{Book Review} Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

By the prickling of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes.

It’s the first time I’ve read something of Ray Bradbury’s, but I already had high expectations from this book because I’ve heard so much about him. I have a friend who has read a lot of his work and she insists I read it every time I drop by the elusive secondhand bookstore in our school (which comes and goes as it pleases), and even the cover of this book says he is ‘the world’s greatest living science-fiction writer’. He’s still alive and kicking at the ripe old age of 91, but saying something that bold on a book cover must mean something – I mean, there must be a reason he has all those accolades, right? He even has an award named after him by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer of America. Now, on with the story!

A carnival and all the strange things that occur after its arrival to Jim and Will’s quiet little town make up Something Wicked This Way Comes. Jim Nightshade and William Halloway may look like two typical boys – curious, active, rowdy – but there is more to their connection than the fact that they’re neighbors and very close friends. Will was born a minute before midnight on October thirtieth, while Jim was born a minute after midnight, which makes it Halloween. This detail makes them almost like twins, and this forged a bond between them that overflows to everything they do – they win races together, neither a winner nor a loser, they sneak out of their houses together, they even do the same things at the same time even if they are in separate places. Just as you think they must have no differences, the mysterious circus arrives in the dead of night. This invokes a series of strange events that affect not only the boys, but the rest of the townspeople as well. While at first Jim and Will agree on their opinions of the carnival, as events get weirder and weirder, the decisions of each boy diverges. Nothing in Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show is what it seems, but will Jim and Will realize this before it is too late?

The book’s gothic themes make for one enjoyable read. I have always had a fascination with circuses and magic (part of the reason why I enjoyed The Night Circus [review] so much, and why I am looking forward to reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell), but this one had a touch of horror in it, a genre I have been too scared to explore. Something Wicked This Way Comes does not make me have nightmares, but it certainly has that creepy factor that makes it really good. More than that, I really enjoyed Ray Bradbury’s writing. His descriptions of things are very poetic and – I swear I’m not exaggerating – mystical. There’s this magical feel to his words that are just so beautiful that I can’t help but be impressed. One of the passages that stood out for me was this:

Sometimes you see a kite so high, so wise it almost knows the wind. It travels, then chooses to land in one spot and no other and no matter how much you yank, run this way or that, it will simply break its cord, seek its resting place and bring you, blood-mouthed, running.
“Jim! Wait for me!”
So now Jim was the kite, the wild twine cut, and whatever wisdom was his taking him away from Will who could only run, earthbound, after one so high and dark and suddenly strange.

I have no trouble seeing why he is considered a master storyteller.

The book is divided into three parts, with chapters in it that weren’t lengthy, so it’s not too difficult to read. Several parts are wrought with imagery, descriptive that it’s not hard to see the story unravel in your mind’s eye, but a lot of the descriptions can be brief and to the point. One of my favorite chapters would have to be chapter thirty-one, which contains only ten words:

Nothing much else happened, all the rest of that night.

Just when I think I get Ray Bradbury’s style, he always manages to surprise me, which is really not a bad thing. It reflect onto this book, which is full of so many twists and turns not unlike the carnival’s Mirror Maze, and just like this fatal attraction (no pun intended), you can’t help but be drawn to it.

Now that I have finally made a dent into Ray Bradbury’s collection of works, there’s no looking back. I only have one other novel of his (Martian Chronicles) and an anthology (We’ll Always Have Paris), and though both are not high up my TBR pile right now, I have no doubt that one day I’ll devour them as fast as I did Something Wicked This Way Comes.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Paperback, 215 pages
Author: Ray Bradbury
First published: 1962
Language: English
Genre: Horror, Fantasy

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