I thought I’d finish out the first month of my nine weeks of horror-and-Halloween reviews with a book by my favorite author, the late Ray Bradbury. The Halloween tree is a classic, appropriate for children but deep enough for adults as well and a perfect way to lead us into October. In typical Ray Bradbury fashion, the author uses elements of speculative fiction to shed light on the human condition.
In the novel, a group of boys in Halloween costumes meet a creepy figure named Mr. Moundshroud. He takes them through different time periods and locations, each one teaching the boys about the nature of time, human beliefs, and the human condition. I won’t add too many details–part of the fun is in discovering these beliefs. I will say that the locations all relate to Halloween and related beliefs—ancient Egypt, Druid ceremonies, Mexican catacombs, even cavemen discovering fire. The journeys are both light-hearted and creepy, mirroring the shadowy qualities of this time of year. The imagery and settings are a treat for the mind—perfect for reading on a cold, blistery day like today.
In the end, one of the boys’ lives is at risk, and the others must agree to sacrifice one year of their lives to save him. Mr. Moundshroud reminds them that though one year at the end of their lives might not seem like a big deal to a boy, it will be much more significant to an old man facing its loss. This concept returns to Bradbury’s theme elaborated on in Dandelion Wine, in which a boy discovers with near euphoria that he’s alive. Once again, Bradbury reminds us through fiction to enjoy every minute we’re given. Most of all, I love how the novel forces us to reflect on our own beliefs and speculate upon why the autumn of the year has such a mystical quality. It’s a book I try to read each year around this time, and I recommend it to both children and adults alike.