Jason Pettus's Reviews > Carrion Comfort

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
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Aug 05, 10

bookshelves: postmodernism, dark, horror
Read in August, 2010

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Genre novelist Dan Simmons is one of but many veteran writers out there with stellar reputations but whose work I'm not familiar with at all; so when my neighborhood library recently acquired a 20th-anniversary edition of his groundbreaking 1989 horror novel Carrion Comfort, I snatched it right up, especially after learning that Stephen King had once called it one of the three best horror novels of the entire 20th century. But alas, this instead turned out to be a perfect example of why I'm not much of a horror fan, with the ridiculously long manuscript featuring a veritable litany of problems endemic to this particular genre; for example, like I just mentioned (and much like King himself), Simmons has apparently never met an overly long expository scene he didn't like, and what could've been a fascinating 300-page actioner is instead an exasperating 800-page historical epic, which also in good King fashion is not helped by it featuring dozens of completely superfluous sub-minor characters, who apparently exist only to fill another fifteen pointless pages of the text before being randomly killed off again.

And then there's the book's actual subject matter, which manages to be both too grand and too petty at the same time -- it's basically a saga about a race of telekinetic "uber-humans" who have secretly been living among us for centuries, who for some unexplained reason die if they don't regularly manipulate the mouth-breathers around them into committing random acts of terror and violence, which according to Simmons has been the actual cause of everything from World War Two to Lee Harvey Oswald to the death of John Lennon; but it's really the immaturity of Simmons' prose style while relating this story that drives me the most crazy, as it does with horror in general, with me finding it almost impossible to listen to the baddies' lustful glee over their "Feedings" without immediately thinking of some pimply little goth kid over in the corner of a danceclub, doing their dreadful "death shimmy" to the blaring of Peter Murphy while describing the "delicious taste" of "eating my mortal soul" as they "prance to the howl of the wolf at midnight," or some such sh-t like that. It's passionately loved by a whole group of hardcore horror fans, that's for sure, but should be avoided like the plague if like me you are unable to hear the phrase "mind-raping psychic vampire Nazi" without bursting into unintended laughter.

Out of 10: 5.8
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Christy I have similar problems with this book. Unfortunately, it's just not that good. I hope you don't give up on Dan Simmons based on this one book, though. I have not read all of his work, but the other works of his I've read (Hyperion, The Terror, Drood) were, in my experience, much better.


message 2: by Joel (new)

Joel Indeed, judging by your sci-fi reviews and the fact that you liked The Canterbury Tales, you really need to give him another shot and try Hyperion.


message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul I think Hyperion would go down in flames too.


Loopy "Stephen King had once called it one of the three best horror novels of the entire 20th century" that should have clued me in - my experience with King is that they were short stories padded out with boring, superfluous text and this story had that in spades.


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