It’s taken me long enough to read, its been forcing me to put off my 24 books in a year challenge, so I thought why not post a little about the final book I picked up in 2015.
The final book I picked up in 2015 was intended on being my halloween novel, of course it didn’t quite end up that way as I spent a lot of Sept, Oct, and Nov a little distracted from reading. I’ve previously read a lot of Ray Bradbury’s work, or at least what feels like a lot as I’ve read two novels and two novelettes and two collections of short stories. Those short stories definitely mount up, it feels a lot like I know his writing, I know his style so as well as being familiar its beginning to loose its charm a little now.
Bradbury’s writing isn’t becoming boring to me by any means just almost, I find myself saying “that’s so, Ray Bradbury” when reading him, almost as if he’s becoming a cliche unto himself. He is one of the biggest influences I have for fiction because I feel as a poet, that I find fiction quite difficult. Bradbury was a writer who struck me with poetic prose and actually brought a little faith back to me as a poet when it comes to writing prose.
Something Wicked this Way Comes is a lighter Bradbury novel, it is set in a childlike world in which a sinister carnival visits and strange things begin to happen to the two boy protagonists. However if you’ve read the Illustrated Man as I have, you’ll be surprised when he turns up as the main antagonist. You’ll be surprised to learn much about the Illustrated Man that is completely absent from the novel with his namesake, and Something Wicked this Way Comes will act a little like a counter weight. I found on reading the Illustrated Man the words of warning spoken about this character had little gravity as I had nothing to validate these warnings. Presumably if the characters are the same, Something Wicked this Way Comes does the job a little better if the novels are seen in relation to one another.
But, as the majority of Bradbury’s writing, the novel can be understood in isolation, so don’t feel like you have to pick up the Illustrated Man as well if you don’t want to. Something Wicked this way Comes reads a little like a fairytale, but is dark and has a gothic feel which I haven’t come across in any other of Bradbury’s writing really. Or if I have they haven’t stuck with me.
My only criticism of the novel is the middle section of the book really seemed to drag for me, hence why it has dragged into 2016. Whether it was simply my concentration, that I’ve read a lot of Bradbury’s work and am very familiar with his style and narrative structure, I really couldn’t say. But that middle section just really did not cling to me, I put it down, I picked it up, I started reading it because I have a compulsion to finish books rather than wanting to finish it. It was a little bit of a labour.
Perhaps even, the novel felt a little functional, as if there was perhaps a functional list behind events, or an grand design to the novel itself. I read in the Author’s afterword that it was always intended to be a film:
“Part of me is still in that hideous carousel when I was four. I seem never to have found a way to get off.” – Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked this way Comes, afterword, p.263
So perhaps, it was both my concentration and the design of the novel, though when and if I return to it my opinion may change. However, don’t let this put you off. If Bradbury is an author you’ve never delved into I suggest you give him a go. His childlike imagination romps wild across genre. The natural play of words and metaphors that arrive on the page are surprising, and poetic.
Something Wicked this Way Comes, is certainly not my favourite Bradbury nor my favourite book however I am glad that I read it. Because although the middle 70/90 pages took a while for me to get through, the last third is wonderful. It had me in its vice grip and wouldn’t let go so much so that the last 60 pages I flew through. The last third, the boys are joined by the librarian father of one of them, who is a wonderful depiction of parental heroism. He doesn’t swing swords or shoot arrows or have any of the makings of a viking. He is a well-read, boring, middle aged man, who after lecturing the boys on life and love and everything is the perpetrator for the happy ending. As a most unlikely hero, he is wonderful.
This character also says possibly one of my favourite lines of dialogue that I think I have ever come across which I’ve quoted for you below:
“I’ll be dammed if death wears my sadness for glad rags!” p.254 – Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked this Way Comes
If your wondering, the novel was indeed made into a film by Disney 1983, which I have not watched so cannot comment. This novel is a good one for halloween and would be a good one to start if you’re interested in Ray Bradbury’s work. Its imaginative and unpredictable and definitely worth it, the carnival freaks are one of my favourite things about this novel that and the carnival itself which seems to have a character of its own. As ever Bradbury’s writing is vivid, its sharp, and clearly imagined, its thrilling. As storytelling goes, this novel is on par with everything else by Bradbury I have read, bar Fahrenheit 451 which for me will always be exceptional.
Other novels by Bradbury that I have read: Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Now and Forever, the Illustrated Man, We’ll Always have Paris.