Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
There's something about Autumn that brings out the spook in all of us. Perhaps it's the smell of dead and decaying leaves, or the crunching sounds they make beneath the feet of our children when they race to school in the early mornings, blowing circles of frozen carbon dioxide from their mouths in round o's.
But at the same time, Fall is one of the most beautiful and colorful times of the year. Bold reds, yellows and golden browns give one last blast of fireworks before a change occurs from life to death, almost overnight. We expect it. We know it will happen besides. Maybe that's why we're so easily able to allow a little of the scary in, the supernatural. Or even the wicked, into our lives. Reminded a bit of our own mortality, our darkest fears hover a little closer to the surface. Waiting to be exploited.
We all worry about different things, every day, like money, health, what to make for dinner, etc., but our most primal fears I believe remain the same for all of us. Fears of growing older, fears for our children and their safety, and almost always, regret. Guilt. These things haunt us all don't they? Such is the theme of Bradbury's timeless classic -
Taking place within a slice of Americana in the 20's or 30's, our story begins with two 13 year old boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. Born within minutes of each other at the end of October, these two are perfect mirror images of each other, not the same, but identically different. You can't have one without the other. They know this and love each other for it.
It's one week till Halloween and a mysterious autumn carnival has come to town, but this in no ordinary carnival. It feeds off a town full of fear, regret and chaos. What I found funny is that the boys, and even most people in the town sense this, yet still they can not stay away. What the boys see while there frightens them, a mysterious merry-go-round that can reverse age, or increase it, as it circles around. The side show acts, like the Human Skeleton, the Witch, the Dwarf, and most especially, the Illustrated Man, Mr. Dark, all scare the boys out of their wits.
Will's father, Charles, a man haunted by his own demons of getting older and wanting to be young again, his regret already continually eating away at his ever growing loose skin, discovers the truth about what's going on. That the carnival means to feed off the town's regret, fear and greed, as they have done for centuries. A battle ensues where in the end, Will and Jim, and most especially Charles, must battle their own demons to overcome the temptation to have what they most desire, for what is right.
This is my first Bradbury novel, and I loved it. L-o-v-e-d it! Long before Stephen King became a master of greed and the horror's that follow, Bradbury brought us a classic tale of regret, desire and redemption.
Even though Disney made a pretty scary movie version of this, it's not a children's book. In fact, I would agree that the main character is probably Will's father, Charles, and the main point being the life's lessons he learns about what's really important for true happiness in this life. I couldn't help wondering what Bradbury's age was when he wrote this. Was he going through a mid-life crisis as well, looking for a way to cope?
Thanks to the Good Books Club for recommending it.
Despite the creepy nightmares it gave me, this is an excellent book.