I had an incredibly hard time reading this book, especially considering it's a 300-page linear story about an evil circus coming to a small town. I think it's because -- unlike Fahrenheit 451 -- Bradbury overwrote this book to the point of it being dense poetry rather than prose. The dialogue is sparse and stilted, and the descriptions are never-ending, and hard to follow.Reading the opening chapter, the language excited me. I falsely assumed it was just being used to set the mood and would taper off in due course, but it never ended. I wanted to scream at the book: "I get it -- the story is dark, macabre, spooky, and ethereal. Enough! Let the story through!"An example:It was indeed a time between, one second their thoughts all brambled airedale, the next all silken slumbering cat. It was a time to go to bed, yet still they lingered reluctant as boys to give over and wander in wide circles to pillow and night thoughts. It was a time to say much but not all. It was a time after first discoveries but not last ones. It was wanting to know everything and wanting to know nothing. It was the new sweetness of men starting to talk as they must talk. It was the possible bitterness of revelation.And another example, this one during an action sequence:Then the arrow, a long hour it seemed in flight, razored a small vent in the balloon. Rapidly the shaft sank as if cutting a vast green cheese. The surface slit itself further in a wide ripping smile across the entire surface of the gigantic pear, as the blind Witch gabbled, moaned, blistered her lips, shrieked in protest, and Will hung fast, hands gripped to wicker, kicking legs, as the balloon wailed whiffled, guzzled, mourned its own swift gaseous death, as dungeon air raved out, as dragon breath gushed forth and the bag, thus driven, retreated up.By the final third of the book, I was skimming entire paragraphs just to get through the book. Sadly, an interesting premise is lost somewhere in this mess. I am looking forward to reading the graphic novel adaptation, to see if a medium shift can cure the problem created by the bloated prose.A.J.
A buddy of mine summed up this book pretty well. He said something to the effect of: You'll be glad you read it once you've finished, but it's not much fun getting there. I agree wholeheartedly. I can't claim to be an expert on Ray Bradbury, this being only the second work of his I've read (Fahrenheit 451 being the other), but what I'm beginning to notice about his writing is that it's much more fun to imagine in summary form than it is to actually read. This book in particular suffers from an unfortunate syndrome. It's a great story gutted by wretched execution.I think the prose is mostly to blame. First off, Bradbury has a higher simile count than a word count. His emphasis italics in dialogue hardly ever make sense (let alone feel necessary). The prose is choppy, wordy, infatuated with grandiose imagery, and so bloated that it plunges the necessary kind of A to B information into obscurity. This rambling train of meaningless chapters––which I suppose I'm supposed to interpret as poetic––makes the plot damn near incomprehensible. I might have been able to handle this had it not been the law of the land for 150 pages. I don't mind it when a writer gets into a groove and waxes a little poetic. Hell, live a little. But when it becomes the defining characteristic of your story at the expense of basic plot points, my eyeballs start rolling on a circuit. The last fifty or so pages bring me back to my original point. They proved that there is indeed a story here, one about good and evil, childhood and belief, dreams and drama. There were flickers of this throughout the novel, but none of it became solid until the end. For that reason Something Wicked This Way Comes displays the marker of a book which begs for a movie and a screenwriter who will adapt a plot in place of the garble that was the majority of the novel. The characters ultimately suffer ambiguity because of Bradbury's investment in weird prose to craft them early on. Interestingly enough, this style tends to disappear in chapters with action, which had me yearning for a rewrite where the rest of the book flowed as well as it did in moments of crisis.I feel obligated to conclude by giving Bradbury at least some props. Firstly, the ending worked well, and was a genuinely entertaining experience. Secondly, there were seeds of Stephen King in here, where in a few years the fantasy/horror fusion would achieve a more perfect (and comprehensible) form, including many of the same themes and motifs. This novel was not a complete waste of time, but it danced dangerously close to that description. I wouldn't recommend this one. The book jacket summary paints a far prettier picture than a real reading will render.Jeffery Moulton
This book took me by surprise a little. Not that I wasn't expecting a dark fantasy, I was. But I wasn't expecting the writing style. And even more, I wasn't expecting the philosophy.When I was very young, the movie based on this book scared the crap out of me (no idea why), but being the dumb kid I was, I told everyone I loved it. I found this book at the library around fifth grade or so and checked it out to prove how tough I could be. I didn't get past the first chapter before I psyched myself out so much that I couldn't read further. So I decided that it was finally time to give it another go.The fact is that I remember next to nothing about the movie except that it had something to do with a carnival and a lightning rod with bugs on it (I think). Other vague images and impressions of the movie still swim around in my head when I think about it, but I don't know if they are actually from the movie or from something else. (Was there something with a ring?) The end result is that I was able to approach this book with a fairly open mind. And I really enjoyed it. More than that, it gave me some things to think about.First, the book isn't written with standard prose. It is more lyrical than that. Having not read much of Bradbury (though I'm trying to remedy that), I don't know if that is his standard style, or just the one adopted for this book. But it was fascinating. It was a little jarring at first. It wasn't expected and didn't flow like a normal novel, and it made things a little awkward until I got used to it. I actually think that was part of Bradbury's intent. He wanted the reader to feel awkward. To feel that, while on the surface, things were okay, they were actually just a bit off. This world is the world you know, and yet it isn't.The style also mirrors the thoughts of boys, which, as I recall, having been a boy once, are often random, disjointed, and quick. So reading this book is, at times, like peering into the mind of the boys who star as the protagonists.But what I didn't expect from this book was the philosophy--the morality play that appears between its covers. I didn't expect the treatise Will's father gives on good an evil or the moral that, no matter how bad things are, no matter how stacked the odds may be, a good man pushes forward. And that being good does not equal happiness, it equals a sense of self and opens the door to joy, while giving in to easy temptations leads to death and ruin.It was the philosophy, played out brilliantly in the plot and through the dialogue, that drew me in. It reminded me that Bradbury was an author who embedded important lessons (at least those he felt were important) into all his stories and books and made me respect him even more.Is the book scary? A bit, though it didn't terrify me like the movie did as a child. The scares come more from the atmosphere than from the plot. Had I not psyched myself out as a kid, I probably would have been able to get through the book just fine, even though it would have given me some very creepy dreams. But I don't think I would have appreciated it like I did today. While this book is overtly about two boys who learn that it is important to be boys and not grow up too quickly, it is, I think, mostly for adults who need a reminder that growing older does not mean we have to sacrifice the wonder and exuberance of youth.In the end, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good scare or at least a really creepy atmosphere. But more than that, I recommend it to any adult who wants to recapture just a bit of their childhood, and to ride the carnival of youth.Gary the Bookworm
“Beware the autumn people. … For some, autumn comes early, stays late, through life … with no winter, spring or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the only normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No, the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks through their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.” Wickedness abounds in this creepy parable about good and evil. Two adolescent boys, level-headed Will and his tempestuous pal, Jim, have unwittingly attracted the attention of a sinister, tattooed stranger when the carnival comes to town in late October. It is their misfortune that they've noticed that the sideshow freaks are eerily familiar. After some hair-raising visits to the midway, they hide themselves in the town library, where Will's despondent father bides his days and nights in abject isolation as the custodian. When evil comes knocking, father and son learn some critical truths about themselves and their relationship. Bradbury craftily employs supernatural forces to examine attitudes about parenting, perceptions of self, and the impact of aging. He conjures up some nifty mechanisms to tantalize and torment his characters, especially a carousel which can go forwards or backwards with confounding results. His flights of fancy are feverishly frightening, yet he manages to create authentic characters whose struggles mirror our own. Next time the carnival comes to my town, I'm going to stay inside and lock my doors and windows. After reading this you might do likewise.Becky
Oh Bradbury, why did I take so long to discover you? I could blame the fact that I missed that class in High School where they read Fahrenheit, or I could point to the some four hundred books on my To Be Read Doompile, but they all seem so shallow now. I instantly connected to your style, it was brilliant. I could feel the autumn and October winds drift past me, laden with smells and tastes that are specific to the chilly months in the Midwest. Every word was so beautiful, so evocative, it was a perfect fall read.It wasn’t spooky, it wasn’t horror, but it was really really ridiculously excellent. I mean, I would love to quote the entire conversation between Will and his Dad, right here, because it is a) the best father-son talk in any book ever and b) from that alone you should understand why I loved this book. But that would be cheating you out of the experience of reading it for yourself. So I will give you an excerpt. It will be my whole review. I want you to have a taste, and then I want you to reach for the book yourself, reach for the bottle, and drink it up. Every word.“…Now, look, since when did you think being good meant being happy?”“Since always”“Since now learn otherwise. Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin. There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light. The seal-barker, the laugh-shouter, half the time he’s covering up. He’s had his fun, and he’s guilty. And men do love sin, Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells. Times come when troughs, not tables, suit our appetites… For being good is a fearful occupation; men strain at it and sometimes break in two. I’ve known a few. You work twice as hard to be a farmer as to be his hog.”Richard Wright
You know when you're reading a book and an unexpected turn of phrase, something resonant and powerful that lifts your imagination, jumps out at you. You might usually remember such a phrase, and recount it while trying to get your friends to pick up the book. Unfortunately, you have no hope of being able to do this with Bradbury's masterpiece, because every paragraph has one. Almost every sentence is one. The greatest, most disturbing, most uplifting novel ever to wheel out the freakshow for your entertainment (and never has the carnival been more poetically sinister than here), is also the most lyrical and haunting thing I've read in years. Initially, this very lyricism, lying so thick across the page, makes the book slow going when you're used to the modern idiom, but after a few chapters it makes your pulse race a little faster and sweeter. There might be better, more beautiful stories out there of boys coming of age, running headlong into the challenges of adulthood, but I've yet to find them.Jason
One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of young adult books and coming-of-age movies is a certain generational disconnect between the protagonist and his forebears. I guess in a lot of ways this is like noticing the absence of Indian food from a French cuisine cookbook, because why would anyone expect otherwise? If a story is to feature the youth perspective, then it should follow logically that his parents’ thoughts, ideas, and motivations factor into the story only peripherally. Right, Mikey? But in Something Wicked This Way Comes, that gap is bridged to a really interesting end.Something Wicked is the story of two kids scrambling to be a day, a month, a year older, and an aging parent reflecting on the nostalgia of his youth and perhaps wishing to shave a few years off his own accumulated tree rings. The desire here, in the former to be older and in the latter to be younger, serves to drive the characters’ behavior but does so at the expense of sound judgment; and the desire—not unlike Macbeth’s desire to become king—is shown to be inextricably bound to a sense of malevolence on account of that clouded judgment. In fact, the very title of this novel harks back to the opening scene of Macbeth, in which a witch (in which a witch!) intimates the evil nature residing in the main character, and I think that line subsequently calls attention to the potential within each of us for evil to be realized, provided we let it.The other thing I liked about this novel was Bradbury’s writing, which is almost entirely atmospheric and metaphorical. Deep forests, dark caves, dim churches, half-lit libraries were all the same, they tuned you down, they dampened your ardour, they brought you to murmurs and soft cries for fear of raising up phantom twins of your voice which might haunt corridors long after your passage. The imagery of the phantom twin as metaphor for an echo is pretty brilliant here, and Bradbury repeats this feat throughout the book. It probably also helped, with regard to timing, that I read this book in October, as the story takes place in the same month, for the descriptive voice seemed to lend an extra layer of reality to the story.Something I did not care for, however, was a scene at the end in which (view spoiler)[Will’s dad essentially beats the crap out of his son in an attempt to get him to “laugh” (in order to destroy the curse of the Illustrated Man) (hide spoiler)]. I don’t know about you, but I get riled up when someone simply says to me, “Lighten up, dude.” Because, don’t fucking tell me to lighten up. I could not imagine someone clocking me over the head, boxing my ears, and slapping my face as a forceful means of conjuring a smile. I bet you would not be very happy if someone were to do that to you, right? And what’s good enough for you, is good enough for me.Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>Werebot
This is one of the worst books I've ever read. The prose is so desperate to be arty that I wanted to punch myself. I'm amazed I finished this thing. What a chore.Gaijinmama
Ray Bradbury was a brilliant writer whose gift with the language goes beyond genre. This book is generally classified as a dark fantasy but his style is definitely Literary. I would not call this a page-turner. I had to keep going back to really savor the words and let them sink in. There are a lot of Big Issues here: good vs. evil, nostalgia for childhood, fear of death and the unknown. The main characters are Will and Jim, two 13 year old boys in a small town, but I would say the real focus is on Charles Halloway, Will's father, who is struggling with getting old and with his need to protect his son while still allowing him to grow up and be independent. A creepy traveling show comes to town, and the boys are drawn to it, while sensing that something is just not right....The style is equal parts Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, and Federico Fellini, with a dash of Hitchcockian suspense. More than the plot (which is engaging) I found myself just getting lost in the images, and feeling my heart speed up when the creepiness sneaked up on me.All in all, a good read but not a fluffy one. Give yourself time to fully appreciate it.Trudi
Sigh. I hate when this happens. I should have loved the shit out of this book. It's Bradbury, it's vintage horror, it's Stephen King recommended, it's a coming-of-age tale about young boys and a creepy carnival, and it's been on my reading list for years. This book and I should have hit it off like gangbusters. The chemistry should have been overwhelming and indisputable. But we got off to an awkward start. I kept putting it down and picking up other things. Finally, with the day off work, I took it in hand this afternoon with a desire to just dive in and -- for better or worse -- finish the damn thing. Alas, it was for the worse. No doubt, some of the writing is charmed and gorgeous. Bradbury's descriptions of the library in particular are wonderful. But the rest for me... imagine cracking open a freezing cold can of pop and expecting that sharp, satisfying bite of carbonation at the back of your throat and instead what you swallow is flat, warm, syrupy water. To me, no one writes children (especially boys) like King. He can catch, like lightning in a bottle every time, the way kids talk, think and act. I didn't experience that here. Jim and Will feel too archetypical of all boys rather than boys genuine to their unique story. Will is childish on one hand, and too mature on the other. And I don't know ... quite frankly I was bored. The mirror maze was sort of interesting, as was the carousel, but nothing ever felt really creepy and perilous.Ah shizzle. I can only conclude the book didn't fail me; I failed it.Chance Maree
"By the pricking of my thumbs,Something wicked this way comes."I had a strong urge to read this novel. Perhaps it was the title, a quote from one of the witches in Macbeth where she says she can tell something evil is about to come because of the way her thumbs are itching. In the next two lines, she welcomes that evil--open the door, let it in (which reminds me of a Paul McCartney song....). Anyway, what a wonderful title! And who can resist a sinister carnival rolling into town? So, I was hooked. Other reviewers have mentioned loving this novel in their youth, which is understandable due to its two young protagonists, Will and Jim. Boyhood is at once idealized and fraught with danger in the form of devices, both fleshy and mechanical. The one adult who connects with the children, stands both small and tall, in the eyes of the boys, as often a parent will do. And it is the parent who grows and leads and helps, so security is provided in a fearful world. Things are scary, but the good people can prevail. Or maybe not, since I don't want to give anything away....For me, and I'm no longer young in years, this story is about time and the possible disasters of aging. The Wicked of the title is that future you--old and wrinkled and weak. And for all, it is coming. However, the story offers hope. It offers a way to nullify the wickedness of time. The secret is a matter of perspective. The secret is to look it in the eye, and laugh. To go ahead and run with the boys if you wish. We have the power to overcome the dread that awaits us, by not crying over lost youth or trembling in fear. Step outside the finite, and you will be amazed at the world again. In summary, I enjoyed the story and loved its ability to speak across the ages. The lack of a fifth star is due to the style of prose that bothered me at times--still highly recommended though, for the springboard into thoughtfulness.Sandi
This book is every bit as creepy as I remember. Bradbury's prose is exquisite. It mirrors the action in the novel perfectly. I loved the one sentence chapter. I don't think I ever really noticed the character of Charles Holloway when I was a kid, but he really is pretty amazing. He experiences more growth and change than the two boys. While this is supposed to be a coming of age story, the one who really becomes a man is Charlie. I'm definitely passing this on to my son.-------------------------------------------------------------My rating is subject to change. I read this book in junior high when I was reading everything by Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe and John Steinbeck. I remember an overwhelming sense of creepiness permeating the pages of this novel. I'm re-reading it for a Yahoo group I belong to.Apatt
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 were 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 updating this existing review.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 some of the author's best known books. 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 categorization 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 arrive in their Midwestern town and all hell proceed to break loose.Novels centered around a friendship between two kids like Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn can be very wonderful. There is something about friendship at that young age when walking always seem 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 seperate ways. Reading about Jim Nightshade and William Halloway makes me feel nostalgic and bring back a lot of happy childhood memories even though I did not have to battle creepy supernatural beings from a dark carnival. That said, the fantastical element of this book makes the story even more vivid for me. The book is written in simple yet evocative prose, there is a poetic rhythm to his writing which is characteristic of Bradbury, practically every paragraph is quotable as an example of written elegance. The book is very 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 masterfully 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 more creepy than he is. Beside a great story there are moral lessons and philosophy to consider. 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* Not to be confused with the eponymous The Illustrated Man from Bradbury's famous anthology.Dirk Grobbelaar
Not a review, really - just some thoughts.By the pricking of my thumbs,Something wicked this way comes.Other than being a rather creepy story, this novel is also a lament for the passage of time and the ending of things. Consider Jim Nightshade, who at the age of thirteen, has decided not to ever have children:‘You don't know until you've had three children and lost all but one.''Never going to have any,' said Jim.'You just say that.''I know it. I know everything.'She waited a moment. 'What do you know?''No use making more People. People die.'His voice was very calm and quiet and almost sad.This passage resonated incredibly strongly with me. Something Wicked This Way Comes is pretty melancholic and poignant, in its own fashion, and Bradbury’s lyrical writing style underlines that fact. It is also pretty creepy:A bad thing happened at sunset.Bad things do happen in this story. Perhaps not the same “bad things” as you would expect in a contemporary horror novel (there is, for example, no evisceration), but bad enough in its own way. Whether you can identify with the America of Bradbury’s youth or not (this should be considered a moot point, since we can’t identify with Dickens’s England or with Middle Earth either, and that’s never a problem), this novel succeeds on many levels; death and fear are, after all, universal and timeless.How do you hear it, how are you warned? The ear, does it hear? No. But the hairs on the back of your neck, and the peach-fuzz in your ears, they do, and the hair along your arms sings like grasshopper legs frictioned and trembling with strange music.Something Wicked is a very, very good story, and written beautifully. It’s a quick read, but it compensates for that in many other ways.The exact nature of the Carnival is somewhat obscure. It seems to be vested in mysticism and the occult, but it remains open to interpretation. The Autumn People theory is fantastic! Suffice to say, the whole thing remains suitably sinister…The stuff of nightmare is their plain bread. They butter it with pain.Regine
---EDIT---I realized how completely incomprehensive my first review was, so this is a complete rewrite. *Ahem*I'm the kind of person that gets into the "spirit" of things. So for October, I decided to read three horror stories: Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (a classic), The Strain (a complete flop for me) and Something Wicked This Way Comes. This book wasn't easy to find. I had to scour around in at least 6 bookstores in the city to find this book. When I finally had it, tucked away in the bottom of my uber-stylish, eco-friendly canvas bag, I was ecstatic. I have read so many positive reviews about this book. It came highly recommended on dozens of horror book lists, and there was just so much hype about Bradbury's evil carnival. I actually had a mini-ceremony for reading this book: I lit one of my candles, threw two of my favourite bath products into my bathtub and just *gasps* immersed myself (in the tub, and in the book). The book starts off strong: Bradbury writes about his two main protagonists, Jim and Will. He does a good job of contrasting the two boys, setting the sinister, eerie mood for the story, and introducing us to Mr. Dark, or the Illustrated Man. The carnival sets up its huge, welcoming tents in the the town, and the boys slowly start uncovering the evils within the carnival, but at this point, the book just starts to fizzle. The book was well-written, and there were some genuinely COOL monstrosities at this carnival, such as a carousel that can make you older and younger. However, the story just failed to engage me all the way through, and at a certain point, I just stopped caring about what happened in the book. The ending was just too reminiscent of a Care bears episode (spoiler!):"Okay Braveheart, let's destroy No-heart's evil carnival by singing, and dancing, and sending out love vibes". End spoiler. And this is, essentially, how the book plays out.