Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Can a kid’s book make your skin prickle? Is there such thing as a campfire story that affects adults? Well, you can bet that Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury is not your cliche Goosebumps ripoff.

Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, a garish circus shone through the lurid mirror of fantasy. When this circus comes to town, it begins as a summer spectacle, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade sense something fun. The joy of the carnival, however, is overshadowed by a dark plot brewing somewhere beneath the big top. A merry-go-round that reverses your age, a maze of mirrors that houses your worst horrors, and a man kept alive by electricity. Will and Jim find more than just cotton candy, instead stumbling upon something purely evil.

{I read this book a few months ago, but it stuck in my mind for a long time afterward. Read on to find out why.}

Reading the premise of this book, I was on edge about what to expect. The story sounds like a hokey allegory that promenades as a horror story for children. Which is exactly what it is. Some of the characters’ lines are corny and sometimes the plot is predictable, but the book is so universal, its plot remained with me. Not only that, the book scared the crap out of me.

I’ve read the grisliest books I can get my hands on. The worst of gross-out, creep-out, skin-crawling, psychological thrillers. But this simple children’s story trumps them all. Bradbury’s novel, though, poses a quite universal threat- this unassuming, obscure evil that we may call immorality or Lucifer. It manifests the fear of the unknown in the gimmicky bizarre mood of a circus.

The third major character in the novel is Charles Halloway, Will’s father, who is discontent with growing hold. They discover that the circus feeds off of those who are unable to accept themselves, afraid of what they’ll become. So they offer them a choice to join the circus, to be imprisoned forever by temptation and wrongful ambition. If this sounds like a Bible story, it’s because it almost is.

What the book does is reel you back into your childhood, force you into the discomfort and fear of growing up, of becoming someone you never intended to come. The circus, populated by cliche side show freaks, is everything every child is afraid of: that proverbial monster in the closet, what stands behind the door whenever you enter a room. In that way, Something Wicked is a standard “scary story.” The sort of tale told around campfires in Cub Scouts. But with a powerful overarching message and sinister feel.

Read this book for a haunting allegory with implications that stretch far beyond a Romansbildung. If you’ve read this or any of Bradbury’s work, please give your thoughts.

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on June 22, 2011, in books, Random, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very effective book review, not only in content, but in presentation. It reads more like promotional material found on a book jacket. Exceedingly well-written because it tempts the prospective reader to find out more–to find out what you know but aren’t telling!

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