Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway are two inseparable best friends, caught up in the many swirling winds of boyhood in the 1960s, when the mystery of summer adventures was fuel to a young boy’s bonfire. On October 24th, not more than a few days away from their fourteenth birthdays, a strange fog settles over the town when a mysterious carnival rolls into it. In the dark of the night, Will and Jim hear the unusual bells of a calliope and see the strange circus come alive. When they venture near enough, they discover that the carnival is a dark entity feeding off of fear and desire. Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooger, the ringleaders of the show, are monstrous men, who take advantage of a magical carousel that ages them a year for every rotation, or a year younger if spun in reverse, as they have been doing. After the boys interfere and trap Mr. Cooger in the forward motion of the carousel until he is nothing more than a brittle, 200 year-old shell, Mr. Dark and his band of captive freaks set out for revenge. Will and Jim, alongside Will’s father, must combat this unbelievable evil before it traps more souls to feed off of, and win their battle against the dark forces.
Ray Bradbury’s novel, written in a beautiful, luxurious prose, recalls the nostalgia of youth and the yearning for adventure. Jim and Will can feel the danger looming on the horizon, but they aren’t satisfied until they seek it out. Their thirst for truth and discovery embodies the invincibility we all feel when we are young haven’t yet claimed fear as a barrier to our experiences. The boys are perfect examples of childhood, innocence, and the desire to grow up. They remind me of a reversed version of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, desperate to gain the power that comes with adulthood, but naive to what power really lies in our youth.
Will’s father, all the while, is battling with the notion of getting older. Already an older father, he feels distraught and disconnected from his son. As they grow closer through their battle with Mr. Dark, they both realize that life is meant to be lived while we’re here, and that age is just a number. Basically, Mr. Halloway realizes that it’s never to late to be a baddass.
My favorite quality about Something Wicked is that the boys have actually stumbled into quite a nightmare. The evils they fight aren’t diluted to be more suitable for young ears. Mr. Dark and his freak show crew are formidable, terrifying, and vengeful in a big way. However, Bradbury hasn’t just created a magnificently creepy villain; he’s created a relatable one. Mr. Dark and his magical carousel feed off of the desire of people to stay young forever. He lures folks to the night ride, with promises of eternal youth, and swiftly exchanges their souls for their naive desire. They remain trapped at the freak show forever, mottled captives of their own misguided wants. Now, I’m not victim-blaming. Who wouldn’t accept eternal youth if offered? Mr. Dark took advantage of these totally understandable desires, and locked them under the weight, turning them into witches and dwarves and misshapen hostages. He uses their vulnerability and fear and loneliness as bait. If you ask me, that’s freaky to a maximum level.
The boys fight this deep-seated maleficence with laugher, love, and happiness. The villain might be impressively intimidating, even for adults, but the resolution is happily straight out of a child’s fairytale ending. It is a moral at the end of a horror movie, and it is oh-so-satisfying.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is a nightmarish story, and it pulls on our most humanistic fears to connect deeply with readers. It is a wholesome lesson to us all that would shouldn’t meet life, death, and growing older with fear, but with acceptance, and fill the dark parts of our hearts with light and love.