Joe's Reviews > Summer of Night

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
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Oct 02, 10

bookshelves: horror

Did you know that the monster under the bed is real? So is the one in the closet. As for that creepy school janitor, there is a very dark reason he is so creepy.

This is my second taste of Dan Simmon's work, one that leaves me ready to kick myself for not finding him sooner. He's been at it for a while now-this book dates from 1991-but he flew under my radar until I recently read the very excellent The Terror, and now this.

Simmon's ability to pack 600 pages rich with detail is easily to that of Stephen King, and his sense of history is considerably better. While King's forte is the popular culture of the present, Simmons handily blends a period piece set a generation set 50 years ago with a web of historical details stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt by way of Aliester Crowley and the Borgia popes. He delivers this to us in a story seen from the perspective of children.

We first meet our young heroes in the last few minutes of their last day in the 6th grade. They story unfolds during the summer that follows, a summer that for most American kids is arguably the last real summer of childhood before puberty and the struggle toward adulthood sets in. The year is 1960, perhaps the last summer of America's childhood before social struggles and technological change would set our country on its path toward our modern age. The evil, and there must be evil in a horror novel, is a thousand years old. I cannot say much more without spoiler warnings.

Being a story of small town children fighting an evil that has lurked at the heart of their town for generations, Summer of Night invites onvious comparisons to Stephen King's It. To this I can only say that King's story was from the perspective of kids who were somewhat of the 'social outcasts of their town, while Simmons' story is more from the perspective of an average child's experience. I would advocate judging each novel by its own merits and avoid making the obvious comparison.

The childhood perspective, Illinois small town setting and time period also invites comparison to Ray Bradbury's classic Something Wicked this way Comes. Any real comparison is superficial at best. Bradury's book was often allegorical, while Simmons' opts for realism. Bradbury would often pause the action to wax lyrical about the magic of childhood, while Simmons leaves the lyrics unwaxed as he describes the lives of the children through the action, and leaves it to the reader to recognize the magic. Between the two writers I cannot help but believe that Simmons would appeal more to a modern reader's sensabilites.

Sorry to go on so long, but this was one of the best reads I've had in a while.
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