The Power of Melancholy
Nostalgia is a feeling that comes us over every single one of us at some point or another, whether we're simply lost in the carefree days of our childhood or just daydreaming of a time when things were better. For the most part, we can only experience that feeling in relation to our own past; after all, how can one feel nostalgic for something they never had? Nevertheless, that's exactly what Ray Bradbury does to us in his classic novel Something Wicked This Way Comes: he makes us yearn for a time and a life we've never lived.
The story begins as we are introduced to two boys, Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade, born just seconds apart, one of them on Halloween's eve and the other on the day of the celebration. Despite the former being innocent and naive and the latter more knowledgeable and darker in his thoughts, the two boys have been inseparable friends for as long as they have existed. One day, on midnight, a carnival suddenly arrives into town, run by Mr. Dark and his acolytes, a man covered in tattoos, a menacing dwarf and a blind gypsy witch. One evening, the two boys witness the carnival's carousel change someone's age, and it becomes apparent that a sinister menace lurks behind all the bells and whistles. Very soon, the boys cross paths with Mr. Dark and uncover his evil intentions, making themselves a very powerful enemy in the process.
Ray Bradbury in Full Force
Like with most novels that are well-written, the first thing you're going to notice here is the quality of the prose itself. Bradbury is a genius wordsmith, his phrases often being evocative and bearing some surrealistic qualities in them. His descriptions are very vivid and imaginative, and despite the metaphors feeling a bit forced at times, they help to create a unique dream-like atmosphere that casts a shadow of magical potential and vagueness on everything. The author is concise when he needs to be and knows when to use the proper words to have a strong impact on the reader; his sense of timing is something all other writers could really learn from.
The plot itself may certainly be classified in the horror genre, but it's definitely not the “monsters and skeletons” that we've sadly become expectant of these days. Rather, Bradbury prefers to deliver his horror through the psychological domain, accentuating the various real fears that human beings have, such as the loss of loved ones, ageing, powerlessness and loneliness, just to name a few. This approach definitely gets to you a whole lot more than any amount of blood, gore and guts ever could. While doing all of that, he also finds the time to bring us back to his own youth and make us feel nostalgic for it. The story feels like it progresses rather quickly, and that's in part thanks to the build-up of the suspense that just keeps on getting more and more intense until the end when it accumulates into a truly terrifying finale.
At first it may feel like the characters we encounter go somewhat against the deep and sometimes even philosophical nature of this novel. This is in the sense their motivations and inner drives are never really explained, with Bradbury preferring to follow the fairy-tale formula, meaning that characters simply are the way they are, and that dictates what they do. In other words, some people are simply evil, and so that is what they will cause, while others are simply good and will work to prevent evil, as if it was all predetermined at birth. Ultimately, this approach actually helps the book as it allows Bradbury to populate the story with remarkable and varied characters that each have a role to play, without losing focus of what's truly important: the decisions that we make and actions that we undertake, not who we are.
Does it Merit the Title of Literary Classic?
To conclude the review, Something Wicked This Way Comes most definitely deserves its place as a classic work of literature, being original and memorable in every sense of the word. It's a very unusual and extremely interesting entry into the horror genre, one that definitely deserves to be read by anyone with even a bit of nostalgia for their younger days.
Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012)
Author of the internationally-acclaimed Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury is one of the most distinguished science-fiction writers on this planet, known for his dystopian and partly-horrific sci-fi stories. His influence on American culture cannot be understated, with some claiming him to be responsible for turning science-fiction into a mainstream genre.
More of the Ray Bradbury's book reviews:
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