Most people interested in the Horror/Sci-fi genre have read at least one piece of Ray Bradbury. I'm ashamed to say I had not. Though I knew of his iconic stories, this was my first approximation at Bradbury's rich body of work which has claimed fame for awesome short stories and not so awesome novels.
Something Wicked This Way Comes was conceived as a script for a movie--based on the experiences of a young Bradbury--that didn't happen. It was after the movie deal fizzled that the famed author decided to revise the manuscript and turned it into a dark novel. The characters became malevolent and the iconic carnival was born.
The book tells the story of two boys, friends and neighbors, who are growing, maturing at different paces, yearning for different things, yet so happy to have one another. Then a carnival arrives in town, conspicuously too late in the year and too close to Halloween. Immediately you know somethings is not right, the carnival characters are just too dark, the maze of mirrors threatens to drown its visitors, the calliope sings without a touch, and the carrousel rides only after the last of the visitors has gone home.
From the first line the reader is stricken by Bradbury's rich vocabulary full of images and metaphors. He masterfully evokes images in our heads that range from a truly nostalgic ache for youth, to the horrific wonders this carnival from hell can offer you in exchange for your soul. The first few chapters are enthralling because of the beauty of his words and how much the prose feels like poetry; however, as chapters go by, the almost baroque narrative makes it hard to enjoy the time in front of the book.
On the other hand, the story is so compelling, it pushes the reader to never stop, to keep through to the end. The seemingly impossible odds against the boys must turn in their favor, don't they? I was so invested in the characters, I just had to know. Bradbury's characters jump out of the pages. I found the father, Mr. Halloway, particularly endearing. His nostalgia for his lost youth, his sadness for what he feels as a barrier between him and his son, his ultimate fortitude to confront the evil threatening the boys and his own fears. Mr. Halloway is truly a complex character that outshines the rest of the cast.
The other side of the dime, Mr. Dark, is a very simple man. He's evil, twisted, and cruel. He's older than sin and wants the soul of the boys, and everyone else's who gets in his way. And it's probably because of his simplicity that Mr. Dark is a very disturbing villain, too powerful for those poor boys. The dichotomy between the two older characters plays very well, making the reader tremble with fear as the boys must confront each of Mr. Dark's emissaries.
When reading Something Wicked This Way Comes, one is baring witness to one of the contemporary horror classics and there's no denying why it won such a status. Whether heavy narrative that reminds of Magic Realism is your thing or not, it is impossible not to admire a piece so beautifully written.
My advise for the reader would be to take on this book only if you have time. Pick it for a relaxing bath, or whenever you can give it a few hours to appreciate it. This is not a story to be read in one evening. You need to take the time for the complex vocabulary to sink in, to let its true meaning, its many morals and reflexions to touch your skin, trickle to your subconscious, and take residence in your heart.