Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ray's Vectors: Halloweenland

[For the previous vector, click here.]

Al Sarrantonio, an October countryman who's scripted countless tales and novels set in the Halloween season, has long been hailed as a literary heir to Ray Bradbury.  But Sarrantonio's influence by Something Wicked This Way Comes has never been more evident than in the 2007 novel Halloweenland.

A Halloween-themed carnival arrives in Orangefield--the pumpkin capital of the country, and locus classicus of "weird shit" (in the words of Detective Bill Grant)--and sets up on the outskirts of town.   "Halloweenland" sports an incredible freak show, a monstrous, looming Ferris wheel, and a carousel whose horses look to be screaming in pain (the ride also features more outre figures such as a dragon, a gryphon, and Cerberus).  The carnival's mysterious impresario goes by the singular, devilish name of Dickens (shades of Bradbury's infernal Mr. Dark).  Sarrantonio, though, isn't content to merely echo Something Wicked; Dickens
proves to have a past history with Orangefield, and Halloweenland ultimately has an agenda other than simple amusement, but Sarrantonio still manages to offer some unique twists on the dark-carnival motif.  All I'll give away here is that Dickens's haunted attraction forms the site of a stunningly apocalyptic climax late at night on All Hallows Eve.

As the concluding book of a trilogy (following Hallows Eve and Horrorween), Halloweenland is best read in sequence.  But the novel's true touchstone is Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the deep orange sparks produced by Sarrantonio's strategic rubbing could light the largest jack-o'-lantern imaginable.

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