Something Wicked

Finally, after many months of avoidance activities, I've finished reading the classic Ray Bradbury novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes".

This review has been almost as difficult to write as the book was to read. My feelings towards this book constantly vacillated from wanting to toss it on the garbage heap to  marveling at the poetry of so many of its truly great and beautifully written passages. As a reader there were many times were I was drawn in by the prose. At times it almost felt as though I was actually remembering the sights, sounds, smells and flavors of moments that I had experienced. But inevitably, the crash to reality would come as the sentimental passages, seemingly supplanting any actual story, were drawn out too thin. As the novel wore on, regardless of how poetic and brilliantly written many of passages were, I found myself growing weary for what felt like an endless run of overly romanticized, ultra-nostalgic moments.

I'm sure there is a technical term, other than tedious, to describe the running together of strings of adjectives and/or adverbs to describe a multiplicity of actions what most authors would relegate to a simple sentence. On many occasions Bradbury - sometimes brilliantly - wanders where others fear to tread. In describing an evil character who is simply waiting for his moment, Bradbury writes: “so he scuttered, crept, scurried, stalked tip-toed, wafted, stood immensely still among the primates, the Egyptian monuments to bestial gods, brushed back histories if dead Africa, stayed awhile in Asia, then sauntered on to newer lands.” While there were occasions where this method of writing works well, on more than a few occasions it falls flat and comes off sounding as though he simply ripped a page from a thesaurus.

There are too many moments where the story, and there is one, takes a back seat to prolonged periods of misty-eyed reminiscing. It isn't until halfway through the book that the there appears to be any interest in developing the story. To be fair there are genuine moments of fear and apprehension, but they're not sustained and instead are buried under more reminiscing. From beginning to end the plot remains vague. It is unclear what motivates the villains. In fact it is unclear if the villains are really or might actually be victims themselves. The ending is too convenient. It is too pollyannish and meaningless to be satisfying. I will note that the books was published in 1962, although I'm not really sure that that should change anything. It may be that the book's format was daring for the time.

In the end, when it comes to recommending this book, I remain conflicted. I felt that, from a readers perspective, there was a lack of involvement with either plot or characters. Because of my inability to develop any connection to the characters and situations, and because of the frequent forays into the poetic jungle, I struggled to complete this book. Yet, in-between the too many large sugary dollops of overly sentimental nostalgia it does contain some of the best and most poetic passages that I’ve ever read. For that reason alone it may be best to ignore my review and read this book for yourself. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.