Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls into town in the dead of night but not just any town, Jim Nightshade and Will Holloway’s town. The boys are both thirteen, highly attuned to one another; with one boy being born a minute before midnight on 30th of October and the other a minute after. Change is in the air and an array of unusual events cause the wind to shift and everything with it; and it all seems to have started as the Shadow Show arrived. The dark carnival is shrouded in mystery, with menacing figures revolving around it including the ominous figures Cooger & Dark spearheading the strange enterprise, as well as a terrifying blind dust witch whose eyes are sewn shut but she can sense and prey on your emotions. The Shadow show also features unusual attractions like a maze of mirrors that reveals the stuff of nightmares and peoples discontentment with their lives as well as a carousel that, depending on which way it goes, can either age you or give you back years of your life. Naturally the boys, more-so Jim, are entranced by the nightmarish carnival and have to investigate the show more and the peculiar events that unfold.
As a dark staple of the fantasy-horror genre, I don’t know how I have gone this long without delving into this book, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury’s rich prose in this book is unlike any other I have read. I’ve never actually read Bradbury’s work before, that I can think of but this was such a thrilling read for me. I had moments where I would become so mesmerised by his vibrant descriptions that I’d find myself heavily breathing or, in some instances, holding my breath in terror – especially if it was anything to do with that dust witch. His use of language is so poetic and poignant in the imagery that it conjures, you can’t help but get lost in the story. I think this language also contributes towards the timelessness of the story.
Another attribute I would say that adds to it are the contrasts throughout. There are moments of recklessness and then safety, there’s mystery and then knowing, as well as the strong contrasts between youth and age in Will and Jim and then the sage father Mr Halloway. The development of the plot as the story went on, and Mr Halloway’s presence throughout added such depth and meaning to the story. His monologue’s to the boys are magical. My personal favourite is the one in the library, when he explains the origins and the incentives of Mr Dark and his associates who function in darkness and embody all evil.
They’re a billion times itchier for pain, sorrow, and sickness than the average man… it gorges on fear and pain. That’s the fuel, the vapour that spins the carousel, the raw stuffs of terror, the excruciating agony of guilt, the scream from real or imagined wounds. The carnival sucks that gas, ignites it, and chugs along its way.p. 180
I love this so much, especially as it’s followed by Mr Dark’s arrival at the library with him lurking in the shadows. The interaction between him and Mr Halloway was so cool and calm but there’s an energy to it that has you so on edge, especially now knowing the aims of Dark and the fact that somewhere in those shadows the boys are trying to hide for their lives. Dark is the ultimate villain to me. Someone seemingly friendly – the epitome of cool, calm, and collected, yet also gives you chills. He is also known as the illustrated man, marking his body with those whose souls he’s collected through the years with his associates.
Overall this book is beautiful. It’s a Halloween coming-of-age story that has lasted the test of time and will for generations to come. I still cannot believe it was first published in the early sixties. I’m reading this sixty years later and it’s still bloody amazing if you ask me! I cannot recommend this enough, particularly for the Halloween season or autumn time to get the full effect and let me know what you think.
Ever read any of Bradbury’s works? Let me know what you’d recommend I read next.
Cheerio for now!