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Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury
Gollancz, 272 pages

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest SF and fantasy writers of our time. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, he authored such classics of the genre as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Farenheit 451 (1953) by his early 30s, and continues to produce important work today.
In 1990, while at a summit meeting in New York, Mikhail Gorbachov made a special trip to visit Bradbury, his "favourite author," whose works he claimed to have read in the original versions. Bradbury is American fantasy's great ambassador.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Fahrenheit 451
SF Site Review: Dinosaur Tales
SF Site Review: From the Dust Returned
SF Site Review: Dandelion Wine
SF Site Review: Green Shadows, White Whale
SF Site Review: Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines
SF Site Review: Driving Blind
SF Site Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes
SF Site Review: The Illustrated Man
The Illustrated Man Excerpt
The Ray Bradbury Theatre

Past Feature Reviews
A review by James Seidman

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Something Wicked This Way Comes Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, first published in 1962, is one of the great classics of fantasy. As part of the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks series, this classic has recently been reprinted in paperback.

The story focuses around two boys both just a week shy of turning fourteen. Jim Nightshade is an unruly and aggressive youth born on Halloween. Will Halloway, his best friend, is a wholesome boy born on All Saints' Day. Take a moment to reflect on the implications of the boys' birthdays and names, and you can start to appreciate the literary depth of the book.

Jim and Will live in the very typical community of Green Town, Illinois. I use "typical" in its most literal sense: the residents of Green Town have all of the vices, petty jealousies, urges, and defects that you would expect to find in a Midwestern town. These people are not evil or amoral, but instead simply suffer from the same imperfections that you or I might have.

Trouble comes in the form of Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show. The show looks on the surface like a regular carnival, but it has a particularly special attraction. The carrousel, functional despite the "out of order" sign, can change a person's age. Ride the carrousel forward, and with each revolution you age one year. Ride it in reverse, and the years melt away.

As appealing as that might sound, the carrousel is merely bait to draw the not-quite-innocent denizens of Green Town into the show's web of evil power. When Jim and Will incur the wrath of the show's proprietors, they find themselves in a frightening battle against not only a supernatural evil, but also the very draw of that evil itself. As they battle for their own safety, the show is destroying the lives of people they know by playing on their wishes and dreams.

Bradbury uses an unusual style of prose that reinforces the darkness of the book. One of my few complaints with the book was that this style took some getting used to. For the first few chapters I found it distracting, if very effective in setting the tone. Soon you grow used to it, however, and the book becomes a nightmarishly gripping page-turner.

For those who have never read the work, this is a nice opportunity to add it to your library. This story is definitely one of the "must-read" classics of fantasy fiction. Given the dark nature of the story, however, I would not recommend it for bedtime reading.

Copyright © 1998 James Seidman

James Seidman is a busy technology manager at a Fortune 100 company, who needs the excuse of doing book reviews to give himself time to read. He lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and twenty-seven fish in Naperville, Illinois.


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