Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I went through phases of appreciation, satisfaction boredom, annoyance, and outright resentment. Bradbury's stab at a sci-fi YA adventure is worthwhile due to its thought-provoking monologues and interesting depiction of evil's influence and utility in mankind.
Will and Jim are 13-year-old boys who are sucked into the bowels of a traveling, Mephistophilean carnival that is run by a tattooed devil incarnate who intends to harvest their souls, as well as any other small-town bumpkins they can manage. They ignore their parents' wishes and take it upon themselves to expose the demons on their own, Hardy Boys style.
The teen empowerment fantasy fuels the narrative through its most ridiculous moments. I could tolerate the many needed logical stretches to stay present in the story, but Will's twerpiness drove me over the edge. It got to the point where I cringed whenever the next idiotic phrase came out of his mouth, and I rooted for his failure and death.
His dad, who becomes a major part of the story later on, is more tolerable, but at times equally annoying. How he comes to know everything about the carnival, where its denizens came from how to neutralize the operation and what its future held, is head-smackingly dumb.
Christian Rummel's narration in the Audible version does Will no favors, deploying a whiny voice that makes him even harder to stomach. A more straightforward reading would have salved the irritation a bit.
The ending is almost laughably insipid, as though Bradbury has no idea what to do with his endgame and just went with the first, dumbest idea that occurred to him.
Even on a somewhat off day, Bradbury is a brainy, thought-provoking writer with much to say that's worth pondering. This is not the author at his best, but the good moments manage to redeem the awful.
Publisher provided review code.
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