Sunday, January 9, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury
Spectra (January 1, 1983)
4/5 stars

I came late to reading Ray Bradbury; it has only been in the past few months that I began to read his works. He had always been on my list of "I really SHOULD read" authors, but for one reason or another, kept being pushed aside in favor of others. Now that I have finally discovered him, if you will, I am well and truly a devoted fan and hating the wasted years!

Something Wicked This Way Comes is chilling, intense tale of two teen-aged friends, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, and a mysterious carnival. They are the only two people in the town, initially, that can see that something is not right with Mr. Dark and the sideshow freaks.

Bradbury gives such life to his main characters, Jim and Will and Will's Dad. It is with horror and total understanding that the reader watches as Jim is nearly seduced by the carnival's promises. As an older reader, it was easy to feel the sadness and sense of loss being experienced by Mr. Halloway. Will, so likable, so naive, is the least believable only because he is so true in his goodness; and yet, I truly couldn't find fault with Will's character as such because his emotions were portrayed so well. Emotions were captured with wonderful clarity in this book, and are it's strongest feature.

The language used by Bradbury in this book borders on poetry. I was continually struck by the beauty of a phrase, by an unusually accurate description or by a passage that simply begged to be read aloud. I was amazed at how beautifully he used the words, and how the words themselves added to the surreal feel of the story.

As a story, this was a tense, spine-chilling fairy tale, or urban fantasy (if I can use that term to describe a country story). I found I needed breaks after a few chapters, so suspenseful was the experience for me. It's not necessarily horrifying or frightening, but the level of anxiety that the characters were undergoing expressed itself to me as reader. The evil was sometimes over the top evil, again in a fairy tale way, and the actions and reactions didn't necessarily make sense, but one doesn't look for normal everyday reactions in such a surreal dark fantasy. The message of good triumphing over evil, while not particularly heavy handed, is rather painfully obvious, which was off-putting at times.

I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending, with the particular way that good triumphed evil. It just didn't fit the build up and felt a bit forced, as if Mr. Bradbury didn't have the ended planned out and had to come up with one in a hurry. While still surreal, and still requiring serious decisions by the characters, it fell too neatly into place and at the same time left several unresolved issues.

Despite any complaints I have, it is certainly a good read, and I can see it's influence on many other authors I read, but it's not as strong of a book as is, say, Fahrenheit 451.

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