Fantasy · Horror · Review

Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

This is only the second novel by Bradbury that I’ve read (the first being Fahrenheit 451), and it makes me wonder why I haven’t gobbled up every word he has ever written by high school. Like Fahrenheit 451, I absolutely loved this book. Like Fahrenheit 451, I wish I had read it in my early teens. *sigh* All those times wasted on lesser books when this was around…

I started it on my way to work this morning and finished half-an-hour before heading into work. It really was that good, I was really that absorbed. Something Wicked This Way Comes is about two 13-year-olds, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, and their fight against a sinister carnival that came by their town. The title itself is from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (although, not being a fan of Macbeth, I always remember it wrongly as Hamlet!); my colleagues and I actually went over the play to find the quote again, as most of us last read it in college/high school –

by the pricking of my thumbs
something wicked this way comes

(Searching for the quote began because we liked the title of this particular book, but it ended up in us recalling our favourite quotes from Shakespeare, and that led to recalling our favourite Shakespearean insults and wondering if it’s okay to use them on rude customers… but that’s another story to be told another time!)

The title makes me remember exactly how delicious reading Shakespeare is, having the words roll off one’s tongue and tasting each of them carefully, savouring them. Reading this book has a similar effect. I love the way Bradbury writes, and from the moment the first chapter began, describing why October was so rare and crispy a month, I was hooked. After finishing the last chapter, I was reluctant to close the book, and the words were still swimming in me, and I swear I was just staring into space in the 4th floor cafetaria, digesting.

I also loved the fact that the real object of fear in this story are not actual ghosts or monsters, despite the existence of villainous circus freaks. Rather than being fearsome villains (although they are creepy and they are evil) they use the people’s fear of death and aging. Jim Nightshade wishes that he was older, and Charles Halloway (Will’s father) wishes that he was younger, which made both characters susceptible to the perils of the carnival. The novel ends in a very positive note, implying that by accepting one’s self for who they are and by embracing all that is pure and joyful, good could win against evil. The fear of death and aging would no longer hold us captive.

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