22 March 2009

Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes is like a little segment of nightmare, a dream-like tale of innocence threatened by a malignant evil. When a carnival comes to town too late at night and out of season, it is the kind of curious omen that cannot help but draw in two boys on the edge of adolescence, such as Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. Cougar and Dark's Pandemonium Carnival shows up mysteriously, appears to go up just as mysteriously, and promises secret delights somehow just a little more extravagant than those of the average carnival. So, it can hardly come as a surprise when it turns out that the Hall of Mirrors or the Carousel conceal darker secrets.

Jim and Will are first drawn to the marvelous carnival but soon find themselves the only ones aware of its intentions. As they take action to stop its plans, they make enemies of the strange characters who populate it, especially the sinister Illustrated Man, Mr. Dark. To resist the sinister forces moving against them, they will require some outside help, but who will possibly believe them?

Bradbury has crafted a fine little work of fantasy. Though it's not particularly scary, it succeeds at creating a rather childlike sense of dark enchantment. There's an almost mythic quality to his portrayal of not quite innocent childhood confronted with the wider world. His prose is mostly perfect for the sort of nightmare adventure described, although it did have moments where he seemed to so commit to inflating an already overinflated sentence or metaphor that you lost all sense of what he was actually talking about. But overall, it's the sort of book that makes you wish yourself could visit Cougar and Dark's Pandemonium Carnival, even if just once, no matter the consequences.

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