I think I discovered Bradbury later than most. I only very recently read Fahrenheit 451 and very much liked it. But then I always enjoy a distopian future. I do usually enjoy a fantasy/horror story, but this one just did not do it for me. Stephen King, the father of horror lists this as an influence and Neil Gaiman, the father of fantasy, does too.
I read this for the Las Vegas Women’s Book Club, presumably chosen because this month has Halloween in it. It is certainly a scary story but I found the style of telling it very dull. The story is the old chestnut of a circus coming to town. I wonder if this is now an old chestnut because of this influential book. Two young lads go to the circus, and meet the bad guys that run it. For some reason I cannot quite work out, the bad guys decide to go after the young lads.
The book is about good and evil, and how one triumphs over the other. It is also about adolescence and adulthood, which I find a much more interesting theme. Some of the magical circus rides can increase or decrease the age of the rider, and at least two of the characters consider this as an appealing possibility for a least a little while. It is a short novel, but a complex one. You feel as if there could easily be a number of prequels (when the circus came to town many years ago when one of the boys’ dad was a boy? Or how the other victims of the circus got caught?).
It was just not scary enough to keep me awake at night, and not exciting enough to make me want to keep reading. I assume this is aimed at the age of our protagonists, twelve-ish. If I had read this at the age of twelve I would have been scared. I am glad that this exists to have influenced the greats but I think we have been lucky to have had much better novels in this genre since.