Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Something Wicked This Way Comes is a dark fantasy tale of the upheaval that a strange carnival of souls causes when they arrive in a small, unnamed town. It delves into heavy themes of regret, longing for lost years, and the desire for maturity and escape from one's lot in the world. You see, the Carnival, ran by Coogar and Dark, feeds on all the wretched, negative emotions that the humans they prey on exude. They will find much sustenance in this Midwestern town.
Our main characters in this story are two 13 year-old boys, Jim and Will. They have been friends forever, but their friendship will be tried as Jim finds it increasingly difficult to resist the allure of the carnival and the sinister offer it can make its visitor. And their lives are put in jeopardy when they stumble on the very real threat that its merry go round poses.
I liked the lessons in this story, about the importance of treasuring the now, instead of longing futilely for the past or the future. Jim's father, Charles Halloway is a man in his 50s who is feeling his age deeply. He married slightly older than most, when he was 39, and his wife seems to be a bit younger than he, and is content in ways he is not. Mr. Halloway longs for lost youth. In contrast, Jim longs to be older, so he can escape from his single mother's clinging, stifling embrace. Both will have to face their hollow desires head on if they want to survive the threat of the carnival.
Other lessons that this story teaches of are loyalty, and the strong, powerful bonds of family and friendship. The first plays out through Jim and Will's enduring friendship, their intense bond, which helps to protect them and gives them the ability to fight the malevolence of Mr. Dark. With the second, we see the boys rely on Will's father, a seemingly unlikely hero, for their protection. I appreciated that although Halloway might seem like a frail knight in shining armor, he shows true heroism and fortitude against Dark. By means of his bookish ways and his thoughtful personality, he discovers and exploits the fatal flaw that Dark and his sinister folk hold close to their dark hearts.
Unfortunately, I didn't find listening to this story as good an experience as I would have hoped for. It felt a little bit overwritten for an audiobook read. There was excessive use of imagery, similie and metaphor for my tastes. Normally, I love the use of these literary devices, albeit a bit more sparingly. Since I am a very moody reader, it could have been that I just wasn't in the right frame of mind when I listened. But I found the extended descriptions that didn't seem to further the plot as expediently as I hoped, rather tedious.
That is not to say that I didn't like some aspects. Bradbury uses words beautifully, spurring the imagination fruitfully. I just wished that the story was a bit more straightforward. I have the feeling that this book would read a lot better than it served as a listening experience. I do think this story is a nice way to start out the fall season, to get a reader ready for Halloween and the spooky month of October. There were some spooky moments, and the evil of Dark, Coogar, and the Dust Witch give this story a very sinister vibe. Also, its look at the darker aspects of very human nature. I appreciated it from that standpoint. As I mentioned earlier in this review, the message is very good. As a person who sometimes feels her age deeply, I can appreciate Bradbury's gentle warning that humans can put too much stock in how old and how young they are and lose out on enjoying and experiencing every day, the Now. I needed that reminder. So that's for the good with this story.
I am and always will be a reader who enjoys and admires Ray Bradbury. He inspires me as a writer. I think he has a very good imagination and quite a way with words and phrases. I just know now that I should save him for when I'm in the mood for that expansive, flowery language, and a story that relies heavily on allusion and imagery, instead of concise storytelling. Also, I think my yen for the short story medium is very much appeased by his type of writing, so I am glad that I do have several of his short story volumes to read in my book collection. I will definitely attempt to read another one of his novels one day. Maybe not on audio, though.
My recommendation: Don't read this on audio if you don't care for expansive description and flowery language. This a book best experienced on paper.
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