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Something Wicked This Way Comes A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time A calliope s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained In this season of dying, Cooger Dark s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree show s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes and the stuff of nightmare. As I write it has been about a week since Ray Bradbury passed away, as you can expect for such an influential author, numerous tributes are being written by famous authors, celebs, columnists, and of course fans Instead of adding another drop to the ocean of tributes I would rather pay my own little tribute through rereading and reviewing my favorite Bradbury books This one is my favorite of them all Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of Bradbury s best known works Like Fahrenheit 451 this is a fully fledged novel rather than a collection of interconnected stories like The Martian Chronicles or Dandelion Wine If this was written recently it would probably be classified as YA Fortunately, it was first published in the 60s, so it escapes such unnecessary stigmata and was read far and wide by readers of all ages This is a story of two boys Will Halloway and his best friend Jim Nightshade How their lives are turned upside down when a mysterious carnival arrives in their Midwestern town and all hell proceed to break loose.From the 1983 film adaptationNovels centered around a friendship between two kids like Mark Twain s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn can be very wonderful if done well There is something about friendship at that young age when walking always seems too slow to get to where you want to go to do what you want to do, so you must always run If you have a bestie to run with better still the race is always on and winning it is unimportant Those days stay with you for the rest of your life even if the friend has gone his separate ways.Reading about Jim Nightshade and William Halloway makes me feel nostalgic and brings back a lot of happy childhood memories even though I did not have to battle creepy supernatural gentlemen from a dark carnival That said, the fantastical element of this book makes the story even vivid for me because that is how my mind works The book is written in simple yet evocative prose, there is a poetic rhythm to Bradbury s writing which is characteristic of him Practically every paragraph contains something quotable as an example of written elegance The book is also highly atmospheric, I love the portentous feeling of the impending arrival of the mysterious carnival I can almost hear the creepy calliope music described in the book.The characters are beautifully drawn, Will Halloway is intelligent and earnest without being a mere cipher for the readers, his friend Jim Nightshade is impulsive, impatient and loyal Will s father Mr Charles Halloway is a lovable melancholic janitor who finds grace under pressure Mr Dark AKA The Illustrated Man the villain of the piece is suitably suave, evil and formidable, his witchy henchwoman is even creepy than he is Beside a great story, there is plenty of food for thought, moral lessons and philosophical issues to ponder I envy the boys their friendship, I do not want to go on that weird merry go round, and I love this book from first page to last R.I.P Mr Bradbury Art by FictionChick Art by SharksDen Not to be confused with the eponymous The Illustrated Man from Bradbury s famous anthology.This would be my Halloween pick for any year.Notes If you like spooky circuses, check out The Night Circus If you type in GR s code for this book s title in a review or a comment, like this GR will generate a link to this identically titled Something Wicked This Way Comes by Jenika Snow, which looks like a godawful book I read this when I was an insanely romantic teenager and since then the cruel world has beaten all that nonsense out of my brain with bars of iron and wires of barb, and left me bleeding and barfing in a vile ditch, so I should probably not have plucked my old Corgi paperback of Something Wicked out from my most cobwebbed shelf and thought to wander nostalgically recapturing the wonder and enrapturement I once perceived herein In those faroff days I wanted to be the smile on the bullet, I wanted to be the weathervane, I wanted to run the dark carnival, and above all else I wanted a calliope so I could play mad twisting melodies at three in the morning from the caboose of a train made out of dead men s bones Instead I got a job in an office, after a few detours, none of which involved a naked living woman in a block of ice But anyway, when I did reread this book, I could not shake off the growing realisation that none of it made the least bit of sense Not a single bit And the dad is a complete steal it s Atticus Finch back from the dead And I saw that Ray Bradbury never met a pudding he did not want to over egg or an emotion he did not want to wring dry I had grown old I didn t recognise the place I didn t know who the boy was who loved this book so much I knew his name but I couldn t remember his face.It was a bad idea, rereading a book which so knocked me out all those years ago I ll give it 5 stars for the love I used to have for it, but I don t really recommend it to anyone now The world has changed and no longer has the stomach for Ray Bradbury s 1950s goldenhued renderings of his own 1920s childhood So goodbye, then, to Dandelion Wine, another one I loved What I learned from this book is that Memory Lane has been mined You walk down that street at your peril. Mark Twain famously died in 1910 and Ray Bradbury was born ten years later in 1920 And on that day, the shadow of Samuel Clemens touched a mark on the baby s head, and nearby the shade of Charles Dickens looked on in approval.Bradbury is the bridge to our past, our bright and strong and colorful past Twain s world was as bold as a young America, full of steamboats, and fishing holes and jumping frogs Bradbury, no less an American, but a resident of the October Country, revealed the long shadow of Twain s history, echoing away like a train whistle far gone As a citizen of Fall, Bradbury knows to beware the Autumn People and knows them and how to describe them.In Bradbury s October country tale Something Wicked This Way Comes, first published in 1962, Tom and Huck have become Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, one with a birthday a minute before midnight October 30th, the other born a minute after midnight, Halloween morning Injun Joe is Mr Dark, the illustrated man, the proprietor of the shadowy carnival that rolls into town every twenty or thirty years.Bradbury s rich poetic prose is what was described by Robin Williams in Dead Poet s Society, alive and Whitman like vibrant and descriptive with a swaggering electricity The author draws us in with his illustration of Green Town here a simile, like the sound of leaves racing down a late summer s sidewalk, there a metaphor, a witch s brew dark and murky, filled with spider webs and green frog smiles, and the color of a ghosts sigh.In Mr Dark, Bradbury has given us one of literature s great villains, but drawn by the Grandmaster with empathy born of long familiarity.One of the great stories from a great storyteller and a book that everyone should read. The Ray Bradbury I remember reading decades ago was not this poetic Something Wicked was a surprise, his evocative language doing so much to capture the mood of early fall and the seasons of life, both literally and metaphorically Clearly, he loves words in their many forms Equally clearly, he is gifted as using those words to create a finely layered tale about two thirteen year old boys when the carnival comes to town These boys are on the brink of change longing to be older, to do and be The father of one is a little bit lost in memory of what he once was, haunting their background and the library Change is in the wind, and a few unusual events in the town seem to herald a larger shift A lightening rod salesman comes to call the barber gets sick a found playbill describes a carnival coming to town The boys sneak out of their bedrooms to see it arrive, and it is with a mix of fascination and fear that they watch the carnival set up Danger ensues but is it the danger of growing up Or of fear Or something malevolent The language is a delightful mix of specificity and metaphor One year Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight both touched towards fourteen it almost trembled in their hands Each brief chapter is almost a poem, an image a scene described so perfectly as to catch that edge between reckless and safety, age and youth, mystery and knowing Threads of both exuberance and loss run through, and hints of change.And characters In brief sentences, he encapsulates the complexity of a life And the first boy, with hair as blond white as milk thistle, shut up one eye, tilted his head, and looked at the salesman with a single eye as open, bright and clear as a drop of summer rain Jim stood like a runner who has come a long way, fever in his mouth, hands open to receive any gift What was there about the illustrated carnival owner s silences that spoke thousands of violent, corrupt, and crippling words Bradbury s ability to uniquely characterize extends to the carnival, arriving at the dead time of 3 a.m., setting up in the dark For somehow instead, they both knew, the wires high flung on the poles were catching swift clouds, ripping them free from the wind in streamers which, stitched and sewn by some great monster shadow, made canvas and canvas as the tent took shape At last there was the clear water sound of vast flags blowing Then there is the added bonus of the library Clearly, Bradbury loves libraries and books, which guarantees affection in my books I know, I know the puns The library deeps lay waiting for them Out in the world, not much happened But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did Listen and you heard ten thousand people screaming so high only dogs feathered their earsThis was a factory of spices from far countries Here alien deserts slumbered Up front was the desk where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple stamped your books, but down off away were Tibet and Antarctica, the Congo How perfectly that meshes my own memory of the library During the second half of the book, the tone shifts and from that cusp of fall into the fear of winter, of death People change, quite drastically Will s father has been hearing the carnival s calliope as well, and feeling every one of his fifty some years in distance from his son Between the boys and the father, Charles Halloway, the viewpoint of the reader is identified, explored, honored Do we rush forward Gaze backwards Which way will we ride on the most sinister merry go round Its horsesspeared through their spines with brass javelins, hung contorted as in a death rictus, asking mercy with their fright colored eyes, seeking revenge with their panic colored teeth It s even surprising that a book first published in 1962 stands the test of time so well To my mind, nothing dated it Bradbury s thoughts on meaning of life, aging and fear are well worth reading again An amazing book that wholeheartedly deserves a second read and an addition to my own library.Cross posted at

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