We are nearing Halloween and for the final book I read this month, I thought it would be nice to finish with a classic horror. It doesn’t hurt that the title of the novel is a quote from Shakespeare (it’s from Act IV of Macbeth), who is possibly my favorite author of all time.
Anyway, Ray Bradbury is one of those authors I’ve wanted to read for years but never got around to it. Fahrenheit 451 is on the top of my TBR, and I hear he’s written some great short stories as well. My point is I was excited to finally read one of his books. There’s a Disney adaptation of this book made in 1983, which is supposed to be pretty good, but I haven’t seen it yet.
Release: Sep. 17, 1962
Synopsis: Best friends Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway live in a small Midwestern town, and are preparing for their fourteenth birthdays. But when October rolls around, a mysterious carnival appears in town, one which is far more horrifying and magical then either boy could have imagined. Now, they must muster their courage to save their town from the evil which has descended on it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In my opinion, it has all the qualities of a great horror novel. It’s mysterious, haunting. It uses poignant descriptions which both gross you out and intrigue you. It tells the story from an innocent perspective (in this case, a child’s view). This book is like a more complex, horrifying Goosebumps story like I used to love when I was a child. I personally wasn’t frightened at any point in the book, but then it is a rare horror that scares me. Instead, I found the story to be more like a magical adventure, a cross between Treasure Island and Hocus Pocus.
Will and Jim, the two boys who lead the cast of characters, are interesting mostly because they contrast each other. Will is light, obedient, and cautious. Jim is intelligent, reckless, and stubborn. I personally find characters are at their best when they are contrasted to another—it makes them seem more unique, I suppose.
Similarly, all the strange people from the carnival who descended upon the town were interesting. You had Mr. Dark, the man who ran the carnival. You had Mr. Cooger, the Witch, the Gypsy, the Dwarf, etc., all of whom stood out as being super creepy. I kind of want to watch the movie now, because I’m curious if how I pictured all the characters from the book is how they looked in the adaptation.
Another thing I enjoyed in the book was some of the themes and philosophical messages. Age was perhaps the biggest theme. That is, what would someone do to remain young forever, and is doing evil worth it just to keep your youth? It’s an interesting idea, especially in modern society when we are so obsessed with defying aging (you just have to go into any cosmetic section and see all the anti-wrinkle creams to realize this fact).
My favorite character, by far, was Charles Halloway, Will’s father. Not only is he a mentor to the boys, the one person who believes them when they say that the carnival is evil, but he himself is the true hero of the novel. It is his goodness, in a sense, which destroys the evil. His strength which is strong enough to shatter a thousand mirrors and shoot a witch in her heart with a smile (you’ll get that reference if you have already read the book).
This paragraph will be a slight spoiler, though nothing too much. In the carnival is a merry-go-round which, when you ride it changes your age (makes you older or younger depending whether the carousel is going forward or backwards). This concept was central to another book I read as a tween: The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. It was rather popular when I was younger, though I was never fond of the book (I did enjoy the movie, however). In that book, there is also a merry-go-round that changes your age. I could not help but wonder when reading this book if Cornelia Funke had been inspired by that plot point. Just a thought.
To summarize, I highly recommend this book to be read around Halloween. Ironically, I started reading this on the 24th of October, which is the exact same day this book starts (I found that rather hilarious). On the surface, it’s a fun horror novel. But deeper down, it is filled with complex concepts that force you to think of your own life, and your own desires.
Have you read this book or seen any adaptations of it? Have you read any of Ray Bradbury’s other books? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,