I read Something Wicked first. Eva at A Striped Armchair read and reviewed this one at the beginning of the RIP challenge, and she's said just what I'm thinking about this book! It's a wonderful classic and very atmospheric. Bradbury has that ability to create something completely original and utterly creepy. The story, which opens in October, fittingly, follows two boys (Jim Nightshade and Will Holloway) as they explore a travelling carnival that's just come to town. The boys discover that this carnival is not a typical one, in fact it's peopled with dark and villainous characters. There is a hall of mirrors that you can literally be lost in, there is a very frightening carousel which can add or subtract years from your life. Once the boys come to this knowledge of the carnival they realize they are in great danger as the carneys track them down to avoid any exposé of what they really are. The increasing sense of danger and decreasing feeling of possible escape makes this a riveting reading experience. There are a few elements which I really loved - most particularly, the fact that the town library is almost a character in itself.
Will's father works as caretaker at the library, and his strategy for defeating the evil carnival is library research! How could I not love that? After the boys have been in hiding for an entire day, they make their way to the library where Will's father is waiting, and that is where the carnival owner finds them. It is an utterly creepy scene:
Somewhere in the recumbent solitudes, the motionless but teeming millions of books, lost in two dozen turns right, three dozen turns left, down aisles, through corridors, toward dead ends, locked doors, half-empty shelves, somewhere in the literary soot of Dickens' London, or Dostoevsky's Moscow or the steppes beyond, somewhere in the vellumed dust of atlas or Geographica, sneezes pent but set like traps, the boys crouched, stood, lay sweating a cool and constant brine.
Somewhere hidden, Jim thought: He's coming!
Somewhere hidden, Will thought: He's near!
I'm glad I finally read this classic. Read it for a creepy look at how what you think you want isn't always what you get.
From the Dust Returned is a different kind of book. It originated with a short story, The Homecoming, which was published in 1946 in Mademoiselle magazine. The entire October issue was built around the story with cover illustration by Charles Adams (the illustration used on the book). The Homecoming has just been rereleased as a stand alone picture book, illustrated by Dave McKean.
In this book there are 23 tales of The Family, a group of undead ghosts and vampires and ghouls and mummies who are coming home for a reunion of sorts, in the rattley old house in New England pictured here. The fact that this was written over a period of 60 years shows - some chapters are stronger than others. Still, Bradbury's original imagination shows through and there are some wonderful characters. One of my favourites was Uncle Einar, a huge man with large green wings. He takes Timothy, the only human in the Family, for a flight and it's a wonderful scene. The chapter I enjoyed most was the one called "Uncle Einar", in which Einar leaves the House and goes West where he finds a woman eager to marry him, and inherits four stepchildren. The new family dynamics are lovely, and the solution to Uncle Einar's difficulty about flying during the day is a brilliant and amusing one. Bradbury's creation of various weird Family members will certainly stick with me. I am continually surprised by his unique mind.
Thank goodness for the RIP Challenge which prodded me to read these two books!