Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Green Town, #2)Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s hard to find oneself disliking a book by one’s idol, but this is an example for me and my hero, Ray Bradbury. Which is not to say it is bad — more that there are pacing issues as well as certain facets that are not as palatable as they might have been in the early 1960s when the book came out.

Bradbury does an incredible job of creating an atmosphere of fantastical horror and filling characters, a town, and a traveling carnival with both life and (as the book progresses) dread.

(Hereinafter be spoilers.)

The scenes near the end, as the bad guys close in at the library, are masterful. The use of smiling and laughter against the dark forces is done with joyful perfection instead of what could easily be hokeyness. The battle against the blimp ranging across town. And Will and his father’s terrifying moments in the mirror maze are petrifying and awesome.

Alas, I have three main contentions with the book. Things that, for me, took this from five to three stars, and nearly two.

First, the already short novel should have been shorter still, at least somewhat. There are a LOT of talky scenes, particularly before those masterful library moments. The entirety of the climax could have been tightened. It felt overlong despite there being a roller-coaster ride of action and emotion.

My second issue is the treatment (or lack thereof) of women in the book — though the time period and the fact that two young boys are the protagonists can perhaps excuse this to a small degree. Their mothers are cyphers, their teacher Miss Foley exists primarily to get into bad situations that the boys react against, and the only other significant female character is the Witch. Enough said.

Thirdly, the ending where Will and his father are trying to bring Jim back to life, during which it is apparently necessary for the father to slap his son over and over for expressing the wrong emotions (fear and sorrow at his friend dying), and then for them to sing and dance to minstrel songs. I don’t know what Bradbury’s goals were there, but it just killed the book for me, and I’m surprised Jim made it through alive.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is certainly worth a read, but I can’t imagine handing it over to a child without providing a ton of context.

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