This is the type of book you should read on a dark night around halloween, when the wind whistles through the house and scares the crap out of you.
Reading during the day, while it is bright and sunny out kind of dulls the mystery some what.
The plot: 2 boys find out about a somewhat nefarious carnival secret. They are then pursued by the carnival's ringleader - The Ilustrated Man or Mr. Dark.
It is a very short read, 140 odd pages and it's written an a very dynamic kind of way. Almost flow of consciousness from the perspective of the 3 main characters: Will, Jim and Will's Dad.
So when they talked again, it was still in whispers. Deep forests, dark caves, dim churches, half-lit libraries were all the same, they tuned you down, they dampened your ardour, they brought you to murmurs and soft cries for fear of raising up phantom twins of your voice which might haunt corridors long afer your passage.
The language is quite beautiful in places as illustrated above.
Though the story is really about the two boys, I liked the dad the best. He had the intuition that saved them all and was just an interesting and sad character.
That always worried me in the old myths. I asked myself, why would Mephistopheles want a soul? What would he do with it when he gets it, of what use is it? Stand back while I throw my own theory over the plate. Those creatures want the flaming gas off souls who can't sleep nights, that fever by day from old crimes. A dead soul is no kindling. But a live and raving soul, crisped with self-damnation, oh that's a pretty snoutful for such as them."
Does it pass the test. Not really. All the main characters are men, the women either get in trouble or are nonexistent. The witch is the only interesting female character and she's a subordinate of the Illustrated Man.
But it's still a good read and is at least not sexist in the way that other books are. The women are just there as characters, they are scaffolding for the story but then so are the rest of the men in the book.
The central pillar of the story is fabulous. The simplicity and consistency of how it is manifested in each of the different characters (central or not) is brilliant.
The best and scariest line is at the very end when the three central characters defeat (maybe) the carnival and the Illustrated man:
Maybe, said their eyes, they're already here.
It's the inexorability of time and what people will do to escape it is the essential damning property of the carnival. Not the people who ran it or pursued the main characters. Delightfully creepy.
It's something to read though at the right time, it's glorious at night when it's dark. I give it 4/5 stars.