I read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury earlier this year. I had high expectations for this book, especially considering the reviews I’d read that described the prose as having a poetic quality. I have to admit I was disappointed, I’m afraid.
Part of the disappointment may have been the hardback copy I had. Despite being hardback, it was a little smaller than I’m used to, so I felt like I was reading a Kindle or Nook–which isn’t good to me. I have big hands and I like to have a good size book with big print in my hands. I like deluxe books.
On the version I bought, the cover has a nice picture of a carousel horse having its skull head exploded. That’s a striking picture and I like it, but the layout of the cover I didn’t like. The words “Ray Bradbury” covered up the nice explosion, which took away from any effect it might have had.
The edition I got had a nice afterward by Ray Bradbury which explained where the idea came from and why this book, which was first published in 1962, was dedicated to Gene Kelly. It seems Ray Bradbury wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes to be a movie vehicle for his friend Gene Kelly. After five years of the script laying around, Bradbury decided to turn it into a novel.
That afterward may contain a hint as to why this novel was a failure (in my opinion). Something Wicked This Way Comes was written for an adult star, when the children should have been the stars of this tale.
I found the first half of this book enchanting. The oddly poetic prose worked when it was a story of two 13 year old boys, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, and their reaction to the appearance of the mysterious traveling carnival, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show. But halfway through the book, one of the boys father’s became much more prominent and the story suffered from it.
Midway through the novel, the writing became denser and more overtly philosophical–which in my mind worked against that magical, dreamlike, even childlike quality of the first chapters. The novel became a pair of ill-fitting parts, which was a big disappointment.
I enjoyed the main antagonist and his strange magical power. Since I mentioned the shift in emphasis, I don’t want to give away too much about the villain. I’d offer more criticism about the above, but I don’t want to print spoilers.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is considered Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece by some readers and critics, so I recommend other people who enjoy 50s and 60s style horror literature or scary stories involving children to give it a try. I enjoyed the first half of the book, so you might enjoy the whole thing.