Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)

This week has been Witch Week at Emerald City Book Review. Since I don't read much fantasy, I haven't been able to participate very much, but I have been looking forward to today. This is the day when Witch Week participants are discussing Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

The story follows two adolescent boys, Will Halloway and Jack Nightshade, as they repeatedly visit a dark carnival which has come to their town to tempt patrons with the promise of being able to age more slowly or more quickly using a carousel with the power to add or remove years from an individual's life. Looking out for the boys' safety is Will's father, Charles Halloway, who is the janitor at the local library and who has some regrets of his own about the path his life has taken. As these three characters look for ways to defeat the carnivals' evil owners and move back toward the light, they reflect heavily on their pasts and futures, and the states of their own souls.

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time after loving Dandelion Wine as a teen, and it did not disappoint at all. What Dandelion Wine is for the season of summer, Something Wicked This Way Comes is for the season of fall.  Where Dandelion Wine is bright and warm and full of light and joy and dreams, Something Wicked is dark and cold and full of uncertainty and fear and nightmares. Despite the darkness, however, this is a beautifully written book. I am the kind of reader who drools over well-written description, and this book is filled with passages that are practically poetry. Bradbury clearly loved the English language, and he absolutely lavished this story with well-chosen words and carefully constructed sentences. I started to write down some of my favorite quotations as I read, but quickly realized that to save every word I loved, I'd probably have to copy the entire story.

What spoke to me the most, though, was the way Bradbury describes the powerful grip sin can have over a human being, even one with good intentions who wishes to avoid evil. I think the last time I read a book with such a strong understanding of sin and guilt and temptation it was The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Bradbury, thankfully, is more accessible, and though he does use a lot of words to convey his points, he also has moments where the truth is distilled to a single quotable line.

One such moment is where he writes, "You work twice as hard to be a farmer as to be his hog." This comes in a segment of the story where Charles considers how difficult is can be to always be good, to never give in to temptations.  Though there is more to the passage, this line gets to the heart of the matter, reminding us that we want to be farmers even when it feels like being the hog would be easier to achieve.

Another wonderfully straightforward line that jumped out at me is “Good to evil seems evil.” This is a simple concept, but one that I think human beings neglect to realize. There are many people in the world who do things on a daily basis that are morally wrong, and I know I'm not alone in wondering how they can commit those acts and bring such ugliness into the world. To realize that maybe those actions no longer seem wrong to those individuals gave me such a sense of clarity, even if it was accompanied by a deeper sadness about the fallen state of our world.

This is the best book I have read in a long time, and it's the kind of story that will ruin me for other books for a while until I have a little bit of distance from it. I really want to re-read Dandelion Wine now, and then finish the series, which also includes Farewell, Summer (which I own but have never read) and Summer Morning, Summer Night (the existence of which I didn't even know about until I looked up Something Wicked on Goodreads.)


  1. I'm so glad Witch Week inspired you to finally read this book! Now I really need to read Dandelion Wine...

    I hope you'll link up on the Master Post ( so more readers can find your review.

  2. How interesting you mention Dandelion Wine. That and Fahrenheit 451 are the only works by Bradbury I've read prior to reading this for Witch Week. I remember participating in a Reader's Theater version of Dandelion Wine many years ago and I was thinking as I read Something Wicked with its darkness and evil, I want to reread Dandelion Wine again! So I really like your comparison and contrast of it with the review of this book.

  3. Yes! I read this in October and felt the same way. Such beautiful writing! I had a hard time starting my next (bookclub) book when I was done. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is what inspired me to read this book. I am definitely going to read Dandelion Wine next summer. (IG @oneaponceatime)