Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something Wicked This Way Comes: An Open Letter to Ray Bradbury

I've broken one of my personal rules: I stopped reading a book half-way through. It's something I almost never do, but alas, I had to do it this time. The book in question is, of course, Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, a classic novel by pretty much everyone's standards. Me? Well . . . I was not too impressed. Make no mistake; the fact that I didn't love it saddens me to no end. I hate not being able to enjoy a book I've started, especially one deemed as "can't miss" literature for over five decades. So, since I was not able to actually complete Bradbury's novel, I don't feel it's right or fair to me or the book to write a complete analysis the way I usually do. Instead, I've opted for writing an open letter to Mr. Bradbury (and yes, nay-sayers, this blogger is fully aware said author has went on to the clearing at the end of the path), and in this letter I will pretend to tell him what I liked about his novel, what I didn't like, and why I couldn't finish. It's going to be short and sweet because I have other blog posts that demand to be written!

Ray Bradbury and cat

Started: January 14th, 2015
Finished (partially): January 20th, 2015

Dear Mr. Bradbury:

Okay, first off, is it okay if I call you Ray? Or maybe Ray-Bray? No? Shoot. Well, then, this is awkward because you're probably going to hate what I say next . . . but I did not like your novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. No sir! I hate to sound rude -- if it helps, I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school and thought it was pretty decent. The futuristic, sci-fi thing you had going on was pretty cool, as well as the theme of censorship. Classic stuff! I'm aware Something Wicked This Way Comes came out nearly ten years after Fahrenheit 451, and I know it was wrong of me to expect this book to live up to that one and it was VERY wrong of me to compare the two. . . but I did. Will you ever forgive me? Readers do that sort of thing all the time, even if they don't mean to. Still, I hope me complimenting Fahrenheit helps you see I'm really not such a bad guy. Honest.

Going into this novel, I was expecting to be blown away . . . or at least be able to put myself in the narrative. Usually I can do that even if the book isn't very good. Your prologue gave me hope! Filled with beautiful, honest descriptions of the wonder of October and what it means to be a kid and all that followed by the menace of danger to come by way of a carnival. Neeeeeat. Good set-up. However, from the first chapter I felt let down, and I felt more and more justified in that opinion as I read. I found the characters to be paper-thin, your prose purple, your action middling, your plotting lacking. I only read 160 pages in six days, and I'm a very speedy reader. I simply felt like I couldn't get in to the place you were trying to describe and I couldn't become friends with the two kids, Will and Jim, and it was pretty obvious you wanted me to like them. The attempt was admirable, but the execution was far from successful. You just couldn't make me care about anything you wrote, and that's one of the biggest jobs of an author -- making the reader care.

However, your novel wasn't all bad! I thought the theme of finding youth again by way of electricity was neat, but I couldn't help but think my favorite author Stephen King did it better in his latest novel, Revival. I also liked the scenes with Will and his father -- there are some great thoughts about what it means to grow up and get old to be mined within those pages.

Mr. Bradbury, why couldn't you have written the rest of your novel the way you wrote the conversations between Will and his father? Those were the only times I felt like these were real people and not characters in a book. I'm not picky, and I don't ask for much -- I simply want more than monsters I can't imagine due to a lack of adequate description  and cardboard good guys and bad guys. Give me someone to root for, and give me something to fear. That's all I want, 'k?

See . . . That wasn't so bad. I promise I'm not a mean guy. I write this letter out of love and respect for a man making a career of the writing craft and obviously touching millions of readers in the process. There is a reason you're so popular, after all. I just haven't found that reason for myself yet. However, that does not mean our relationship is over, you and I! You've written many books, my dear man, and I plan to try out at least one or two more. Perhaps it's simply a matter of trying 'em on till one fits, and when that happens . . . We'll go from there.

Sincerely yours,


1 comment:

  1. I liked the novel but I understand what you are saying. The book does seem to needlessly drag in many places. There were sections of this novel that I thought were fantastic and other sections that were incredibly dull. I think the issue is that Ray Bradbury was not a novel writer and wasn't comfortable writing novels (I think he even said that himself). I think he was probably forced to churn out a few novels over the years but he was a short story writer. He had several (so called) novels that were just previously released short stories strung together with some new stories to connect them together (Martian Chronicles is one). Something Wicked seems to me to be a great short story stretched to novel length by an author that would have preferred to keep it a short story.