Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ray Bradbury was the favorite author of my youth. I discovered The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 when I was eight or ten and started working my way through everything the library had by Bradbury. This book struck me especially vividly. Perhaps I was just the right age though I never lived in a small town or went to a carnival. The story is so vividly told and so jam packed with wonder and poetry and joy and horror and amazement. Rereading it now some thirty years later, it still thrills and delights. Lasting through time is surely a sign of greatness.
The story is about two boys, Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade, who are best friends in a small Illinois town. One day in late October a lightning rod salesman comes, warns them of a coming storm and gives them a rod to protect Jim's house. That night a mysterious train brings Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show to town. It seems like a benign carnival come far too late in the season, with Halloween approaching. Evil things are afoot as the boys discover the more sinister side of the side shows.
The book is more than an adventure story. It's more than a coming of age story. It's more than a fantastical horror novel. It deals with old age--Will's dad is also a major character who comes to blows with his advanced years (or so he thinks of the 54 he's had) in the same way the boys confront their looming manhood and soon-to-be-lost freedom of boyhood. The story looks at temptation in many forms and the importance of joy in overcoming evil. It is a rich and full novel that definitely rewards multiple readings. I can't wait to share it with my son when he is old enough.
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Also, check out the commentary on A Good Story is Hard To Find!