Monday, October 31, 2011

Ray's Vectors: October Dark

[For the previous vector, click here.]

I've saved the most amazing vector for last.

David Herter makes no secret that his 2010 novel October Dark employs Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes as "its ghostly armature."  In his Acknowledgments page at book's end, the author also notes his key realization that he "could wield Bradbury's masterwork somewhat like the mirror maze at that novel's heart."

Clocking in at over 500 pages and sporting a fractured narrative structure, October Dark is not easily summarized.  It concerns the "secret history of cinema," and the truly (and sometimes darkly) magical basis of movie special fx.  A pair of fantasy-film-loving fanboys named Will and Jim (naturally) oppose the schemes of an archvillain (Henri Mordaunt) so menacing, he makes Bradbury's Mr. Dark seem as innocuous as Willy Wonka by comparison.  And central to the struggle is a piece of footage from a lost 1957 film entitled Dark Carnival.

Herter's genius here lies in never becoming merely derivative while paying serious homage to Something Wicked.  He gifts readers with original riffs on iconic Bradbury scenes, from the attack by a witch in a black balloon to a perilous descent beneath the city streets by Will and Jim.  A paean to the childlike sense of wonder, October Dark is itself wonderfully imaginative.

The book is not flawless--the narrative could use some tightening (the plot is slow to unfold, yet builds to a breath-taking climax) and the text is in need of better copy editing (too many typos).  But if, like Herter, you grew up adoring Star Wars, Famous Monsters of Filmland, the stop-action marvels of animators like Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen, TV monster-movie hosts, and most of all the dark-fantasy fiction of Ray Bradbury, then you will be nothing short of delighted by October Dark.

This wraps up the on-going feature "Ray's Vectors," but I could easily have filled up another month with posts on other novels that have been influenced by Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.  There's The Traveling Vampire Show, and Dark Carnival (Serenity Falls, Book 3), and The Night Circus, and Sideshow, and Carnival of Fear, and Full Tilt, and The Last Temptation, and...

No comments: