong mentors. Like, for example, To Kill A Mockingbird (Atticus)... and Dandelion Wine (every single one of Doug's older, wiser relatives)... and Peace Like A River (Jeremiah). In Something Wicked This Way Comes, Charles Halloway plays this role. His guidance helps Jim and Will to grow, and their willingness to let him guide them is imperative to Charles' development as well.
I think I could fairly easily write a ten-page essay about the complexities of Something Wicked -- the idea of good vs. evil, young vs. old, happy vs. sad, dark vs. light -- but I'm struggling to write a brief review. I love it too much to gloss over its depth and messages and awesomeness.
But know this: I do love it. I love it so, so much.
Top reviews from other countries
The key themes of the book were clear; the importance of the father figure in childhood, the constant battle to fight temptation and the transition from childhood to manhood as the boys lose their innocence. The book was extremely vivid in its imagery and tone and was immensely pleasurable to read. Although we did not find the novel scary, it had chilling moments of brilliance especially when the chase began. In one chapter, for example, a battle plays out on top of a house between one of the boys and a gypsy fortune –teller called the ‘Dust Witch’. Despite her eyes being sewn shut, she travels by balloon in the darkness and can smell the boys out by the waving of her arms and her incantations. This was really, really thrilling to read.
The ending of the novel may seem a little contrived to some particularly as their greatest strength is discovered unwittingly, but the message was strong; good magic harbours in all of us especially in our ability to laugh and heal. This brings us closer together and enables us to fight those who wish to do us harm.
Our score: 8/10
by Ray Bradbury
We're back in Green Town, Illinois again. If you enjoyed Dandelion Wine, then you'll enjoy a return visit.
Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are turning fourteen. They're lifelong best buds who grew up next door from each other. They go everywhere together, including shinning down a makeshift ladder in the middle of the night to explore the graveyard, the lake, the rail tracks. If there's a place two lads in small-town America would want to explore, you can bet Will and Jim will have been there. The two boys are also united by being born only minutes apart on either side of midnight from 30 October to Halloween. But they're also as different as chalk and cheese, as Will's dad knows:
"That's Jim, all breathless and itchweed.
And Will? Why, he's the last peach, high on a summer tree."
A week before Halloween, when the boys are already excited enough with their birthdays and Trick or Treat just around the corner, a travelling carnival pulls into town. As Will's mother says, it's too late in the year for a carnival but Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show is pitching its tent on the great inland sea of grass all the same. The carnival just sits there waiting for its audience to come"
"But only the moon looked in at the hollow dark, the deep caverns. Outside, night beasts hung in midgallop on a carousel. Beyond lay fathoms of Mirror Maze which housed a multifold series of empty vanities one wave on another, still, serene, silvered with age, white with time. Any shadow, at the entrance, might stir reverberations the colour of fright, unravel deep-buried moons."
Cooger and Dark's carousel calliope pipes the Funeral March backwards. It isn't long before the boys uncover their dark secret. But does anyone in authority ever listen to teenage boys? Heck, no!
"'Said?' The Illustrated Man barked a laugh. The freaks leaped in a frolic of shock, then calmed as the carnival owner continued with great ease, patting and soothing his own illustrations, which somehow patted and soothed the freaks. 'Said? But what did he see? Boys always scare themselves at sideshows, eh? Run like rabbits when the freaks pop out. But tonight, especially tonight!'"
Like all best yarns, this one is based on a real childhood encounter. The realism of the carnival and its performers is very powerful. We all know what it is to tremble with fear of them. Evil is out there, beyond the town limits, and none of us know when it could cross them and come rolling in to pitch its tents in the very heart of our community. But the strength of this novel lies in the light as much as the darkness. In the gentler portrait of father and son, and of the lifelong friendship of two boys next door who've known each other all their lives. A father who, though old, still truly understand what it is to be young. And a friend who'll always be there for you. Neither are to be taken for granted and both deserve the sincerity of the homage this novel provides.
This story is a living, breathing phenomenon full of motion, awe, and dread. The sheer quality of the writing ensures that. It subtly (and very successfully) taunts the characters by distracting them with their own insecurities before pouncing and taking what it wants.
Fear creeps on tiptoes leaving behind it a whisper here, a draught there, to test the opinion they have of themselves and each other. But a few illuminating expressions from an unexpected source attempts to give them guidance and hopefully steer them in the right direction:
“Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”
I purchased this book on a complete whim thinking I might like it, only to find that I loved it. This is not just a good book, it’s a GREAT book.
Something Wicked This Way Comes has been on my 'to read' list for a while. Finally got round to it after Stephen King sung its praises in Danse Macabre, his history of the horror genre. Ray Bradbury spent five years writing the book based on an early childhood experience of a carousel ride when aged four that terrified him. That was combined with him going backstage at a carnival a few years later where the carnival owner was adamant the young Ray was the reincarnation of a man he knew who'd been killed during the first world war.
Two young boys are awake at night when a strange carnival rolls into town, run by Cooger and Dark. They spy Cooger riding backward on the carousel, each turn making him one year younger. Accidentally sending him the other way, they send him speeding to an ancient age, setting off a terrifying chase through town as Dark and his carny folk try to exact revenge on the two boys for what pretty much killing their boss.
The tension during the hide and seek in the library is a masterclass in writing. The character of Dark is wonderfully evil and he stays with you long after the book's over. The ending is superb, and although the language is flowery and indulgent at times, the core story idea and the way it unfolds is wonderfully macabre.
You can really see the influence on It, from strange carnival folk to a small town library and a very creepy mirror maze. The boys hide in a grate under the pavement, looking out at the street. There's also the fact the carnival comes back every 20 years and the people running it have done so for maybe thousands of years. cough Pennywise cough. I can also see an influence on Cirque Du Freak, the Darren Shan vampire series.
Well worth reading if you're a horror fan and poignant too for reminding you that childhood is gone for a reason, wishing you could get it back might not be as pleasant as you thought.