Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

When I was in seventh grade, my English class read some short stories from R is for Rocket, one of Ray Bradbury’s collections. I loved them—I was just getting into my science fiction stage, which I still haven’t made it out of completely—so I asked for Ray Bradbury books for Christmas. I specifically asked for R is for Rocket, but said anything by Ray Bradbury would do. That Christmas, I’m pretty sure I received basically everything Bradbury has ever written EXCEPT R is for Rocket because my parents couldn’t find it (these were the days before Amazon was huge). Something Wicked This Way Comes was one of those books.

I’m pretty sure I attempted to read Something Wicked This Way Comes almost as soon as I got it, and gave up almost as soon as I started. It wasn’t much at all like the short stories I had read, and my twelve-year-old brain couldn’t quite keep up with Bradbury’s rambly sentence structure. I don’t think I picked it up again until college, and I remember liking it but still not quite getting it. This time, I think I understood it better, and thus enjoyed it much more.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is the story of Jim Nightshade, Will Halloway, and their experiences with the carnival that rolls into their town the week before Halloween. The boys immediately sense that something is wrong when the carnival—titled Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show—arrives in the middle of the night, as if in secret. As the boys watch, the carnival tents appear to assemble themselves, rapidly and silently. When Jim and Will return to the carnival the next day, they discover that the greatest secret of the carnival lies in the carousel—a secret that will change their lives forever.

Now, while I said above that I think I understood it better this time around, I don’t mean that I understood it completely. Partially due to my short attention span, and partially due to the fact that Bradbury has a habit of never quite coming out and saying exactly what he means or what’s going on, there are still some parts that I didn’t really get. I would get to the end of a paragraph and realize I didn’t actually process anything that I had just read, so I would go back and try again, but halfway through I would be lost. I would say this impaired my enjoyment a bit, but I never got so lost that I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Anyway, there’s not much to say about the story in particular except this: if you like old-timey horror that you can picture in black and white, Something Wicked This Way Comes would be a great choice for you. It’s suspenseful, thrilling, heartwarming, and terrifying, and if that’s not a great mix I don’t know what is.

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