Something Wicked This Way Comes: Fantasy Masterworks
(Gollancz, £6.99, 261 pages, paperback, first published 1962,
this edition published 15 March 2006.)
are many books which any fan of fantasy, in all its guises, must read
as a matter of course: "YOU must read this" they say, "it's
a classic novel". Something Wicked... is just one of those
books, a novel that transcends genre - part sf, horror; it's even a
mainstream coming-of-age tale of adolescence in Smalltown, USA.
It's the latter style that drives the narrative - two young boys, Jim
Nightshade and Will Holloway, who strive to grow old, whereas Will's
father, Charles, who like many of the adult occupants of the town, pine
after lost youth. It's this quest that welcomes Coogar and Dark's Pandemonium
Shadow Show, and its assortment of bizarre characters.
There is much to recommend this book: the characters, all rendered
in fabulous '50s style, with the two boys all wide-eyed innocence and
the adults worldly wise, yet still with that "gosh, darn it"
sensibility; the story, for who never wished they were older when a
kid, then wished to be young again when it's too late; the writing,
for each word and sentence is crafted to perfection, no syllable or
simile out of place; but there is that elusive question you ask yourself
with any book you've been told to read: am I enjoying it?
Sadly, no: I found myself treading through the beautiful words, the
poetic prose, with my mind shouting, "come on Ray, get on with
the story!" In his quest to write perfection, Bradbury for me congested
a rapturous storyline with wondrous words, which is fine in a short
piece, but for a novel it bogs down the narrative. This was a pity since
I dearly wanted to love this book; it was dark and comic, but that damn
I once read that many a classic novel, if submitted today, would have
been subjected to a form rejection. This makes me wonder whether this
is one such novel?
Speaking on a more personal note, I found the affectionate homage Escardy
Gap by Peter Crowther and James Lovegrove a much more pleasant and
enjoyable read, but then books are so subjective.
If you're keen to experience Ray Bradbury, then I'd start with The
Martian Chronicles or a collection or two of his short stories:
Something Wicked This Way Comes could turn you off a writer who
is quite possibly the master of science fiction.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: