Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’ve long cherished this novel, and I’ve often spoken quite highly of it. In fact, I’d say it’s safe to label my “speaking highly” of this one as more along the lines of gushing. That’s something I cannot help, to be completely honest. Something Wicked This Way Comes stole my heart, squeezed, released, opened a window in which to see all the terrors of death, aging, and the struggle to find one’s identity as he grows and matures. It’s a novel that will always tear at my inner fabrics, and no matter how many times I read this story, I can’t help but cry, laugh, and perhaps most significantly, learn.
That’s what Bradbury did for me. He taught me things about myself, and he taught me things about life in general… what to grasp, what to let slip by on the breeze; what to remember, always, at all costs.
Something Wicked This Way Comes appears to be a story of childhood freedom pushed into precarious positions that threaten to steal away youth, and life. Cooger and Dark traipse about the world, their traveling Dark Carnival a means to syphon all happiness from unsuspecting townsfolk, only to ensure their sinister reign never ends, and time itself never grows weary. This is an evil spectacle through and through, and now, two ambitious, adventurous young boys, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway have found themselves a target for the leaders of this carnival, as they’ve uncovered what so many have missed before: pure evil and malicious intent.
Death, veiled by the guise of man stalks these boys, and there’s little hope of survival on the horizon.
As enticing as that condensed summary may sound, the sincere magic in this tale doesn’t stem from the physical threats proposed by the novel’s antagonists, but the exploration and deep emotional examination of Jim Nightshade, Will Halloway and Will’s father, Charles. Each personality differs from the other on a pronounced level, but Bradbury manages to interweave an unmistakable connection and likeness between the three. Isolating a shining personality in the story is difficult as each character is illustrated in such believable fashion that it’s no challenge to relate to all of them, though certain readers will unquestionably gravitate to specific personalities. These individuals are so true to human nature that they mirror non-fictional characters to a T and that makes for a sensation rarely dealt in the form of fiction based literature.
Those with a penchant for the fast life, eager to reach the stars before his counterparts, be it selfish or not, will be prone to adopt Jim as a favorite player in this fantastical tale. Those prepared to live life to the fullest, and adhere to each passing moment while maintaining high regard for fellow man will absolutely love the boy known as Will Halloway. And, for those of us aging faster than we’d like (the clock can be a cruel, cruel device), who deeply miss the emotions that swim through the brain, blood and flesh of the carefree, will unquestionably take on an affinity for Charles Halloway, the somber father who harbors guilt rooted in the fact that he’s aged far too much to relate to his son (or so he believes). Sadly, while I’m still a relatively young man, it’s Charles who tugs at my heart strings. The passionate burden he’s hoisted upon his own shoulders is deeply distressing, and his melancholy demeanor still haunts me, having read this masterpiece too many times to count. You see, I’m terrified of becoming Charles Halloway, even as amazing as he truly is at the core of his being (which eventually surfaces in the novels latter pages).
Yes my friends, this is just as much a dramatic coming of age tale as it is horror. But somehow Ray Bradbury fused the two elements, creating a timeless tale that will forever hold sincere relevance. Regardless of time, location, way of life, cultural backgrounds… Something Wicked This Way Comes is a figuratively true story. It’s a story that we’ve all lived, on some level.
While I don’t plan on delving too deep into the story’s specifics (those familiar with my writing know I am about as anti-spoiler as one could possibly be), I will illuminate some chilling scenarios. Understand that this carnival houses not an ounce of purity, but a showcase of genuinely vile individuals, actions and some unsettling contraptions. The time altering carousel is exactly the thing that nightmares are made of: a mechanical device with supernatural powers capable of restoring age, advancing it, or on an occasion or two, completely exterminating it. The story boasts more than a single sequence to feature this hideous piece of machinery, and trust me when I say that riding this attraction leads to far more sinister outcomes than not.
Numerous creatures, of all different assortments clutter Bradbury’s tale, including a few personal favorites like the Dust Witch; capable of reaching into the inner workings of man, and exterminating, heartlessly, as well as disfigured, lifeless corpses proficient in harboring enough electrical current to sputter to life, just long enough to terrify. A nightmare world of mirrors shows visitors what is, was and could be, and while that may not sound remarkably frightening, imagine drowning in that world of distorted imagery, never able to escape the boy, man or woman who entered. These concoctions are harrowing, and the last thing I can imagine is being forced to actually face them: that is true horror.
Something Wicked This Way Comes may (for me personally) never be surpassed as the greatest work of fiction ever written. I only hope that those foreign to the story can find the courage to enter a world filled with tears, terror and triumph. To miss the train is to miss a numinous experience.