Carol. 's Reviews > Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
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's review
Sep 09, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: classic, young-adult, urban-fantasy, favorites, magical-realism, to-buy-hardcover, my-library
Recommended for: fans of the Night Circus, Bradbury fans, creepy nostalgia
Read from September 01 to 02, 2012

The Ray Bradbury I remember reading decades ago was not this poetic. Something Wicked was a surprise, his evocative language doing so much to capture the mood of early fall and the seasons of life, both literally and metaphorically. Clearly, he loves words in their many forms. Equally clearly, he is gifted as using those words to create a finely layered tale about two thirteen-year-old boys when the carnival comes to town. These boys are on the brink of change; longing to be older, to do more and be more. The father of one is a little bit lost in memory of what he once was, haunting their background and the library. Change is in the wind, and a few unusual events in the town seem to herald a larger shift. A lightening-rod salesman comes to call; the barber gets sick; a found playbill describes a carnival coming to town. The boys sneak out of their bedrooms to see it arrive, and it is with a mix of fascination and fear that they watch the carnival set up. Danger ensues--but is it the danger of growing up? Or of fear? Or something more malevolent?

The language is a delightful mix of specificity and metaphor.
"One year Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight... both touched towards fourteen; it almost trembled in their hands."

Each brief chapter is almost a poem, an image; a scene described so perfectly as to catch that edge between reckless and safety, age and youth, mystery and knowing. Threads of both exuberance and loss run through, and hints of change.

And characters! In brief sentences, he encapsulates the complexity of a life:

"And the first boy, with hair as blond-white as milk thistle, shut up one eye, tilted his head, and looked at the salesman with a single eye as open, bright and clear as a drop of summer rain."

"Jim stood like a runner who has come a long way, fever in his mouth, hands open to receive any gift."

"What was there about the illustrated carnival owner's silences that spoke thousands of violent, corrupt, and crippling words?"

Bradbury's ability to uniquely characterize extends to the carnival, arriving at the dead time of 3 a.m., setting up in the dark:
"For somehow instead, they both knew, the wires high-flung on the poles were catching swift clouds, ripping them free from the wind in streamers which, stitched and sewn by some great monster shadow, made canvas and more canvas as the tent took shape. At last there was the clear-water sound of vast flags blowing."

Then there is the added bonus of the library. Clearly, Bradbury loves libraries and books, which guarantees affection in my books (I know, I know--the puns!). "The library deeps lay waiting for them. Out in the world, not much happened. But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did. Listen! and you heard ten thousand people screaming so high only dogs feathered their ears...This was a factory of spices from far countries. Here alien deserts slumbered. Up front was the desk where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple-stamped your books, but down off away were Tibet and Antarctica, the Congo." How perfectly that meshes my own memory of the library!

During the second half of the book, the tone shifts more and more from that cusp of fall into the fear of winter, of death. People change, quite drastically. Will's father has been hearing the carnival's calliope as well, and feeling every one of his fifty-some years in distance from his son. Between the boys and the father, Charles Halloway, the viewpoint of the reader is identified, explored, honored. Do we rush forward? Gaze backwards? Which way will we ride on the most sinister merry-go-round? ("Its horses...speared through their spines with brass javelins, hung contorted as in a death rictus, asking mercy with their fright-colored eyes, seeking revenge with their panic-colored teeth.")

It's even more surprising that a book first published in 1962 stands the test of time so well. To my mind, nothing dated it. Bradbury's thoughts on meaning of life, aging and fear are well worth reading again. An amazing book that wholeheartedly deserves a second read and an addition to my own library.

Cross posted at
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Reading Progress

02/13/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-35 of 35) (35 new)

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Trudi I can't believe I still haven't read this. Definitely on my October reads this year. Great review Carol.

Jeffrey Keeten I loved this book. Wonderful review Carol. This is the perfect book for October Trudi.

Carol. Thanks, Trudi and Jeffrey. It was a pleasant surprise--and you are right, it's a perfect fall read.

 Linda (Miss Greedybooks) A favorite book of mine! Great review, thank you Carol.

Carol. Thank you, Linda. I can see why it's a favorite.

message 6: by mark (new)

mark monday great review Carol!

i think my favorite Bradbury is Dandelion Wine.

Carol. thanks, mark--and thanks for the (indirect) suggestion. I'm already planning to check out more Bradbury.

Mike (the Paladin) Hi Carol, I love this book also.

Mike (the Paladin) Okay, I've been trying to "like" your review, and Goodreads won't let me... If it won't accept it I'll come back and click like later.

message 10: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Bradbury at the height of his prowess. Excellent review! Goodreads is slow tonight, though, and won't let me "like" it. Grr.

Carol. Thank you, Mike and Forrest. I'll look forward to your 'likes.' Curses, Goodreads, for giving us a means to share our passion for books and then thwart us while doing it.

Mike (the Paladin) Have you noted how much is always down? Poor Goodreads....I think Murphy's Law has taken over.

Mike (the Paladin) It still won't let me "like" the review.

message 14: by Werner (new)

Werner Mike, I had the same problem just now, and with trying to "like" two other reviews. I'm off to visit the Goodreads Feedback group!

Carol. Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "Have you noted how much is always down? Poor Goodreads....I think Murphy's Law has taken over."

Certainly some law has... it went down for maintenance last night while I was writing another review. Grr.

message 16: by Werner (new)

Werner The problem is clearly widespread, and has been reported to Goodreads by a number of people. So, they're presumably working on fixing it!

Mike (the Paladin) It's not all that's wrong. Some of the "lists" have been down forever and I seem to see "Alice" more than the sight some days.

sigh...oh well.

Mike (the Paladin) Okay...finally let me "like" the review Carol. Good review for a good book.

Carol. You are persistant, Mike. Thanks!

Mike (the Paladin) S'okay...considering I just got "Alice" again you have to be to even get on the sight lately. LOL

Carol. No surprise.

If that's 'Alice,' it must be the one from Resident Evil.


message 22: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Hot diggity, they fixed it! I like that.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Well, I could have, but I didn't.

 Linda (Miss Greedybooks) Carol wrote: "No surprise.

If that's 'Alice,' it must be the one from Resident Evil.


Hah - I like that one :D

Carol. Forrest wrote: "Hot diggity, they fixed it! I like that.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Well, I could have, but I didn't."


Trudi This is such a great review Carol. I wish I had experienced even a smidge of what you did. I have a feeling that this time, the book didn't fail me. I failed the book. :(

Carol. Trudi wrote: "This is such a great review Carol. I wish I had experienced even a smidge of what you did. I have a feeling that this time, the book didn't fail me. I failed the book. :("

Thank you. Sad to hear that you didn't enjoy it--I doubt it means you failed, though. I think once I understood the writing style, it really worked for me, the perfect combination of poetry and plot. Isn't it interesting how our current mood/etc can effect our enjoyment of a book?

Mr. Matt Great review, as always. I found the lyrical tone to the book more distracting than engaging. It pulled me away from the story rather than drawing me in. I wanted more direct writing.

Carol. Thanks, Mr. Matt. I can see where it might not work for plot-based reading. I think Bradbury loved the magic of childhood; it seems to show up in more than a few of his books.

Mike (the Paladin) It's taste I think. I'm generally a pretty "plot heavy" type reader, but for some reason this book spoke to me. I love it. Sometimes I think there's no clear or easy way to say why we love certain books.

message 30: by Andy (new) - added it

Andy Flores Thanks Carol for this amazing review! I so happened to find this book in a church garage sale and before buying it I read your review. with that being said I obviously bought the book and fell in love! With my birthday being on October13th and it being my favorite month of the year, this book was perfect for me and my love for the macabre. Thanks for your sincere opinion:D

message 31: by Carol. (last edited Jun 13, 2015 12:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carol. Thank you, Andy. I thought it was an excellent book--glad that you enjoyed it as well!

Anja-Kelsey This is such a perfect review of this book!!!

Carol. Thank you, miss kelsey.

message 34: by Lata (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lata You're talking beautifully about one of my favourite books. Thank you.

Carol. Thank you, Lata. It's such a beautiful book.

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