This book reeks of Halloween. If you feel the need to experience something scary, at any age, this will fill that need. Ray Bradbury is an author I adore but have not read in a while. ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ calls you to read it and I don’t know how I escaped it’s siren song for so many years. It came recommended to me this year and I saved it for last for two reasons. One reason is it has been declared the epitome of Halloween by many people consistently for years. No one has shaken it from its pedestal. The second reason is I watched the 1983 Disney movie adaptation as a child and it scared me enough that it has visited me in multiple nightmares over the years.
‘Something Wicked This Way Comes” is Halloween approved. Beware of Halloween carnivals. The book includes Witches, illustrated men, mirror mazes that you may never come out of, and the taste and smell of autumn – the chill in the air and the crunch of leaves under foot.
Two thirteen year old boys, Will and Jim, are born a minute apart. These neighbors born on October 30th and on Halloween are different. One more timid than the other, one more risky than the other, one more fair-haired than the other, but they push each other in running faster, breaking windows, sneaking out of their houses, and into staying and spying on ‘Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show.’ This dark carnival showed up on the tails of flyers sneaking under doors, flying through the wind, and being pasted on poles by creatures that don’t seem human. Who would go to it? …Everyone. The danger of the carnival is in that it will give you what you desire, it will change your life, and do you want what you get in return? What is the dark side of what you want? Only Will and his father seem to fear this carnival. Jim is wary, but he is also entranced by it. Jim is the boy who must satisfy his curiosity, must go that much further, and must wait those few more seconds. Bradbury likens him to a dog, a dog that is solid and trustworthy but will periodically disappear only to show up a week or two later limping, injured and bruised. The dog always comes back, but it also has to leave even if it knows no good can come from it. Will doesn’t stray. He trusts his own judgement and doesn’t want to be older than he is, but he ends up in danger trying to keep his friend with him. Will feels the evil in the carnival, he knows he shouldn’t go near it, but as Jim gets pulled and enticed into its trappings Will gets pulled in too.
Ray Bradbury is a masterful writer. The language he uses to tell this tale is unique. The description and wording are both poetic and effective in immersing you in his world. It has to be read. I picked up two different audible versions of the book and neither were satisfactory. I got half way through the book when I told a good friend how disappointed I was. It couldn’t hold my attention. My friend was understandably shocked because we both love Bradbury. I wondered if I expected to much and if my childhood memory of the story had left such an imprint the real thing didn’t live up to it. It was at this point I abandoned the audio versions and picked up the actual book. It was an entirely different experience – to the point I thought the audible versions must have been poor abridged versions and I hadn’t caught it. It wasn’t the case they were both unabridged. The narrators, however, did not grasp Bradbury’s voice or cadence. This book is a work of art. I recognize that is a strong statement. I stand by it. If you decide to read this, however, you will need to actually read it to understand why it is loved so much.
Did it frighten me? …Oh yes, yes it did. I expect my nightmares to return full force. I can handle scary books, and maybe I wouldn’t have nightmares if I didn’t have twisted images of the Disney film to augment them…but I do. For those of you who didn’t watch the strange string of children’s movies that Disney created in the late seventies and early eighties you may not understand this statement. Disney is associated with fairly innocent cartoons. In the seventies and eighties they tried something different and produced ‘Watcher in the Woods.’ Any person I know who saw this film will say, to this day, it is one of the scariest movies they have ever seen and they will never forget it. The second scariest Disney movie is undoubtedly ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes.’ Both of these are terribly outdated and I’m sure those of you who love your scary movies might find them laughable now, but I challenge you to watch them through the eyes of a child. I think anyone who reads the book will enjoy at least a slight scare. I know I saw the movie as a child but I don’t know if I recommend those under the age of thirteen reading this or seeing the movie. If you have daredevil children who can handle a decent scare, not gore, but something supernaturally frightening I say go for it. This book will certainly get you in the Halloween spirit.