I love carnivals so much! I like the look, the history, the sounds, and the smells. Carnivals are always filled with so much excitement, aren’t they?!
But, is it just me, or does it seem like there’s always an underlying feeling of darkness at carnivals, too? Maybe it’s because of the morbid sideshow acts, the exploitation of “freaks,” or the fact that they appear and disappear overnight?
Or, is it perhaps because carnivals are actually run by demons who are trying to steal your life force?
Two thirteen year old best friends, Will and Jim, are excited when they find out that Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to town! However, what they soon come to realize is that this carnival has destroyed every life it has ever touched with its strange and evil mystery.
When Will and Jim spot a carousel that promises youth regained, or the addition of wise years, they discover that sometimes there is a heavy cost to fulfill your wishes, and that nothing is ever exactly as it seems.
Before We Go On…
It’s not a terrible book my any means, let me just start there… However, I hated it. Haha!
This book was written by Bradbury in the 50’s and published in 1962. The reason this is important for me to mention is because I think this was the main reason that I didn’t enjoy it. I always say that I won’t read anything prior to 1960, so I thought I was safe when I chose this book. Girrrrlll, I was SO wrong…
Okay, I guess we should just get to it… Are you guys ready for a straight up beat down?
Oh my god, the characters are soooooooo Beaver Cleaver! If I had a dollar for every “oh golly” or “gee wiz,” I could probably pay off my f*cking mortgage!
But this wasn’t the only problem I had with the way the two main characters spoke. Fortunately, before reading this book I don’t think I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with characters quite as whiny and annoying as Will and Jim.
It was literally WhineFest 1962.
And then, as if that wasn’t unbearable enough, 95% of the decisions these two dum-dums made were unbelievable! I literally wouldn’t have done anything the way that these kids did. I understand characters needing to have flaws, but good god! Part of me was hoping the “freaks” would just knock them off real quick so that this book could have a true happy ending! I’m sorry, I know they’re just kids, but it’s really how I felt… I am bad.
The only good character outside of the “freaks” was Will’s father, Charles, who ends up being a super important character in the second half of the book. I appreciated his wisdom, support of his son, and desire to do good, even if it was to save those two buttheads.
Onto what’s most important, the “scary” parts of this book were actually fantastic!
We have an array of very chilling and strange sideshow “freaks” who make some strong and lasting impressions. Each character is very thoroughly detailed and described when they’ve entered a scene. An entire picture is painted of the sideshow performers, as well as the carnival itself, and I really loved and appreciated how vivid these characters and spaces became. (It’s like I could smell the blood and cotton candy.)
With that being said, the “freaks” were not featured heavily enough for me! When they’re there, it’s awesome, but their part in the story way too spread out and minimal. The majority of this book felt like Jim and Will just whining at each other about what to do.
The writing style made it felt like the story would never end. The author truly felt it was important to detail every scene to death! The “poetic” descriptions are never ending. While this might be a writing style that some people enjoy, for me it was a unique form of torture.
While I appreciated this level of detail when it had to do with the “freaks” and scary parts of the novel, it seemed so unnecessary in the majority of the story and made the events extremely hard to follow.
Lastly, I did actually enjoy some of the underlying themes about transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Throughout the story, Jim is battling with wanting to grow up as soon as possible, while simultaneously, Will’s dad is battling with wishing he was younger again. I thought this was sad, but all very true and well done.
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Some say this is one of the best classic horror books, but in my opinion it doesn’t stand the test of time.
If you happen to enjoy time pieces like this, perhaps you’ll be more impressed.