I haven't read Bradbury since High School. And for some reason, my memory of his writing is pretty sketchy. Maybe it has something to do with all the brain cells I probably killed off in college. Or maybe I just didn't appreciate it back then. It's probably the brain cell thing, though. But whatever the reason, I don't think I will soon forget reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (293 pgs, Avon, 1962).
One strange wild dark year, Halloween came early. One year, Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight.
For two young boys, the appearance of a mysterious carnival in town in October, was amazing. Green Town, Illinois, was normally such a boring place to live. But on a windswept October evening, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show steals into town under the cover of darkness and changes their lives forever.
Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade were almost 14. They were next door neighbors and the best of friends. Born 2 minutes apart, one of them at 1 minute till midnight on October 30th, and the other 1 minute after, on Halloween night. They were the perfect companions: opposite sides of the coin, so to speak. Will was the light side, and Jim definitely the dark side. And yet, they complimented each other perfectly.
On that fateful October night, a Lightning Rod salesman stops by the boys' homes looking to sell his wares. Foretelling a great storm on the horizon, the salesman says that one of their homes is going to be hit by it. He can feel it in his bones. So he leaves a lightning rod for Jim, telling him that he needs it on his roof for protection.
Little did the boys know that the storm that was coming was by way of the Cooger & Dark show......
This book, written oh so many years ago, is a classic for many reasons. Named from the infamous Shakespearean line from Macbeth: By the Pricking of my Thumbs, Something Wicked This way Comes, this book is basically your good vs. evil story personified. And yet, there is so much more to it than just that. On the "good" side, we find Jim, Will, and Will's father, Charles Halloway. Charles and Will were never close. Charles feels he is too old to be a father. In fact, he was over 40 when Will was born. But when Will and Jim find themselves in deep trouble, Charles steps up and fast becomes the hero he was always meant to be. Ordinary people....taking on extraordinary beings.
On the "evil" side, is Mr, Dark, and his band of freaks from the carnival. G. M. Dark is the "Illustrated" man, carrying a tattoo of each person whose soul he has taken for the Carnival. But, as always, the side of evil offers up something that everyone wants: A chance to change their age. The temptation of being older is an incredible pull for young boys. As is the chance to be young again for anyone middle aged. And temptation is the name of the game in this book.
One scene that left me literally with chills up my spine, was one in which the Carnival people were looking for the boys. As Mr. Dark encounters Charles Halloway for the first time, he questions him about knowing 2 boys in town. On the palm of each hand is a picture of the boys, tattooed there....souls he is trying to steal. For some reason, that image, of the tattooed pictures on his hands, just left me cold. That's the way this book is. Nothing bloody or gory. And yet, so incredibly frightening. The power of suggestion is a amazing tool, and Bradbury uses it liberally throughout this book.
And Bradbury's writing is something to behold. It is lyrical and almost hypnotic. One paragraph that caught my attention was about Charles. He is constantly worried about his age and time, especially with regards to Will:
His wife smiled in her sleep. Why? She's immortal. She has a son. Your son, too! But what father ever really believes it? He carries no burden, he feels no pain. What man, like woman, lies down in darkness and gets up with child? The gentle, smiling ones own the good secret. Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it. Why speak of of Time when you are Time, and shape the universal, as the pass into warmth and action?
This is a book everyone should read. Wonderful and frightening. If carnivals and freak shows didn't already give me the creeps, this book has definitely altered my image of them. I will never look at a carousel the same way again!! 4.5/5