Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)
Aside from Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Something Wicked This Way Comes (which appeared in a film version in 1983) is Bradbury’s only full-length novel of the fantastic. Critical reaction has been mixed on the work. While the premise of the story is compelling, some critics have suggested that Bradbury’s highly metaphorical, lyric prose style, often one of his greatest strengths, slows the pace of narrative; at times, the imagery seems to overcome the novel entirely.
The novel does present many of Bradbury’s favorite subjects in one work. An interest in children and their special insights, a nostalgic portrayal of the Midwestern small town, a fascination for the grotesque and its attractions, and a conviction of the value of literature, especially fantastic literature—all play a large part in Bradbury’s work. There are also several specific links to Bradbury’s other writings in this novel. As previously noted, Mr. Cooger, the Illustrated Man, and Green Town had appeared in earlier stories. In addition, the Pandemonium Shadow Show might have been suggested by the short-story collection Dark Carnival (1947), and the autumn people are first mentioned in The October Country (1955). This wealth of cross-references and recurring themes makes the novel a good introduction to Bradbury’s fictional world as well as entertaining reading in its own right.