Friday, March 1, 2013

The Dark Fantastic, a Review of Something Wicked This Way Comes

by Pa Rock

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are neighbors and lifelong best friends..  They were born just a few minutes apart, but on different days, nearly fourteen years ago.  Both are the only children in their households, Will living with both of his parents, and Jim being raised by a single mother.  The place they reside is Green Town, Illinois, and the time is a distant past when America still had Main Streets with a variety of small businesses, and boys could climb out their bedroom windows late at night and race from adventure to adventure in relative safety.  It is a time of innocence.

It is also a couple of weeks before Halloween, but on this particular year Halloween comes early.

Will’s father, Charles Halloway, is important to this story.  Will was born when Mr. Halloway was just over forty, and now the father finds himself in his mid-fifties and the parent of a very active adolescent who could use some strong male guidance.   Charles Halloway believes that he is too old to be an effective father to a young boy.   Mr. Halloway works as a custodian at the city library, a place of such comfort to him that he often retreats there in the evenings after his wife and Will have gone to bed.

Ray Bradbury’s magical novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, begins one evening in late October as a night storm is preparing to blow into Green Town.  The boys had run into an itinerant lightening rod salesman that afternoon who gave them a sample of his product and warned that Jim’s house would be hit by lightning that very night if they failed to attach it to the roof.  Later they wandered down to the library to visit Will’s dad and check out a couple of books.  As the boys ran for home, they found a notice- flying in the wind – promoting an amazing carnival that was due to arrive in their town that very evening.

Much later that evening, around three o’clock in the morning, Will and Jim awoke at the same time in their separate houses (which was not unusual), climbed out of their upstairs bedroom windows, and met on the ground where they headed off for an adventure.  By following the path of a hot-air balloon, they soon come upon a carnival train as it stopped and proceeded to unload its equipment just outside of town.  Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show had arrived in Green Town with its enticing rides, malevolent mirror maze, sinister carousel, and a company of freaks that could only have been hatched in the mind of Ray Bradbury.   The show's presence would significantly impact the lives of two boys and test the father and son bond of the Halloway’s.

Ray Bradbury said that his interest in carnivals dated back to the time when, as a mere toddler, his mother held him, kicking and screaming, to a carousel horse.  Significantly, it is a carousel with strange powers that forms the centerpiece of Something Wicked This Way Comes.   The language of the tale is pure Bradbury, rich and powerful with images that border on the psychedelic.    Every word is beautiful., every thought a challenge, every image wondrous, and every page a treasure. 

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a vacation for the mind, and perhaps the soul as well.  It would be impossible not to gain something of value from reading this Bradbury classic.

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