Monday, July 05, 2010

Malevolent Carnival

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked 

This Way Comes

by Ray Bradbury

Those trains and their grieving sounds were lost forever between stations, not remembering where they had been, not guessing where they might go, exhaling their last pale breaths over the horizon, gone. So it was with all trains, ever. - Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

The annual county fair was always an event at the end of each Summer that I looked forward to when I was a young boy growing up in a small Wisconsin town.  It was fun and something in which our whole family participated.  In contrast to my personal experience, Something Wicked This Way Comes is the story of two 13-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October. The carnival's leader is the mysterious "Mr. Dark" who bears a tattoo for each person who, lured by the offer to live out his secret fantasies, has become bound in service to the carnival. Mr. Dark's malevolent presence is countered by that of Will's father, Charles Halloway, who harbors his own secret desire to regain his youth.
The novel combines elements of fantasy and horror, analyzing the conflicting natures of good and evil, and on how they come into play between the characters and the carnival. Unlike many of Bradbury's other works, including the tangentially related Dandelion Wine, which is a collection of loosely related short stories, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a full-length novel.  The novel may be interpreted as an autumn sequel to the summer of Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. The two works are set in the fictitious Green Town (based on Bradbury's hometown, Waukegan, Illinois), but have different tones, with Something Wicked emphasizing the more serious side of the transition from childhood to adulthood. While none of the characters in Dandelion Wine make an appearance in Something Wicked, William Halloway and Jim Nightshade can be viewed as one-year older representations of Dandelion Wine's Douglas Spaulding and John Huff, respectively.  I will never forget my first reading of this book almost forty years ago. Bradbury's work is the quintessential small-town-meets-the-fantastic style novel that so many talespinners have emulated since.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

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