Something Wicked This Way Comes – Book Club Discussion Questions

A reminder: all of our book club discussion questions contain spoilers.



The week before Halloween, a carnival train arrives in a small American village. The freakish performers of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show offer the residents of Greentown their secret desires. Only two teenaged boys, and a man weighed down with age, understand the threat the town faces.


Bradbury’s book is nostalgic, but can we still connect to that nostalgia? Do we experience the book as earlier generations of readers did? Do Australian readers encounter the book differently than American ones?

The way Bradbury uses words has been described as poetic, and yet his characters are also often praised as being fully-rounded. Is either description accurate? Is it possible to describe a character fully by allusion?

Carnival freakshows are often said to have died out in Britain and Australia as the medical nature of the performer’s conditions became more widely understood. Alternatively, some in the disabled community think of the c18th and 19th freak shows as a marginalized but safe space for those with physical disabilities, and trace their decline to the Holocaust. Is Bradbury pandering to the older prejudice, that the appearance of the freaks is due to their inner nature?

What weakness would the Autumn People seek to exploit in you? Has this weakness changed over time? What would your tattoo be?

The male characters of the book, in the beginning at least, are all looking forward or back to a narrow sliver of time as the prime of their life. Why, in Bradbury’s nostalgic America, is maleness ripe for so short a span?

Certain things are sacred, in a quiet way, in Greentown, and are given spaces in which they can be indulged. Many of these spaces no longer exist in modern cities. What has been lost? What has taken their place?

Useful Links

The Library Service has copies of this book in various formats.