First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.Very appropriate! And the book just kept getting better.
I've never read anything by Ray Bradbury before; I haven't actively avoided him, but he wasn't on my TBR shortlist. I have a friend who's in (platonic) love with Bradbury, and who has corresponded with him for several years. Somehow, his enthusiasm never wore off on me. Now, I'm going to have to eat crow. Because Ray Bradbury can write. Man, can he write.
Wait, maybe I should back up a little. A quick, no-spoilers, no-details plot review is in order. A carnival comes to a sleepy, Midwestern town. But this is no ordinary carnival: it's supernatural, and very evil. Best friends Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway (born a minute after and a minute before Halloween, respectively) get on the wrong side of the carnival and find themselves locked in a battle of good and evil.
The book has an interesting feel to it; as you're reading, you almost feel as if you're hallucinating in parts. The point of view shifts between characters, and each character seems to go off on his (usually his) own thought tangents; the reader gets carried along for the ride. For example,
Boy, it's the same old thing. I talk. Jim runs. I tilt stones, Jim grabs the cold junk under the stones and-lickety split! I clumb hills. Jim yells off church steeples. I got a bank account. Jim's got the hair on his head, the yell in his mouth, the shirt on his back, and the tennis shoes on his feet. How come I think he's richer? Because, Will thought, I sit on the rock in the sun and old Jim, he prickles his arm-hairs by moonlight and dances with hoptoads. I tend cows. Jim tames Gila monsters. Fool! I yell at Jim. Coward! he yells back. And here we-go!I very much enjoyed these digressions, since Bradbury is such an awesome writer. I think he can pull of stream-of-consciousness. :)
However, for those readers who prefer action to thought, there is a definite plot line to follow, and Bradbury provides a very satisfactory, concrete ending. As the book progresses, the plot picks up, and the dreamy sequences are cut to a minimum. The book also gets creepier and creepier, as the boys progress from feeling in danger generally, to being terrified of very specific people. Reading the book rather feels like following a triangle; from a very broad beginning, everything begins to narrow to a sharp point. This style increases the tension, and by about two-thirds of the way through it, there was no way I wanted to put it down.
**Note: the next two parts have very general spoilers, i.e.-they discuss events that happen pretty far along in the book. It doesn't give away the ending, but I thought I'd let you know nonetheless, in case you're planning on reading the book soon and want a complete surprise. The spoiler section ends at the photo.**
While I love both the boys, my favourite character was Will's father. He goes on an incredible journey through the book. When we first meet him, we're in the library...
Way down the third book corridor, an oldish man whispered his broom along in the dark, mounding the fallen spices...Will stared. It was always a surprise-the old man, his work, his name. That's Charles William Halloway, thought Will, not grandfather, not far-wandering, anciet uncle, as some might think, but...my father.From these inauspicious beginnings, Charles becomes a kickass, evil-fighting, son-protecting super hero. Best of all, his main plan of attack: researching in the library! Charles is at home in the library, and Bradbury gives him his best soliloquays in those musty corridors. A short sample:
The stuff of nightmare is their plain bread. They butter it with pain. They set their clockes by deathwatch beetles, and thrive the centuries. They were the men with the leather-ribbon whips who sweated up the Pyramids seasoning it with other people's salt and other people's cracked hearts. They coursed Europe on the White Horses of the Plague. They whispered to Caesar that he was mortal, then sold daggers half-price in the grand March sale.
Speaking of the library, I loved how important it was to the book. The creepiest scene, by far, takes place there: Jim and Will are hiding from the Mr. Dark, aka The Illuminated Man, who runs the carnival, and who isn't happy with them. It's a five-page chapter of simple incredible writing. Unfortunately, I can't share it all. But here's a taste (no spoilers, I promise):
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.If that doesn't make you want to read the whole book, check out the best chapter ever:
Somewhere hidden, Jim thought: He's coming!
Somewhere hidden, Will though: He's near!
To sum up: this was the perfect start to R.I.P. II. I love Ray Bradbury. Go read Something Wicked This Way Comes.
More Favourite Passages
They opened the door and stepped in.
The library deeps lay waiting for them.
Out in the world, not much happened. But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did. Listen! and you heard ten thousand people screaming so high only dogs feathered their ears. A million folk ran toting cannons, sharpening guillotines; Chinese, four abreast, marched on forever. Invisible, silent, yes, but Jim and Will had the gift of ears and noses as well as the gift of tongues. This was a factory of spices from far countries. Here alien deserts sulmbered. Up front was the desk where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple-stamped your books, but down off away were Tibet and Antarctica, the Congo. There went Miss Wills, the other librarian, though Outer Mongolia, calmly toting fragments of Peiping and Yokohama and the Celebes. (13)
It was the silence that made Will pull back, even as Jim leaned forward, eyes moon-bright.
A carnival should be all growls, roars like timberlands stacked, bundled, rolled and crashed, great explosions of lion dust, men abalze with working anger, pop bottles jangling, horse buckles shivering, engines and elephants in full stampede through rains of sweat while zebras neighed and trembled like cage trapped in cage.
But this was like the old movies, the silent theater haunted with black-and-white ghosts, silvery mouths opening to let moonlight smoke out, gestures made in silence so hushed you could hear the wind fizz the hair on your cheeks. (51-2)
Will slung off lim-falling clothes with tipsy arms and delightfully aching legs, and like a fall of timber chopped himself to bed... (140)
"For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where Octoboer follows Septmeber and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ's birth, there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenxy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles-breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them." (192-3)