Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls into Green Town, Illinois a week before Halloween, tempting the townspeople with the ringing of a calliope and the tickling lure of mystery. Will and Jim, two local boys, are particularly drawn to the rather sinister carnival, the carnival that desires only to destroy.
What a beautifully mysterious tale of good and evil. I particularly enjoyed the characterization of the two main characters, Will and Jim, as diametric complements. One light, one dark. One a thinker, one a man of action. One subtle, one bold. And yet, I purposely do not use the phrase diametric opposites; for while they are opposites in many ways, they are not good versus evil. No, the evil in this book comes in a much more sinister form than that of a young boy. Evil is the circus.
Well, we all knew that. Clowns are terrifying and circuses have freak shows and mysterious traditions and a distinct yet hidden subculture; all of which has combined to lend a romanticized and dark air. But Cooger & Dark’s is more than just a dingy, dirty, dark carnival; it is alive, it breathes, it feeds. It is temptation, and that is why Bradbury’s carnival creation is so much more sinister than other literary carnivals and freakshows I have read about. Here, young boys can grow older, the old can return to youth, age is something which can be changed as easily as taking a short ride on the merry-go-round.
This story is beautifully written and I think would be a great back-to-back read with The Night Circus. Two more books for you to consider if you are participating in R.I.P.
Memorable Scene: There are multiple scenes where the boys are running, half-racing each other, but they always tie. This age, this friendship is not ready for one to win, for either to excel at or differ from the other in any significant way. They are at an age of mutual experience. These scenes were beautiful to me.
Memorable Quote: So, in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do both, depending on the season and the need. Somehow, I feel the carnival watches, to see which we’re doing and how and why, and moves in on us when it feels we’re ripe.