Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Ray Bradbury

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are young boys, aged thirteen years old, and ready for some new experiences. Will is more cautious, Jim is willing to take chances. When a carnival arrives in town after midnight, they escape from their bedrooms and watch it being set up. They gradually see the evil in the carnival that can change people and transform them into unrecognizable versions of themselves. 

The carnival that threatens the town is Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, and the main antagonist is Mr. Dark, or the Illustrated Man, who can control the freaks in the carnival via his tattoos. He works in league with the Dust Witch, and their goal is to gather more souls to power the carnival. And the carnival has an especially scary merry-go-round that can add or take away years from a person's life.

Will's dad, Mr. Charles Halloway, is a quiet and melancholic man. On this occasion he steps up and helps the boys and the town out of a very scary situation. 




My Thoughts...

The set up of the situation in the first half of this book did not hold my interest. It was too poetic and too drawn out. At the middle point as the situation turns from bad to worse and Mr. Halloway is alerted to the problem, I got more interested and the story finally pulled me in. However, I never did get fully immersed and sense the horror of the situation.

I liked the themes of childhood, aging, parenthood. Although books are not a big part of the story, scenes set at the library where Will's dad works are prominent in the story.

This is my husband's book and he loves it. The gorgeous, poetic descriptions work very well for him. He especially likes the small town setting in autumn.


What I learned from reading this: I should have started with another novel or a book of short stories from Bradbury's works. In a Reading Pathways article for Bradbury works, Something Wicked this Way Comes was the last book on the list due to its difficulty and complexity. The first book on the list was The Halloween Tree, a children's book by Bradbury, which I read and reviewed three years ago. It was also more on the poetic side but a lovely children's story. Many years ago I read Fahrenheit 451, but I have forgotten much about it and plan to reread it. 


Next year maybe I will try some of Bradbury's short stories, such as The October Country (suggested by Rick Robinson at Tip the Wink) or The Martian Chronicles.


Another good read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).





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Publisher:  William Morrow, 2001. Orig. pub. 1962.
Length:     289 pages
Format:     Hardcover
Setting:     Illinois
Genre:      Fantasy / Horror
Source:     Borrowed from my husband.



24 comments:

FictionFan said...

I loved The Martian Chronicles but have struggled with some of Bradbury's other stuff, although I'm not a fantasy fan so am quite prepared to go with the "it's not him, it's me" line. I also read Fahrenheit 451 long ago, and seem to remember thinking it was a great premise but not admiring the execution quite so much. I'll be interested to hear what you think of it if you do re-read it sometime.

dfordoom said...

I'm not a Bradbury fan at all but oddly enough I really really liked Something Wicked This Way Comes. I find Bradbury a bit sentimental but in this book his sentimentality works in his favour.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have the sense we read this in school but it seems unlikely. Maybe it was 451.

Cath said...

I've read Fahrenheit 451 but like you remember very little about it. I also think I've read Something Wicked but it may be some other 'carnival comes to town' book because there are a few of them. (Didn't Stephen King write one?) I really ought to return to Bradbury's short stories and books though because I think I was a teenager or in my twenties when I read something by him.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I felt like Bradbury was overindulging himself in his writing in this book, but that is his right and many readers love it. I also did not realize that so much of his output was short stories. I want to read much more by him.

I have Fahrenheit 451 on my classics list so I will definitely be reading it "soon."

TracyK said...

Dfordoom, I feel like my reaction to this book could be different at different times in my life.

I have read a few of his short stories and some I have liked, some not. I plan to try more. My husband got a book of his short stories at a recent book sale, and I have one book of his short stories that I haven't read and there are plenty others out there.

Sam Sattler said...

I read this one in what now seems like another lifetime...it's been that long ago...and I don't remember a whole lot about it other than that it didn't turn out to be one of my favorite Ray Bradbury books. I highly recommend "The Martian Chronicles" as your next Bradbury real. I remember liking that one a lot and tore right through it.

TracyK said...

Patti, I would have loved to have read this in a class (or even with a book group) to get other opinions. And interpretations.

TracyK said...

Cath, I googled "carnival books" and there sure are a lot of them. I would love to find some and read a few more.

I did find a carnival book by Stephen King called Joyland. The description says "set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park." I did not realize it had that type of setting. I would like to find that one.

I have a book by James P Blaylock titled Land of Dreams, published in the late 1980s, that is set in a northern California coastal village when a carnival comes to town. I bought it for the cover and I don't know why I have not read it yet.

TracyK said...

Sam, thanks for the recommendation of The Martian Chronicles. It does seem like the kind of stories I would enjoy. The good thing about books by Bradbury is that you can easily find copies, depending on the price you want to pay.

He also has written three mysteries (a series I think), and I have read the first one of those. And my husband just got the 2nd one at the book sale so I will be reading that one -- soonish.

Lark said...

I'm like your husband; I love this book. It and Dandelion Wine are my two favorite Bradbury novels. :)

Rick Robinson said...

Thanks for the name check. If you found the early part of this one too gentle, even boring, then I certainly can’t recommend my favorite Bradbury novel, Dandelion Wine. It’s not science fiction or horror or genre at all, just about a boy growing up in a small town. So, yes, if you want to read more, I guess it would be the short stories.

TracyK said...

Ah, Lark, thanks for mentioning Dandelion Wine. I had forgotten I have a copy of that ... with a lovely cover. It is mass marker paperback so probably small print. But I do intend to try that one too.

TracyK said...

Rick, As I said to Lark, I do have a copy of Dandelion Wine, although it had slipped my mind. You might be right, it might be too much like Something Wicked This Way Comes, and thanks for the warning. But I will give it a try anyway.

Looking at some summaries of Dandelion Wine, I see that it is set in the same place as Something Wicked -- Green Town, Illinois. And Goodreads considers it a part of a series of several books set in that town. That is interesting too.

Carol said...


I didn't love this one either. At some point, I found that I just didn't care anymore. I finished it but wished I hadn't been listening to it on audio, in print I could have skimmed through passages.

Margot Kinberg said...

Sorry you didn't like this more than you did, Tracy. But I agree that it's not at all Bradbury at his best. I think he did much better work in other collections, if I'm being honest.

TracyK said...

Carol, I still haven't tried any audio books but I can see where this story would not work well that way unless you really liked it.

TracyK said...

Margot, I really need to try more Bradbury and of different types. Some of the books and short story collections mentioned here will be a good start.

col2910 said...

I can dimly remember enjoying this and some others from Bradbury in the long distant past, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine and some of his story collections. I have bought some of his 'mystery' novels to enjoy some day.

TracyK said...

Col, I have only read a few of Bradbury's short stories, so I look forward to trying some of those. And reading the next book in his brief mystery series.

Todd Mason said...

If you read Bradbury's short fiction, particularly his early horror fiction, you'll come across a story called "The Black Ferris" that is the partial root of this novel, and rather better, even if RB's self-indulgence in prose was already in evidence from time to time that early in his career. I tend to see him as being a more prolix student of Theodore Sturgeon, who usually did similar work earlier and for the most part better throughout his career, which started about five years earlier than Bradbury's...but Sturgeon being somewhat less a sentimentalist helped make sure he was never as much a commercial success. (Sturgeon is the primary model for the character Kilgore Trout, as the name itself makes rather clear, in Kurt Vonnegut's novels, another writer who took some lessons from Sturgeon, including some on how Not to conduct one's career.) I just read a Hallowe'en story by Bradbury, early this year, call "Time in Thy Flight", in which children from the future find their way back to the 1930s Midwest to enjoy all the Fun kids were having in the Depression...particularly orphaned kids, as these time-travelers would end up being. Yikes. But particularly in his early work, such as "Skeleton", and some of his later, he had a sure hand for a particular sort of grotesquerie, and some fine imagery. I still like Sturgeon at his best much better...but I certainly read Bradbury cheerfully when I was ten, and will still give his fiction a try as I come across it. He, however, was a terrible poet for much of his later years.

TracyK said...

Todd, I don't remember reading any of Bradbury's short fiction but I may have in my late teens, early twenties. I do remember reading stories by Sturgeon and Silverberg at that time. But not any details of what I read.

Todd Mason said...

If you'd like a single, relatively slim reintroduction to Sturgeon (as opposed to the multi-volume COLLECTED STORIES), I'd recommend E PLURIBUS UNICORN, which includes one of his cf/western stories along with a nice range of his fantasy, horror and sf. And it was repeatedly (and deservedly) reprinted, so is pretty widely on the market, if indeed your husband doesn't have a copy. My first novel by Silverberg was and is fine early work by him, with a cf angle, HAWKSBILL STATION (there's a novella version it was deftly expanded from, as well).

TracyK said...

Thanks for these suggestions, Todd. I will see if I can find copies of E Pluribus Unicorn for sure.