One of Ray Bradbury’s best-known and most popular novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, now featuring a new introduction and material about its longstanding influence on culture and genre.
For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares.
Few novels have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury’s unparalleled literary masterpiece Something Wicked This Way Comes. Scary and suspenseful, it is a timeless classic in the American canon.
Something Wicked This Way Comes – A Review (Part 2)
Part 2: Pursuits
Part 2 opens with Ms Foley, who is clearly now under the carnival’s spell. She reports the two boys to the police for attempting to burgle her, and neglects to mention the nephew who clearly isn’t her nephew. Will and Jim get into trouble, but even then Jim seems more concerned with the carousel, and the possibilities of instantly becoming a grown up. Will tries to explain to his father, but stops when he realizes he would be leading the man into Mr Dark’s net. This is something the boys must face alone, even if Will is becoming more and more worried about losing Jim entirely. The interplay between stolid, sensible Will and Jim’s wild side is masterfully done. When I was a lad reading this, I knew I was most definitely a Will, even while I knew a part of me would always want to be a Jim. I had a friend who was definitely a Jim. He passed away last year, still running ahead without me, and reading this now brought it all back to me. Bradbury, nostalgia, and emotion… a heady mixture for a boy at any age.
“Here comes the carnival. Death like a rattle in one hand, life like candy in the other. Shake one to scare you, offer one to make your mouth water. Here comes the side show, both hands full.”
That same night, or rather, in the early hours of the morning, the boys wake up to find that one of the carnival’s denizens, the Dust Witch, is searching for them, hovering silently over the town in a hot air balloon. Once again Bradbury paints us a quick word picture of her, and once again we are immediately terrified. He’s got his hooks deep in us now. Will, showing us a bravery even beyond what we knew was in him, lures the witch to a deserted house and, in a brilliantly taut scene, dispatches the balloon with an arrow, driving her away.
“Nothing much else happened, all the rest of that night.”
The next day Will and Jim meet a frightened young girl. It is only later that they realise it is Ms Foley, made young again by the carousel, but by then it is too late… they cannot find her, and the carnival, via a parade, has come right into the center of town, looking for them. The boys must hide.
They take position under a grille in the sidewalk, only to be discovered by Will’s father. But things get complicated when Mr Dark arrives to question the man about the boys. Mr Holloway shows remarkable calm in the face of the Tattooed man’s insistence, and refuses to betray the boys to him. The Dust Witch arrives to complicate matters, but Mr Holloway banishes her simply by blowing cigar smoke in her face. Now aware that something is indeed awry in the town, Mr Holloway tells the boys to stay hidden then meet him at the library later.
In just the past twenty pages or so, both elder and younger Holloway have shown their mettle, revealing inner strengths. But it is Jim we’re getting most worried about at this point, the one of the pair who now seems somewhat younger than the other. Act 2 is about to come to a head, and we’re not sure yet where it’s going.
Our three heroes meet later in the library, where Will’s father tells them that he has discovered that the same carnival, and the same people, have been coming to town for a very long time. They are about to discuss how they might fight this menace when they are interrupted. The boys hide again as the father confronts Mr Dark. We get a terrifying set of scenes where Mr Dark overwhelms the father, breaking his fingers in the process, finds the boys, and sends the Dust Witch to kill the father. At this point it seems that Mr Dark has won completely.
Then the whole book turns on a single pivot. Will’s father laughs at the absurdity of things as the Witch tries to stop his heart… and the laughter causes her to pause, so he laughs again, loud and hard, and the Witch quails away from him. He has found the tool he needs to give them a fighting chance.
The witch flees, and Will’s father, nursing a broken hand, heads out into the night to search for the boys.
At the end of Act 2, we are left in despair, with the boys in the hands of Mr Dark. But there’s hope. Will’s father has proved his mettle again, and we are now all rooting for him as we head for the final confrontation.
Boo-ology: William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than twenty five novels published in the genre, and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies. When he is not writing, he plays guitar, drinks beer, and dreams of forture and glory.