By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Macbeth
Halloween is approaching in Green Town, one of those small towns in the mid west, where boys turning into men feel all the frustrations of the confinement of their childhood homes. Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway are adolescents looking for adventure when Cooger and Dark’s Pandeminium Shadow Show comes to town with its strange attractions and mysterious merry go round, playing tunes full of lost youth and recaptured dreams. Jim and Will know there is something strange about the fair when they spy and watch the merry go round perform its magic. Jim is attracted by the power and the potential adult future Mr. Dark, the show master, offers to him. Will feels left behind whilst knowing that there is something evil at the heart of the show.
This story is Ray Bradbury at his finest. Set in Autumn, it has the tone of things fading and changing which suits the coming of age theme of the novel. It also echoes the desire of Will’s father, Charles, to return to his youth as he feels he is too old to be a good father to Will. Yet it is Charles who researches in his job at the local library to find out much more about the Autumn people and understands what is needed to defeat the evil thy have brought to town. The story blends real horror and suspense in parts, where the witch is sniffing out the boy’s location or when the lightening rod salesman is reduced. It it’s also full of magic and fantasy that is almost in reach but only if , like Macbeth, you are prepared to sacrifice your self to the darkness.
In book shops this story is often placed with YA fiction. I think it’s a fantastic read at any age, it still gave me the heebeegeebees. Though perhaps this is not a summer read, maybe save it for a dark autumnal night when Halloween is just around the corner. I also suspect it is a story that has had many influences, particularly Neil Gaiman’s ‘Amercian Gods’ which features a merry go round which is not all it seems.