Friday, May 26, 2006

Book 36: Something Wicked This Way Comes

I had only read Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and I wasn't sold on the genius of Ray Bradbury.  It is hailed as a literary classic and there is merit to this, but quite a few literary classics don't really hold up as a pleasurable read...but then folks have different tastes and perspectives.  Then I came across Something Wicked This Way Comes, and honestly it was half title and have Bradbury that made me pick it up.  I love the title of the book, and the back of the mass market paperback has to be one of the single best book descriptions to hook a reader.  The book jacket read like a carnival barker trying to convince you of the wonders you will find inside the tent, or within these pages.  A carnival is exactly what has come to Green Town, Illinois.  Two eleven year old boys, Will and Jim, were born minutes apart.  Will was born a minute before midnight on October 30, Jim a minute after, October 31.  Light and Dark.  They are best friends and in the middle of the night, two weeks before Halloween, they hear a train whistle blow and music in the air.  They sneak out of their homes and discover a carnival being set up, except there is something dark and dangerous about this carnival coming in at three in the morning.  By daylight things look better, friendlier, but there is a darkness and a creepiness hiding behind every tree and every carnival ride.  Something is wrong.  How wrong?  I couldn't say without spoiling the surprise, but while there is the sense of the innocent to this book there is something truly wicked on the horizon. 
Had I read Something Wicked This Way Comes when I was around the age of the boys, or even a few years older, I would have absolutely loved this book.  It has that creepy vibe that works better when you are young and reading a scary story alone in a mostly dark room.  I have no doubt about this.  When I have children and if they want to read a creepy book when they are a little older, I'll recommend this one.  It is not at all filled with gore or excessive violence, but the imagery and what is occuring is the stuff of bad dreams.  Ray Bradbury is very effective in telling this story, building tension, and capturing the tone and perhaps essence of young boys.  This novel seems geared more to a younger (early teens, maybe pre-teen), but it is written with skill and craft, it isn't a low budget campy movie, it's a quality prestige piece that is accessible to a range of audiences. 
Still, I had difficulty being truly engaged all the way through.  It's a great campfire story, but reading it in the daylight and fifteen years later than I should have, Something Wicked This Way Comes just didn't completely click with me.  I can admire Bradbury's craft and imagination here, but I didn't love it like I would have fifteen years ago.  It's a very well written book for a younger reader, though readers of all ages can certainly still enjoy.  I certainly did. 

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