2022 Reading Review: “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

Whether you’re a fan of MacBeth or the Harry Potter films, you’re familiar with the saying. Something Wicked This Way Comes… In fact, it was that quote that made me pick up this book in the shop.

Not that it’s a particularly new book or anything. Written by Ray Bradbury in 1962, it’s got a few decades under its belt, more than any other book I’ve read this year. But what can I say? The title lured me in. And I needed something a little different to break up the three Bridgerton books I just stormed through.

This was definitely different than Bridgerton.

I’ve got my issues with it, but overall it was nice to step away from the ease of romance novels into something a little more complex. Join me on this review as I chat through some of the major areas of the book. Potential spoilers ahead, though I’ll try to keep bigger ones to the Opinions section.

Story

A circus quietly arrives one October night. And all the town is thrilled with the new entertainment.

But two boys sense something off. Others seem to sense it too, but no one will admit it. And no one will believe the words of two young boys, even if they witness the weird things taking place after dark.

Something Wicked This Way Comes weaves a tale of a carnival with something sinister taking place that no one can quite see for themselves. Yet Will and Jim find themselves caught up in its darkness—and they’ve caught the eyes of the carnival’s owners. Unable to escape their gaze, they must find a way to save themselves and their town, or be lost to the carnival itself.

Characters

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. Can’t talk about one without talking about the other. Born within three minutes of each other: one on October 30th, the other October 31st. The light and the dark. And even they themselves know this about one another. Days away from turning fourteen, the circus comes to their town. And everything that happens within those days tests their friendship and shows the power of light and dark.

The Circus. Without warning, it appears in their town. And the town is captivated. There are many characters to be found within the circus, but the main figures are Mr. Cooger, Mr. Dark, and the Dust Witch. These three seem to be the most active in keeping this mysterious circus afloat. But who are they? And what secrets do they hold? And can they be defeated?

Charles Halloway. I don’t think I can get away without mentioning Will’s father. While he’s touch-and-go at the start of the novel, he becomes an important player in solving the riddle of the circus. And he also has to confront his own insecurities, so he does not fall prey to the circus’ tricks.

Writing

This might irk some people, but I did not enjoy the writing style here. I know, it’s Ray Bradbury, and he’s renowned. But the writing here kind of bothered me. My biggest issue were the run-on sentences. From that, most of my other issues stemmed. Like, the long sentences—constantly feeling like random train of thoughts—would throw off descriptions for me. I really forced myself to get through this book.

But as I read it, I wondered if it was meant to be reminiscent of the excitement of a young boy. I mean, the main characters are two boys. So, was the writing meant to show the jumpy and eager thoughts of the main characters? Is that why it often felt exhausting to read? Or why the sentences seemed to go on and on—like a kid, rambling away?

If I was still in literature class, I’d probably argue that. Prove me wrong!

But there were some things I liked. The chapters were super short, so I felt like I was accomplishing a lot when I read a few

And there were several lines and passages I really liked. I can’t deny that. So, it was worth powering through.

Will You Like This?

Do you enjoy tales with a spooky twist that aren’t TOO over-the-top with the scares?
Do you like reading books that can hit you with deep themes and subjects?
Are you a fan of Ray Bradbury?
And can you handle some writing that occasionally feels mildly sexist*?

Pick this book up, if so. Again, I really didn’t find it too scary, but I did enjoy thinking deeper about some of the themes and ideas. That provided some chills and helped me enjoy the book despite having some issues with it.

On that note, I will be posting a second entry about this book, where I’ll share some quotes and themes. I miss talking about those things in English class.

*NOTE: I’m not in support of sexism. And I’m not even saying this book is sexist. There were a few lines that hit me weird—talking about how women thrive on gossip (see post about quotes and themes). But when I read, I try to remember we’re living in a different time and we’ve grown a lot as a society. I don’t fault the world or books for showcasing some of those issues, especially if they’re from a different time. I’d rather continue reading them and see what I get out of them—and be grateful for how far we’ve come.

Opinion (Spoilers)

I really forced myself to read this one. Not that it’s bad. The story is one I enjoyed. I like the idea of mystical carnivals that have a dark secret to be contained. And I like books (and conversations) that make me think. So, why wouldn’t I be into this?

Honestly, the writing bothered me. And I put that down to style. The way we write—and what we enjoy reading—is all different. That’s why it’s a blessing we have so many different types of writing to read—from blogs to books to poems.

But it’s rare that I find a book that I’ll put down. I guess I’m stubborn in that way. I took this as an English major experience: branch out of your typical and read something a bit more “classic”. (Classic in the sense of “it’s not brand new”; it’s got some history behind it. And it’s Ray Bradbury, he’s a common one for English classes).

Anyway, I’m rambling. The writing wasn’t for me. The story was interesting, and I felt myself wanting to know more. Maybe modern-day fantasy and horror novels have me spoiled with sharing all the details. But I wanted more definitive stuff about this mysterious carnival. But I guess that’s for my imagination.

Stephen King

I don’t know why I feel the need to comment this, but a quote by Stephen King is on the cover of my novel. So, we know the king of modern horror is fan of this book. And honestly there were a few times where I felt IT vibes.

Not obviously. We’re not seeing murderous clowns anywhere here. But the idea of an evil circus; the themes of good versus evil; an evil that’s lived for centuries, unrecognized; even the power of youth, laughter, and imagination.

I saw these things pop up, and I wondered if these hints got King thinking about IT.

As a writer myself, I do recognize when other stories get my brain thinking about different topics. And this was one where I could see the potential for seeds being planted for a story about an evil clown whose demise would be met by children with the power of imagination.

I don’t know. Just an interesting thought.

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