Ben's Reviews > Black Hills

Black Hills by Dan Simmons
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's review
Jun 02, 10

Read from May 28 to June 02, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I have mixed feelings over this book. The storytelling was amazing. Simmons' coup de grace is his ability to merge seperated facets of the timeline into one, dominant story. He shows us his ability in this region in such books as Hyperion. Paha Sapa is the main, protagonistic, character, belittled by misfortunes and tribulations throughout the entire story. Paha Sapa has disaster strike at every turn, so you wonder if Simmons has something against the Sioux himself. Paha Sapa (whose name means Black Hills(Simmons doesn't let you forget it)) is a tragic character who starts his insuperably tragic trial of life as a young Sioux boy, who after the fall of Custer decides to count coup on the fallen "Long Hair Custer". As in most cases, hubris is not rewarded, and Paha Sapa is no exception.

Paha Sapa is infected by a ghost of the wasichu general (wasichu meaning "fat taker" in Lakota, the Lakota's name for the whites) who prattles on and on about the erotic nuances of his wife, Libby. As you read this you wonder if this is simply for the relievement of the reader, from Paha Sapa's travesty, designed specifically as an intermission for our readers, a sort of soft-porn indulgence. As Libby executes flawlessly inventive sexual encounters, and Custer happily complies, the reader soon finds these less of an intermission and more a redundant distraction.

Paha Sapa has the ability to look either back or forward in a person's life which he calls either "small-vision-backward-looking" or "small-vision-forward-looking". This becomes an integral part in the story, and leads to Paha Sapa being infected with memories and thoughts of Crazy Horse. He is able to look into the past of a person, and occasionly the future.

The story's "present" is where Paha Sapa is working on Mount Rushmore, something he plans to destroy (due to a vision given to him during his hablayeanca (spelling?)). He accounts just what they are doing on the Mount, and how he plans to destroy....needless to say he doesn't due to an almost deus ex machina employed out of nowhere. The story is peppered with brief bits of Paha Sapa's romance with Rain, her death, his son Robert, his death, and brief escapades to New York, and the Dust Bowl.

The author leaves nothing in the life of Paha Sapa unaccounted. The Dustbowl, The Brooklyn Bridge, Native American persecution, Coolidge, Roosevelt, Chicago World's Fair, Mount Rushmore, etc. The list goes on and on seemingly so that nothing will go unsaid.

The parts I love about the book is the supernatural Robert Sweet Medicine (?), the seamless weaving of an entire life (I love life encompassing novels! Examples: Midnights Children, World According to Garp, Les Miserables, etc.), and the prevailing sense of hope, behind the gritty pessimism.

All in all, it was a good book, just a little too *cough* depressing.

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05/29/2010 page 73
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