Monday, February 25, 2013

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

 A carnival comes to town and two boys couldn't be more excited. They sneak out of bed in the middle of the night to watch the workers set everything up: the carousel, the house of mirrors, mazes...

 When the carnival opens, disturbing events transpire and it becomes apparent to the boys, William Holloway and Jim Nightshade, that Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town Illinois with a purpose more sinister than merely providing a week of innocent entertainment for the town's citizens.

When the carnival opens Jim and Will eagerly arrive at the grounds. They're the first in line to see the shows. But they soon realize that the shows are more costly than the price of the tickets.

The carousel is a wondrous device that can make a person older or younger depending on which way it turns. The House of Mirrors show people as they used to be, young, or as they yearn to be: beautiful. The Mazes draw a person in by their desires...The only problem with all of these adventures is that they give the adventurer exactly what they want. He or she then becomes imprisoned by the realization of their own fantasies, even sometimes dying for them.

Jim and Will also realize that it's not easy to escape Cooger or Dark even when they realize the dangers and try to get away. Dark is the tattooed man and his tattoos hold strange power over other people. They move and writhe, telling people's stories and sometimes determine the outcome.

Cooger is stranger yet because we can never truly understand what he is. He becomes old to entice Jim, who wants to leave his childhood behind, onto the Carousel.  He becomes young to tempt one of their teachers to enter the House of Mirrors.  He dies, but Dark tries to bring him back to life using the same method that was popular at the turn of the 19th century, with electrical chairs (also the inspiration for Mary Shelly's Frankenstein).

Jim and Will run away and hide, first in their homes, but as they realize they're being pursued by all sorts of creepy creatures, such as a blind witch in a hot air balloon who can sense their presence by clawing the air, they run to the library.  Most of the story happens at night which adds to the suspense.

In the library is Will's father. The library is Mr. Holloway's escape from his own fears and life-weariness. He spends many after hours there, reading. Will's father is old but experienced. He understands what is happening and, while striving to overcome his own weaknesses and secret desires, he helps the boys find the solution to overcoming the evil that is hunting them.

At first when reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, I wasn't sure what the author was trying to tell the reader. Was he sharing his worldview in metaphors? Or did he just want to create a story out of every boy's ( and girl's) dreams and nightmares?

After reading an essay by Bradbury in which he explains why he writes I now know the answer: Yes.

In the essay, Bradbury explains that all his stories are metaphors. He also describes his life as living one big fantasy. As a child he thrived off movies. By the time he was a teenager he had watched every silent film. By the time he was an adult he was watching thirteen to fifteen movies a week. His stories stem from an insatiable hunger to draw himself and others into fantastical worlds where he gets to make reality.

Bradbury is very much a humanist and the story's conclusion stems from a firm belief that, while acknowledging the existence of evil and human vulnerability, man does not need an outside source, such as God, to turn to. Man need only look inside himself to find an internal resistance to evil. 

  In his books, Bradbury reveals an almost prophetic perspicuity in understanding the dark side of human nature.  Yet he holds an unswerving faith in human goodness.  He fails to explain how an imperfect person can even know what is good without an outside Source providing a paradigm. Men aren't consistent or unified in their convictions concerning good and evil. Selfish desire can  have a corrupting influence on one's belief system.

Be that as it may, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a very enjoyable read. Bradbury's writing is fluid, poetical and rich in colorful imagery. He will always be one of my favorite writers.

I've never been to a haunted carnival such as Bradbury creates, but he certainly succeeds in making the reader feel as though he has.

Come to think of it, maybe I have in my dreams...      

Or buy on Kindle for $7.00

Other Bradbury reviews on the web site:


  1. I have never read and now I don't know why. I must get this book. Thanks for nice review of it. Have a great day!

    1. I always love it when someone introduces me to a good book. Glad I was able to do that for you, Lauren. Take care.

  2. This is also a book I have been meaning to read for years, really must track down a copy and just read it.

    1. Arabella: If you like Bradbury, then you'll enjoy this book.

  3. Hi Sharon - It has been many years since I read this book. I remember loving it as a teenager.

    I really like your analysis of the themes presented. You have gotten me thinking about imperfections and corruptions in our belief systems and morality. Ultimately I believe that bad and good, even if good is in itself not perfect stems from our biology as well as society so I guess that I am close to Bradbury's view.

    Though I do not believe it is so, I grant that a supreme God providing a basis for a perfect morality is appealing both intellectually and emotionally.

    1. Hi Brian: Thanks for your comments.

      I love discussing the existence of God, which unfortunately, a blog of this type doesn't provide space for.

      I don't think that believing in God is appealing intellectually (or He would appeal to people like you:) I see God as an inescapable truth.

      How can people, who even agnostics acknowledge are corrupt, recognize good? How can we know what is perfect or believe in it, if it in fact doesn't exist?

      Only something (or Someone) out side of us showing us a blue print of good can provide that understanding. (And evil is simply that which is not good.)

      Anyway, I appreciate your comments. And even though you don't believe in Him, I pray for God to bless you and your family. Take care!

    2. Just wanted to say thank you for the kind words. I hope for health and happiness for you and your family.

  4. Since I read Fahrenheit 451(which I really loved it) I wanted to read more books by Ray Bradbury! I think that "Something Wicked this way comes" will be he next! :) Thank you for your review and your analysis, it seems really interesting.. Can you tell me the name of Ray Bradbury's essay you mention?

    1. Creative Mind: I hope you enjoy the book. Bradbury's essay is in the book The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work a collection from the Washington Post Book World ed. by Maria Arana
      It's a book I'm going to review after I finish it. You can find it on Amazon. Have a great day!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.