Okay, so this is a sequel to Summer of Night, which I didn't know when I bought the book. There are some intriguing details here that go unresolved,Okay, so this is a sequel to Summer of Night, which I didn't know when I bought the book. There are some intriguing details here that go unresolved, which I think act as a sort of shout out to the previous book, but otherwise the novel works fine on its own, plot-wise and all.
I really love Dan Simmons and everything he does, but this book, which I read in two quick nights, feels like something--given his considerable talents--that he just phoned in. The thing he's best at--world building--is completely absent, and the characterization and plotting are awfully thin. The prose isn't really up to snuff either. All of the bits about the protagonist's ill-fated love affair I simply skimmed, and when I did read them, I cringed. I guess there were a few good scares, but their resolution was so... underwhelming.
There were moments where this really felt like a Stephen King novel to me, especially in its preoccupation with childhood and the loss of innocence, but mostly in its lack of heft. King is a way better plotter than Simmons is here, but Simmons's plots are usually more imaginative and less derivative than this. Of course, King would never reference The Jolly Corner, one of my all time favorite Henry James stories, much less use it as a cornerstone metaphor. King would also never write a sentence like "I seem to exist as something more than memory, something less than life, almost literally a black hole of holistic recollection formed by the collapsing gravity of grief."
I also appreciated Dan Simmons's take on potential: "It was a burden before it was realized, and a constant specter after it had been failed to be realized." Ouch. A little too close to home there.
After a long semester full of provocative, challenging, intellectually rigorous reading delights, I wanted a big, old fashioned horror/mystery/sci-fi novel to lose myself in, but alas, this wasn't it. I still need a novel to be actually good to enjoy myself, and I guess my standards are higher than I realized or remembered, because it is getting harder and harder to find genre novels that I love without reservation.
My mom just finished this and said it was a lot of fun. Plus, I have a thing for zombies. Well, the fast ones (horror purists, you can stop moaning anMy mom just finished this and said it was a lot of fun. Plus, I have a thing for zombies. Well, the fast ones (horror purists, you can stop moaning and groaning, thanks).
Update: So, upon my arrival in L.A. for my mom's birthday I promptly "borrowed" this book (hey, my love of reading is my gift to her). I love it. Here's why:
1. The conceit of the oral history: Brooks maximizes the potential of his premise by allowing himself the possibility of so many narrative perspectives. The structure builds an overall sense, from start to finish, of the zombie war, while providing tens of excellent mini-narratives.
2. The intelligence of the prose: the language is stylish and fun without playing to the lowest common denominator. This is not a book for James Bucher fans, for example (side note--why does my brother-in-law Greg read that shite?). In fact, the novel is surprisingly moving.
3. The imagination at work: Brooks's premise is derivative, sure. But what he does with his material is startlingly original. His novel is the antidote to all of those failed horror movies that could have been great "if only..." 30 Days of Night, I'm talking to you....more
Dan Simmons's Hugo winner Hyperion is one of the few novels I've read as an adult that has truly frightened me. I just really like what he does--hisDan Simmons's Hugo winner Hyperion is one of the few novels I've read as an adult that has truly frightened me. I just really like what he does--his imagination is capacious and flexible and he combines two rarely matched skills: smart writing and taut plotting. Anyhoo, I was understandably super excited to see that his new book was coming out of Little, Brown; that it got the full trade paperback makeover (uncoated stock and everything!); and that it appeared to be a work of historical fiction (which is not so different from science-fiction in its ability to realize a world none of us have experienced).
For the most part, I thought The Terror was awesome, conceptually and in its execution, but by book's end I did feel that it had not wholly delivered on its promise, especially as regarded the terror itself, and that it veered in a slightly sentimental direction that it didn't quite earn (although I thought it was pretty audacious to allow such such a brutal, bloody nightmare a relatively happy ending).
Anyhoo, even if an INTELLIGENT page turner about an arctic exploration gone awry, circa 1847, sounds like it would not float your boat (pardon the corny pun) I would set aside any preconceived notions you might have about historical fiction, horror novels, etc. because this book is operating on so many more levels than those types of labels suggest. Also, it's a trade paperback--that means its literary, right?...more