Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) by Ray Bradbury

Something_wicked_this_way_comes_first“He stared at fathoms of reflections. You could never strike bottom there. It was like winter standing tall, waiting to kill you with a glance” (p. 62).

“Stay away from the maze where winter slept” (p. 122).

Has anyone ever finished a mirror maze? I have not. Not out of some existential fear like Bradbury suggests. Just the fear of banging my nose on a pane of bendy glass is enough to prevent me from venturing further than a few feet inside, arms outstretched, before I back up and scurry out the entrance. And, yes, I’ve had to be rescued at least once.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a mirror maze of another kind, the existential kind, although it’s accompanied by some of the same appeal and angst. It recollects our pasts, that famous Bradburian nostalgia, and we see ourselves and our loved ones in his contemplative meditations. Like a warped mirror, Bradbury amplifies, intensifies, stretches, augments, and he stuffs the extra spaces with tenderly poignant musings. I get a pang in my gut when I read his prose, it’s so excruciatingly true and beautiful. Some people have physical reactions to art. I have a physical reaction when I read stuff like this.

But this is about Halloween. Not about my sensitivity to distinctive metaphors. (But he compares the mother’s optimism to fresh milk! *swoon*)

Here’s something scary…

Something_wicked_this_way_comes_2“The Witch who might draw skulls and bones in the dust, then sneeze it away…”

“… so she could feel their souls disinhibit, reinhabit their tremulous nostrils. Each soul, a vast warm fingerprint, felt different, she could roil it in her hand like clay; smelled different, Will could hear her snuffing his life away; tasted different, she savored them with her raw-gummed mouth, her puff-adder tongue; sounded different, she stuffed their souls in one ear, tissued them out the other!” (p. 143).

“Fingerprint souls she roils like clay,” “puff-adder tongue,” “tissued them out the other…” most writers just don’t write like this. Maybe we should encourage our young writers to skip college and live at the library.

I feel bad for the Witch, though. Bradbury’s women lack the depth of his male characters, but the horror of this poor wretch is simply her existence. Eyes sewn shut with black widow silk, she’s the bloodhound for her carnival boss. She never turns on her manipulator (like we hope), and then he sells her out in the end, to protect his own hide. She’s not scary. Her existence is scary. Someone connect her with a social worker, stat!

But if you’re only going to develop your male characters, you can bet I will still find a way to edge myself into your book. I’m Will, by the way…

“The trouble with Jim was he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world…”

“Will Halloway, it was in him young to always look just beyond, over or to one side. So at thirteen he had saved up only six years of staring” (p. 39).

But the scariest part of all is that this isn’t a book about boys, or carnivals, or autumn, or witches. It’s about aging. It’s about Will’s dad, really…

Something_wicked_this_way_comes_3“For being good is a fearful occupation; men strain at it and sometimes break in two” (p. 135).

… and me on the roof using books for shingles, comparing life to libraries… I’d be a fool not to know I’m a fool” (p. 136).

“Hit an old man with mirrors, watch his pieces fall in jigsaws of ice only the carnival can put together again” (p. 205).

So, of course, I hope you have a [happy] [spooky] [hallowed] [lovely] Halloween. And, of course, “beware the autumn people,” to whom I will be doling out overpriced candy when they pull up to my house in their golf carts, (because that’s how we do in Arrakis, Texas) during which time I might be “holding a book but reading the empty spaces” (p. 34).

“An autumn leaf, very crisp, fell somewhere in the dark. But it was only the page of a book, turning” (p. 184).

In reality, it will be the screen of an ereader, clicking, like the still-green branch of turk’s cap bush against the window. Green, because autumn in Texas ain’t a real thang.

(And that book is The Peripheral. holla.)

 

A special thank you to S. C. Flynn at Scy-Fy for inspiring fellow bloggers to share their favorite genre quotes. And an obligatory, perfunctory, begrudging thanks to my blogger rival, Books, Brains and Beer for recommending this book.

You might like:
Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
Perdido Street Station (2000) by China Mieville
Inverted World (1974) by Christopher Priest
Southern Reach
trilogy (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer

More Book Reviews

Upcoming Reviews:
Dark Universe (1962) by Daniel Galouye
City of the Stairs (2014) by Robert Bennett Jackson
The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) by Gene Wolfe
The Peripheral (2014) by William Gibson

About from couch to moon

 

 

 

Perdido Street Station (2000) by China Miéville

perdidostreetstation1There is no doubt that China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station is an acquired taste for the uninitiated, and even for the initiated—those of us who were raised on the strange and squishy, green-tinted worlds of Roald Dahl animated features, and the obstructive prose of Lovecraft and his buddies. At times, it’s bumbling and immature, while also being rich and immense. But it almost always overwhelms as an ambitious sensory experience that not all readers will be prepared for.

Isaac Dan derGrimnebulin, a brilliant yet erratic theoretical physicist, is approached by a wingless garuda who seeks his help to regain flight, providing ample opportunity for Isaac to tinker with his passion for chaos theory. Isaac’s lover, the avant-garde artist Lin, a self-imposed exile of the Kepri community, whose insectile anatomy forces her relationship with Isaac into the unacknowledged shadows, is vetted by the mobster kingpin Mr. Motley to produce a life-size statue of his monstrously modified physique. Both lovers are offered a level of challenge and compensation that they cannot resist, which lures them deeper into the dark and dangerous underworld of New Crobuzon.

[WARNING: Semi-braggy personal disclosure in the next two paragraphs. Detour if you want. feel like sharing today.] Continue reading

Inverted World (1974) by Christopher Priest

InvertedWorldGround that slips. Warped horizons. Variable forces. The limits to which genre fiction can be stretched and altered to accommodate its own metafictional boundaries are far and wide, yet few authors dare to test their tales against those limits. Straightforward stories of unique characters in unique circumstances carry their own appeal, but some authors move beyond that. In 1974’s Inverted World, Christopher Priest manages to probe those appraising, distant boundaries, while capturing the visual imagination of his readers, and without mangling the central tale of a boy becoming a man in a city of passive incomprehension.

We see the words “mind-bending” and “mind-blowing” thrown around a lot when describing speculative fiction novels, and it’s not without good reason. Most spec fic readers seek more than just a good story—they want to alter their reality, stretch their minds. But reading spec fic is a bit like mind yoga, and while there are many styles to choose from, some of them just aren’t very challenging. Still, it is with great hesitation, yet utter sincerity, that I deliver the following pronouncement:

Christopher Priest’s Inverted World is mind-bending. No hyperbole intended. (Although there are some hyperbolas.) (sorry.) Continue reading

The Jewels of Aptor (1962) by Samuel R. Delany

jewelsofaptor1

“Was their leader a mistress of science or a witch of mutants?”       I don’t know, Ace Books. That was never the question.

Since I purchased this book, and for the rest of my life beyond that moment, my brain has decided to call this novel The Sword of Aptor instead of The Jewels of Aptor. I don’t know why. I don’t remember many swords in the novel—knives mostly—but this is what my brain has decided to call this book, every time, for whatever reason. I have to correct myself in my head. It’s about jewels! There is no sword! The title of the book is very straightforward!

In a vague, post-apocalyptic future with no electricity, a group of freelance sailors, including a poet and a four-armed psychic mute, are beckoned by the goddess Argo to steal back her mystical jewel from the dark god Hama. The mission takes them to the island of Aptor, a place where few men can escape, and no man wants to return. (And what about the women, ahem?) While there, the group encounters strange sights, consequences of a long dead and forgotten nuclear age, while uncomfortable changes in perception cloud their judgment, and cause them question their assumptions about good and evil. Continue reading

The Southern Reach series: Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer

southernreach1

Deep in the vegetative abyss of Area X, within the walls of a blood spattered lighthouse, a foreboding heap of forgotten journals lay moldering and unread, their owners long submerged into the ecology of the nebulous terrain. This journal is not part of that pile. This journal is my weak attempt to be different in a world where everybody already reviewed this series months ago.

WARNING! SPOILERS AND DEAD MOSQUITOES AHEAD!

southernreach1 Continue reading

Second Ending (1962) by James White

secondending1I’ve a weakness for friendly robot stories, perhaps in the way that some people have a weakness for boy-and-his-dog stories. They usually lack substance, but there is something comforting about these facsimile friendships that usually result in personal growth for the protagonist. As much as we hate to admit it, dogs and robots are dumb beyond their roles, unable to demonstrate intellectual creativity or self-motivated improvement, yet human owners project human qualities onto both beasts, for whatever reasons. Both robot and dog represent unwavering devotion and love, unlike those annoying human relationships where support and interest waxes and wanes unpredictably. Dogs and robots can be taken for granted and they never resent it. Their constancy is comforting and safe. (Until rabies or the singularity happens, in which case you’re screwed). Continue reading

Falling Forward: September Review and Upcoming Reads

galactic_patrol3

I used to do these monthly reading summary posts, but they never seemed to interest anyone, and then I promised myself I would publish only one post per week this season. But now I’ve noticed other people doing them and it’s made me wistful for my old post schedule. Perhaps now enough book nerds have found me and maybe they enjoy book stalking me as much as I enjoy book stalking them. The greatest benefit of this community is the vicarious reading, amirite? Continue reading