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Seasons of Horror #1

Summer of Night

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It's the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, and five 12-year old boys are forming the bonds that a lifetime of changes will never erase. But then a dark cloud threatens the bright promise of summer vacation: on the last day of school, their classmate Tubby Cooke vanishes. Soon, the group discovers stories of other children who once disappeared from Elm Haven. And there are other strange things happening in town: unexplained holes in the ground, a stranger dressed as a World War I soldier, and a rendering-plant truck that seems to be following the five boys. The friends realize that there is a terrible evil lurking in Elm Haven...and they must be the ones to stop it.

600 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published February 13, 1991

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About the author

Dan Simmons

246 books11.1k followers
Dan Simmons grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional "Elm Haven" in 1991's SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002's A WINTER HAUNTING. Dan received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art.

Dan received his Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years—2 years in Missouri, 2 years in Buffalo, New York—one year as a specially trained BOCES "resource teacher" and another as a sixth-grade teacher—and 14 years in Colorado.

Biographic Sketch

His last four years in teaching were spent creating, coordinating, and teaching in APEX, an extensive gifted/talented program serving 19 elementary schools and some 15,000 potential students. During his years of teaching, he won awards from the Colorado Education Association and was a finalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year. He also worked as a national language-arts consultant, sharing his own "Writing Well" curriculum which he had created for his own classroom. Eleven and twelve-year-old students in Simmons' regular 6th-grade class averaged junior-year in high school writing ability according to annual standardized and holistic writing assessments. Whenever someone says "writing can't be taught," Dan begs to differ and has the track record to prove it. Since becoming a full-time writer, Dan likes to visit college writing classes, has taught in New Hampshire's Odyssey writing program for adults, and is considering hosting his own Windwalker Writers' Workshop.

Dan's first published story appeared on Feb. 15, 1982, the day his daughter, Jane Kathryn, was born. He's always attributed that coincidence to "helping in keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life."

Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado—in the same town where he taught for 14 years—with his wife, Karen, his daughter, Jane, (when she's home from Hamilton College) and their Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Fergie. He does much of his writing at Windwalker—their mountain property and cabin at 8,400 feet of altitude at the base of the Continental Divide, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. An 8-ft.-tall sculpture of the Shrike—a thorned and frightening character from the four Hyperion/Endymion novels—was sculpted by an ex-student and friend, Clee Richeson, and the sculpture now stands guard near the isolated cabin.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,941 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
761 reviews3,478 followers
November 14, 2021
The only novel, I´ve read so far, I would compare to Stephen King´s It, it´s one of the most amazing and underrated of Simmons´ works, just as Carrion comfort. And I don´t get why.

There are very few authors out there who have this amazing characterization ability, this magic gift of making exposition and less action seem so suspenseful and entertaining by just opening questions the reader wants to get answered. One is into that thing and can´t get out, it´s amazing, everything feels so perfect without a second of losing interest. How does he do it? I don´t know, dissecting Simmons doesn´t work, it´s even worse than with King, because Simmons can meta science fantasy world build too, as seen in Hyperion and Endymion, some of the best sci-fi, inspired by classic literary motives, ever written.

I don´t know if he read King´s It before, if it´s a kind of homage, or if it was created without that, I guess that Simmons did at least read It and probably thought: Hold my pencil. Such cool characters, creepy, disturbing, detailed scenes that stay in mind, the big unknown Lovecraftian meta cosmic horror evil, the stupid and greedy adults, a grain of faith and reminiscence about becoming a writer, the manifestations of the monsters, the introspective descriptions of the protagonists, it´s just freaking unbelievable.

Regarding such a style, there is just King, John Irving, Robbins, and some others I might take time to think about if they are worth being mentioned with authors that don´t produce very good, but similar and replaceable genre fiction, and have mastered the ultimate level of fusing plot and character to a hell ride of unknown dimensions. Might help too that Simmons, and now it gets creepy, was a teacher just as King before he had his breakthrough. Can it be a coincidence?

Did I mention that King said that he is envious because Simmons writes like a god? Read him, at least the one´s I´ve consumed in ecstatic days beamed as far away from reality as possible by this amazing, ingenious, unique überwriter, playing with many different genres and not closely getting the recognition he deserves. So please, change that, read him, spread his 9 unbelievable works I´ve read so far and can fully give my worthless and dubious, personal, relatively incest, hopefully, and cellar dungeon free, probably, Austrian reader quality seal.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews694 followers
June 17, 2017
Honestly most horror or suspense books feel lacking because it's hard to build a plot that keeps someone interested without giving everything away while balancing that with interesting characters and a unique plot line but some how this manages to do that. I honestly haven't read anything else like this but I don't really read that extensive an amount of horror so take that with a grain of salt. I really appreciate how well the ending was written too because honestly the only other writer I've read who writes this kind of genre is Stephen King and sometimes his endings are just flat and he's really good at building stories not so good at finishing them off. Anyway I really enjoyed this one, especially all the characters, they were likable and had me rooting for them.
Profile Image for Mort.
635 reviews1,291 followers
February 3, 2019

And there we have the coming-of-age horror trifecta.
After some research on the net and some reviews on Goodreads by people whose opinion I trust, I've decided to find the best three coming-of-age stories in the horror genre. In my opinion, this is the third and final leg of the triangle - the others being IT by Stephen King and BOY'S LIFE by Robert R. McCammon.

What makes these books so great?
Well, the writing is superb - it has to be, with this one being the shortest at 601 pages.
They have to be scary - while BOY'S LIFE may be the least scary of the three, it succeeds as both horror and a brilliant drama, with a hint of 'magic' that takes you along for the ride.
Most of all, though, they have to be relatable - and that is never easy, especially with a worldwide audience of many different cultures and beliefs. And while I grew up on a different continent, at a different time and with a very different culture, all three of these stories took me back to my childhood.

SUMMER OF NIGHT takes place in Elm Haven, Illinois, in 1960, with six friends, five of them 11 going on 12, during their summer holiday. Their school - Old Central - has closed its doors for the very last time, but something has awakened...something evil....and it is down to the Bike Patrol to stop that something they are much too young to even grasp.

I made the comment about halfway through the book - When was the last time I saw a firefly? The last time I can remember - with any kind of certainty - was when I was six years old. My father had to explain to me the miracle of a living thing creating light without, well, anything. I was too young to grasp the concept, but I do remember my dad's words:
"A miracle we can't explain."
I may have seen them again during my youth, I honestly can't remember, but I can say with absolute certainty that I haven't seen a firefly in my adult life. It saddens me, somewhat, but I can only hope that I will get the opportunity some day to try and explain it to my own son.

Then there is the Free Show - held every Saturday, offering the entire town the opportunity to see movies and cartoons on a big screen.
When I was seven years old, we had a teacher in our school who loved children and spending time with them. On three or four Fridays during that year, he would decide to have a movie night. Word of mouth was spread throughout the school, and a small fee was requested - only enough to rent a movie projector and either one or two movies.
We would meet at the Assembly Hall (I think that's what our friends call it overseas) with a sleeping bag, pillow and snacks. While the teacher chaperoned and the older kids kept an eye on the younger ones, we would watch movies until we fell asleep.
Man, those were the days! Even mentioning something like that in the times we are living in may sound completely, utterly irresponsible and insane, but nothing bad ever happened on those nights. We were still innocent kids, discovering the magic of cinema with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill movies (that's what I can remember, anyway). And I'm pretty sure that our parents didn't lie awake, worried sick about their children, but rather enjoyed the solitude and (perhaps) a rare date night.

Yes, this was during the early 80's, but we still had that innocence, you know?

Okay, I'm rambling a bit...sorry - only the good books have that effect on me.

I loved this horror, everything worked well, and Simmons can build tension like nobody's business. I'm a fan of this author after only a single book - recommend to all horror fans!
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,398 reviews9,517 followers
March 25, 2017
What all happens during the summer of night? . . . . . . it's not pretty

Old Central School still stood upright, holding its secrets and silences firmly within. Eighty-four years of chalkdust floated in the rare shafts of sunlight inside while the memories of more than eight decades of varnishings rose from the dark stairs and floors to tinge the trapped air with the mahogany scent of coffins. the walls of Old Central were so thick that they seemed to absorb sounds while the tall windows, their glass warped and distorted by age and gravity, tinted the air with a sepia tiredness.

Time moved slowly at Old Central, if at all. Footsteps echoed along corridors and up stairwells, but the sound seemed muted and out of synch with any motion amidst the shadows.


That school was creepy as all get out. A three story school of creepiness and what secrets are in the basement and other parts of the school.

The gang was Dale, Mike, Duane, Harlen, Kevin, Lawrence (little brother to Dale) and sometimes Cordie.

The story starts out when they are waiting to leave the school for summer break and they were never going to come back again as they were going to go to a newer school. And a death occurs pretty much right out of the gate. That's all I'm sayin'.

This is a coming of age story with a creeptastic twist! I loved all of the kids, some of the side characters and the town where everything took place. I loved the setting Dan Simmons wrote for this book.

The book talks about each of the children in the book so we know all of their stories. There are parents, neighbors, priests, school teachers, ghosts, evil beings and so forth and so on.

And yes, there are deaths. =(

There is this creepy Rendering Truck that follows the boys from time to time. They think it is someone associated with the school but they can never see them. They only smell the stink of the dead animals it picks up.

I can see all of the scenes in my mind. The story is set in 1960 and you really need to read it if you have been planning on it. I love old school books where you feel like your a part of things past. Of course, I wouldn't want to go to this town!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just wait until you get to all of the creepy stuff =)

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
627 reviews4,254 followers
August 18, 2020
"Old Central School still stood upright, holding its secrets and silences firmly within. Eighty-four years of chalkdust floated in the rare shafts of sunlight inside while the memories of more than eight decades of varnishings rose from the dark stairs and floors to tinge the trapped air with the mahogany scent of coffins."

This book is a story about five 12-year old boys who live in Elm Haven in 1960. It follows them through their summer holidays as they encounter a number of strange happenings within their town and as they come to realize evil is lurking in their town, and they must stop it.

THIS BOOK. Honestly. One of the best books I've ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. Dan Simmons created such amazing characters and a little town that I felt like I knew inside out.

I'm a huge King fan, obviously, so I am no stranger to horror, but this book scared the shit outta me. This is potentially my fault for doing most of my reading at night, but there were definitely a few restless nights. The tension created, the building of the story to an absolutely terrifying conclusion...these are some of the best things about this book. Yes, it does take a while to start, and I think it's maybe a hundred or more pages into the book before something scary actually happens, but you can feel it building and that makes the horror somehow worse.

The kids themselves were impeccably developed, each with their own personality and unique traits, as well as different family set-ups. I felt a connection to each one, particularly Duane, but I want to keep this review spoiler-free so I won't go into how much I loved Duane and how I felt about his story arc. The kids riding around on bikes is heavily reminiscent of Stephen King's IT. In fact, quite a number of different themes within this book remind me of IT, but this is its own unique story, believe me. Other similarities include the themes of childhood friendship, friends coming together to combat a bigger evil in their town and the story being set in the 60s, of course. It's terrifying on so many levels, what these young boys are enduring.

Simmons takes certain situations, which might be considered cliche, such as things hiding under your bed, a presence at your window, walking through a cemetery, and yet somehow seems to reinvent them in a way which makes you think twice about glancing out through your window in the dead of night.

I cannot praise this book highly enough, definitely one of the best and scariest books I've ever read. Simmons has acquired a new fan!

Reread August 2020. Most definitely one of my top 3 horror novels!
Profile Image for Baba.
3,523 reviews783 followers
November 2, 2021
2017 review: Unashamedly horror, with reverberations of Stephen King's It. Horror and terror comes to a small town and only a small group of children are aware, sound familiar? This is their story. Pretty good epic by Dan Simmons, a must read for his fans. 7 out of 12. Notably an author and genre favourite for horror readers.
Profile Image for Marie.
896 reviews221 followers
June 6, 2022
Excellent story!


Setting: Elm Haven, Illinois - 1960

The school Old Central is steeped in mystery and it has also seen its last days as the old school is closing its doors and the kids will be going to a new school, so once school has let out for the summer - six friends are looking forward to having fun with not a care in the world, until something evil appears and their summer turns into something totally unexpected that they will each have to learn to face together.

That is about all I can on a taste without giving away spoilers so you will just need to read the book if you want to know what happens!


I loved the detailed information of the story and how the author weaves the story around you till it feels like you are experiencing what the boys and the town were going through. This book reminded me a lot of Stephen King's book "IT" with the way the friends all stuck together and the coming of age feel as you slowly read what happens to each individual friend along with how they cope with the evil that settles itself into the town.

The book was a slow burn but there was tons of suspense and mystery surrounding the school and the town. The book is definitely a masterpiece and it is one horror book that horror fans should read and add to their collection of summer time coming of age stories. Giving this book five "Supernatural Summer" stars!

Highly Recommend!
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
657 reviews836 followers
November 6, 2018
Dan Simmons' Summer of Night is an engaging and creepy page-turner. The novel follows a small group of friends who are up against a malevolent entity. I enjoyed the characters and the way they came together to battle evil (and save their town). Summer of Night is a satisfying coming of age horror tale. My biggest regret has little to do with the actual book and more to do with reading this almost immediately after reading Stephen King's It (which has a very similar story line and structure). It was difficult, even as I read Summer of Night, not to make comparisons to It. Still, the writing was very good and the conclusion satisfying. Enjoyed!
Profile Image for Nick.
102 reviews18 followers
August 31, 2020
The thing that impressed me about this book was not so much Simmons' ability to scare, but to build characters and the world they live in. Simmons draws a map of this small town in your head so well that the reader can see everything that happens vividly. I read other reviews criticizing the time the story takes to develop, but I feel that this is one of the strengths. It is a couple hundred pages in before something scary actually happens. By this time, the reader is anticipating these events, which is almost worse.

The story sounds intensely cliche with young boys in a small town battling a larger evil, but I can assure you that Summer of Night is written so well and is so readable that you won't care. This is one of the best books I've read, let alone in the genre of horror. I can't recommend this one enough, but make sure to read it in the summer to get the full effect.
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,271 followers
November 1, 2010
Summer Of Night is a bloated book (I have a 500 page hardcover) that could really, really use some good editing. Dan Simmons clearly has good intentions, but most of them are lost in complete staleness and cliches of the plot.

So far, one of my favorite books I've re-read this year has been King's IT, which I consider one of his true masterpieces. After finishing Summer of Night, I can't help but think that Dan Simmons also shared my enthusiasm and sat down to write his own IT. Ultimately, though, he failed to recapture the magic which King did so effortlessly.

What could have been a beautiful coming of age novel turned out to be little more than a B-movie horror with all the traditional staples: haunted schools, posessed objects, creatures taking over people's bodies (there's even darkness that creeps under the bed!). The book moves with a snail pace and even when something finally happens, there's not enough suspense or interest to turn the page to see the resolution. Simmons overuses cliffhangers (sometimes several times per chapter) and makes such amateurish mistakes like starting several sentences with the character's name - one after another.

As the plot (slowwly) moves along, the children start recognizing what's happening in their town. What's more, they finally decide to fight the creeps with Holy Water (Salem's Lot anyone?) and when the final confrontation arises they are all gun trottin' little rambos. What's the worst, none of this is even remotely scary, and I dare to say that the interest that's set up in the opening chapter (which is a quite neat Shirley Jackson tribute) completely wanes at the end, as the novel reaches utter mediocrity.

Reviewers compared Summer of Night to classics like Boy's Life and the mentioned IT; it's like comparing a wheelbarrow to a handsome muscle car. Simmons had some interesting ideas, but ultimately lacked someone who would point him in the right direction as to wherre to go with all these things - then it might have turned out to be a great novel. That's unfortunately not the case.

I really wanted to like it.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,888 reviews10.5k followers
November 30, 2018
When Tubby Cooke goes missing on the last day of sixth grade, Mike O'Rourke and his friends, the Bike Patrol, go looking and stumble upon Elm Haven's secret history of missing children and a turn of the century lynching. But what do those things have do with mysterious holes in the ground and a strange soldier stalking Mike's invalid grandmother?

While I loved the Hyperion and Joe Kurtz books, Dan Simmons has been hit or miss for me. This was definitely a hit.

Honestly, the first chapter almost made me throw it back on the pile. It's overwritten as hell and I was afraid the rest of the book would be suffering from the same malady. While there was some excessive wordiness, Summer of Night quickly clamped on to me like a lamprey.

Set in the summer of 1960, the summer after the end of sixth grade for most of the boys, Mike and friends get caught up in a mystery, a mystery that may or may not be be linked to a lynching at the turn of the century. Wait, a small town with a history of missing kids? Haven't I read this before?

Yes. Summer of Night has a lot in common with Stephen King's It but I found it more focused and it also had 100% less underage gang-bangs than It. People who've read It know what I'm talking about. Anyway, Simmons had me nostalgic for my childhood summer vacations, when summer lasted a hundred years and days could be spent exploring the woods, reading, or whatever the hell else you wanted to do.

The writing kept me enthralled and the boys rang true to me, even though they didn't swear nearly as much as the twelve year olds I knew did. Cordie Cooke wound up being my favorite of the supporting cast. Duane, chubby farm kid, and Lawrence, the fearless tagalong little brother, were my favorites overall, though the book was Mike's story for the second half.

The horror aspect was very well done, something I didn't suspect from Simmons. Some of it was in the realistic vein, like claustrophobia, or having a truck or dog bear down on you. The supernatural horror was also nicely executed but I'm not going to spoil anything.

That's about all I want reveal. I can't recommend this enough for horror fans. Coming of age horror is my favorite kind of horror and Summer of Night is now at the top of the pantheon, surpassing both It and Boy's Life. Five out of five stars.
Profile Image for Ravenskya .
234 reviews37 followers
April 25, 2008
I know many will call it blasphemy, but this book put Simmons ahead of King in my mental list of great horror authors. "Summer of Night" is closest in story to "It" only without the haphazard ending (and 400 pages shorter). When you pick this book up at the store, you will notice that it is a thin book, and make the same assumption that I did, which was that I was about to read a 200-300 page story. About 100 pages in, it dawned on me that there was still a long way to go, flipping to the back I discovered that the "light read" I had picked out was actually 600 pages exactly, written on what appears to be rice paper it is so thin, and every page is about to crawl over the margins (if you can call typing to the end of the paper a margin). There is no wasted space in this book either; chapters begin on the same page as the last chapter ended, with only a few returns in between and a chapter heading. Prepare yourself for a lot of reading... now the good news... every page is wonderful.

I compare this book to "It" in the sense that it is about a group of young children, most of which are 10-11 but there is a younger brother at the age of 8. These boys (and girl when she shows up) are the only ones who know that something is terribly wrong in their little home town. The setting is a very rural small town surrounded by cornfields... it takes place in 1960. The boys are all instantly likeable and are very real. I listen to the descriptions of Lawrence, the little brother, and he is my youngest son to a "T." Each of the boys is different, has different living situations, and none of them are some sort of magical superman who wrestles monsters with superhuman ability.

The tale is patient and brooding, slowly building to a terrifying crescendo; starting with the disappearance of a child on the last day of school, followed by sounds under the beds, faces peering in windows, and growing with ferocity from there. As you read your stomach will churn and your heart will race as you pray for the survival of the children. How can they stand against these dark forces? I read all 600 pages in 2 nights, hating to give it up on the first night, but work forced me to have to sleep. Odds are that you will want to read all 600 pages in one sitting, it's that hard to put down... you will find yourself worried about those little boys all day until you are able to finish the book. I highly recommend it for anyone who was afraid of the basement, the creatures under the bed, walking through cemeteries, the bathrooms in the basement of dark and ancient buildings, or of the faces in your windows at night.
Profile Image for Ginger.
735 reviews333 followers
July 10, 2022
An epic and fantastic read for the Summer! I’m so glad I finally got to this one.

Dan Simmon’s Summer of Night is a coming of age story about a group of boys and one strange girl battling the evil that’s taken over Elm Haven.

Elm Haven is a small community in the farm land of Illinois and it’s set during the ‘60s. It’s very nostalgic and the mischief the group of friends get into brought me right back to my childhood.

Summer of Night has tons of action, gore and horror moments that reminds you on why you didn’t like the closet, or under the bed, or going down to the dark, musty basement when you were a kid!

✔️ The characters were fantastic.

✔️ The writing is fabulous and the pacing is perfect.

✔️ The heartbreak in the book is real.

✔️ And the evil that’s haunting Elm Haven can give you nightmares and turn on a night light for comfort.

Definitely get to this one if you’re looking for a great horror book to read during Summer!
Profile Image for Kasia.
398 reviews272 followers
May 2, 2010
Summer of Night was one of the most incredible books I have ever read and mind you it's not because I'd rather read a book on a Friday night than party, much to my boyfriends dismay as I so often do.

Dan Simmons wove a masterful tale of 1960's Illinois with its cozy little town and streets, Saturday outdoor movies and the kids who were the true heroes of the story. It reminded me of Goonies in places as we quickly grow to like Dale and his younger brother Lawrance, Mike, Duane and Kevin and Jim Harlan, friends, schoolmates and brave, lovable kids who have turned this book in a magical tale that swept in front of my eyes. I have never read a more real story that has horror, fantasy and people dying feeling as real as this tale. The characters all stand out in their own way, so clear, so precise so pristine that when bad things happened to some of them, I had a tissue dabbing my eyes. The book is long, counting 600 pages but I know I will read it over again in a few years and I'm sure it will taste even better, just like leftover dinner with the deepening flavors and spices.

The story itself is around a school called Old Central, where Tubby, a not so god kid disappears on the last day. It's a huge old building that is going to be closed down as all the kids are supposed to go to a new school. Dale, Lawrance, Mike, Duane, Kev and Jim all go to the same school but they are very young, around 11 yrs old, some younger, some tad older yet they are real kids; at times with bratty tough attitudes, yet Simmons doesn't pretend to sketch out a superhero in a child's body, he takes each characters and builds on it making them as real to me as my own family. I grew to love each one of them as they enriched my book with their plans to find the missing kid. As the kids started to piece together what was going on, very bad things started to happen. Unusual dark forces such as walking corpses and black worms polluted their world as sun settled and sent real life terror that was really more terrifying than any other horror book I have ever read. I laughed, cried and even took a day of from work just to sit and read this book as it slowly and beautifully unfolded its mysteries to me.

Dan Simmons used the most intense, sublime and imaginary language to spin his tale, that I have never read before in a scary book. I could feel the first day of summer, the sunshine, the happiness and the approaching gloom with the kids he so intensely described. I could probably use every single one of his sentences as a quite but when he said this about the evil things my hair really stood straight, as it was true: "Beyond the cone of light, large things circled and waited". Evil did strike at night but made some terrifying appearances at day time. When the kids run into mysterious soldiers, butchered animals in a barn with human sacrifices, mysterious holes in the ground, random neighbours dying with cries of terror on their face they know that nothing is imagined and that It wont go away unless they stop it.

So don't miss this glorious story, but have some time to read it and don't miss the sequel that follows where the ending stopped years in the future, its called A Winter Haunting and I cant wait to read it!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,903 followers
October 8, 2021
Re-read 10/7/21:

This almost seems to be a seasonal regular. And why not? It's a deliciously spooky mystery/horror that revels in childhood and increasingly terrible deaths. In other words: everything a little boy needs.

And just a reminder: this IS the same author who got his chops with horrors before he wrote the utterly classic Hyperion. Just saying.

Original Review:

It's really odd, but out of all these old 80's early 90's-era massive horror tomes to come out, few of them really strike me as worthy of a massive nostalgic revival.

But then, just look at Stephen King's IT. The popularity of Stranger Things. Regular coming-of-age stories like Bradbury was so fond but twisted into dark horrible screaming nightmare shapes. :)

You know what? THIS book really deserves a read or a re-read, ya'll. It's like a cleaned-up version of IT without the parts that make us squirm in a bad way while making us squirm in all the great ways.

I mean, who doesn't love a bunch of 60's-era 11-year-olds shooting guns in rural Illinois? Fighting demons. Or demon-ish. Or ancient gods, ghosts, or demons. I still don't know what it is, but that's the joy of it. We go through this huge process of getting out of school, enjoying summer, living our childhoods again, only to run up against murders, horrible rendition trucks, creepy crawlies, and a lot of interesting history and research about the town. Sound familiar? IT? Who cares. It's awesome. :)

Plus, it's written by one of my favorite authors of horror OR SF. Simmons writes intensely researched s**t, man. And it's always a blast. :)

That nostalgia kick going on? Yeah. This one shouldn't be missed. :)
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,388 reviews1,055 followers
December 12, 2019
4.5 stars

Summer of Night is one of those books where the story is a delight to read but the review is kind of hard to do. It's also my first novel from Dan Simmons. After finishing this book, I definitely want to read by the author.

The story is a sort of coming-of-age tale, although instead of focused on one as is typical, it centers around a group of children growing up together in a small town in the 60's. The author brings alive the excitement of that first summer day when school ends and only months ahead await the youth who are already itching to explore idyllic summer days and nights free of responsibility.

The book opens in an old school that has seen its last class for it's about to be closed down, and the children all coming together on different days to try and solve the mysteries of the town. Not to mention the horrors, of course.

Each child comes from a different household holding its own basket of dysfunction. The sub-plots of this become as interesting as the main tale.

Although the story is steeped richly in imagination, it's a fully characterized book, focusing on the internal thoughts and relationships for each of the children. I was dismayed at the death of a favorite, which I never saw coming. Simmons doesn't hold back the horrors of the death punch when delivering shocks for the book.

Nothing is predictable with how it will turn out and what will happen next. The ending with the villain and the wrap-up is intelligent, heavy with created history. There are no convenient or suddenly established plot points, but instead it was well constructed before the book was born to be slowly unraveled as small pieces are slowly handed out to the book's characters.

It's a slow ride that didn't invest its hooks into me right away, so patience IS needed to trust this one to take off successfully. Still, despite the slower start, the internal character shifts are handled effectively and work well to not try the reader's patience. Huge emotional stakes in the characters’ lives helped me keep reading.

Simmons was also talented with writing some truly creepy scenes, especially when deaths were involved, very awful and haunting stuff. Violence and blood isn't backed away from when it's needed, but it's not splashed on the page for mere shock effect.

I did knock off half a star for some sluggishness and the death of a character who brought much to the story so that when he was gone, some of the magic left with him. Overall, though, this was an incredibly ambitious book that worked on all levels.

If you're a horror fan who enjoyed the childhood trials in Stephen King's IT, or the bonding and tragedy in Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, you'll almost certainly love Summer of Night. There's something especially effective about drama-horror focusing on adolescence and coming of age in the midst of trials and struggles, calling upon the power of friendship to draw strength to defeat foes so much larger than individual self.

Convincing in drama, rich in mystery, with hefty doses of genuine horror - all make this book an experience not to be passed up.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,025 reviews659 followers
January 3, 2019
1960 Elm Haven, Illinois.  The old Central School, a four-story monstrosity, is about to close its doors forever.  School's out for summer, and the fun is about to begin.  Except that's not what happened at all, was it? 

A rendering truck with scabby red paint, cornfields that are growing too tall and unnaturally fast, darkness that is absolute.  A glint of teeth, shadows that seem to slither, and steps leading down from the basement.

A harrowing coming of age tale that will almost certainly please lovers of horror.  Dan Schwent's excellent review brought this to my attention.  The flooded basement sequence is right up there at the top of the tree as an example of horror done right.
Profile Image for Beatriz.
818 reviews694 followers
February 26, 2022
Dan Simmons es uno de mis escritores favoritos y cada vez que comienzo un libro de él, sé que será una gozada. Y ésta no fue la excepción. Ha sido una lectura que he disfrutado muchísimo y que me mantuvo permanentemente atrapada a la historia y sus personajes.

El estilo del autor es insuperable a la hora de causar emociones en el lector, y en esta novela pasan cosas que realmente estremecen y sacan de la zona de confort, no sólo terroríficas sino también algunas con una gran carga dramática. Sin embargo, la trama me quedó un poco al debe. Me queda claro que Simmons usa el terror que la infancia es capaz de ver y percibir, mientras que los adultos lo evaden o niegan buscando explicaciones lógicas y racionales, pero de todas maneras me costaba imaginar a niños de once años tomando ciertas decisiones y acciones, a pesar que en los años ’60 la madurez ciertamente llegaba más temprano.

El final no me ha terminado de convencer y creo que influye que faltan muchas explicaciones respecto de los orígenes de todo lo que sucede; el autor deja mucho a la interpretación que puedan dar los propios lectores.

Pero todo lo anterior es perdonable, ya que Dan Simmons es un narrador excepcional y hábil en muchos géneros. La forma en que da vida al pequeño pueblo de Elm Harver, sus calles, sus edificios, su historia, lo transforma en un personaje más, aunque esto pueda llegar a agobiar a los más interesados en ver cómo avanza la trama.

Como bonus, les cuento que leí por ahí que, aprovechando el tirón de It, se puso en marcha el proyecto de llevar esta novela al cine.

Reto #19 PopSugar 2022: Un libro que transcurra en tu estación favorita
Profile Image for Ctgt.
1,403 reviews83 followers
September 19, 2015
Loved this book! It goes right to the top with Boy's Life, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Body as one of my favorite small town, coming of age books. If you like any of those books you should enjoy this story. A group of friends band together to battle a supernatural menace and in the process take me back to my days of adolescence. I have struggled with some of Simmons's work in the past and even though this was just over 600 pages I never felt like it bogged down. There were a couple of scenes that seemed a bit far fetched but that's what these supernatural tales are all about, fighting back against seemingly impossible odds.

Medicine smell? Mike thought it was a medicine smell if you made medicine out of dead and rotting bodies. It was a medicine smell if you counted the coppery scent of blood and the stench of week-old decay as medicinal.

Profile Image for donna backshall.
625 reviews173 followers
January 28, 2019
If I'd actually read Summer of Night instead of listening to the Audible version, I never would have made it across the finish line. This is a LOOOONG novel. A beast of a book, one might say. But it's a worthy investment, this "beast".

As the reader, you are welcomed into 1960's Elm Haven, a small and not even approaching middle class town in rural Illinois. You settle in as a nostalgic resident while a tragic story slowly unfolds. Something is wrong because something was very wrong before. Only the kids who should be enjoying a wholesome summer of pickup baseball and camping under the stars seem to understand what is happening. You get to know each of the boys and their genuinely flawed families. You learn everyone's habits and look forward to town events. You expect who will figure out what, and when. You invest yourself in this one dusty summer, where the reality starts to rip apart.

I won't give anything away, except to say that if truly brutal deaths aren't your cup of tea, this probably isn't the book for you. Summer of Night may focus on elementary school aged boys trying to solve a 60 year old town mystery, but this is not a young YA book by any stretch of the imagination. It gets gruesome and gory, and those terrifying bumps in the night are often deadly.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 22 books3,895 followers
June 11, 2016
It's the end of 6th grade. Summer has just begun. You're 11 years old and don't have a care in the world with nothing but hot summer nights and adventures with your buddies to look forward to...unless you live in Elm Haven and you get to fight evil all summer. Death and destruction lurks around every corner for a small group of friends who have made some very serious enemies. If you loved Stephen King's IT, you'll love Summer of Night!!!
Profile Image for Kimberly.
1,672 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2015
Considering how long ago I read this the first time around, I had forgotten most of the "little details" concerning this book. Still one of my favorites. :)
Profile Image for Thomas Stroemquist.
1,465 reviews120 followers
July 2, 2022
First of 2016 - Buddy read with Edward Lorn - first one to enter my favorite shelf in quite some time!

In what should be a perfectly normal summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, a group of kids gets aware that a great evil is waking up. On the last day of school, one boy vanishes and other strange things starts happening. All seems to be connected to their school itself, the Old Central. As the kids starts to tentatively investigate some of the odd happenings, sightings and strange behaving townspeople they are targeted and soon realize that they have to pull together and fight what's threatening not only them, but time is running out.

Superbly told and absolutely riveting coming-of-age-cum-horror story, quite certainly owing a lot to King's IT, but a great book in its own rights. Characterization is wonderful and I have trouble remembering another book where 12-year old protagonists worked so well (the little brother is a mere 8 and he works too!) But it doesn't end there, the bullies, the girls, the scary adults and the parents and uncles (and not least grandmother Memo!) are greatly drawn too and this really enhances the experience. And last, but not least, the Old Central itself (but here I got and advantage, since I went my first school years in a building that could easily have been a physical manifestation of this one - another experience enhancer I can tell you!) My favorite character is, however, the sister of the first boy taken, Cordie Cooke, a poor, gun-toting and strangely resourceful outsider girl who the boys have pinned as more or less certifiable. But, following a few close calls that comes to nothing thanks to her uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right (or perhaps that should be wrong) time, they come to depend on her quite a bit. Definitely no Beverly of IT, but certainly one you want on your team!

Great build-up with top narrative and storytelling, then around the middle mark, the whole thing takes a tough and unexpected turn for the darker. Lastly, a model ending - suspenseful, but not unnecessarily drawn out. Basically, I thought everything in this book worked, I'm amazed that I haven't read it before and very happy that Edward wanted to read it with me. I will surely search out more by Simmons.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
873 reviews174 followers
September 26, 2017
I read "A Winter Haunting" it is the sequel to this book. The characters in this book are a group of friends when they are tweens. In a Winter Haunting, (Dale), one of the boys, returns to this area as an adult. It is not as YA as this one.

Anyway, this was a good horror that starts in a soon to be condemned school the day before summer break is to start. After a blood curdling scream the disappearance of a young student, strange sightings and odd deaths, a group of young buddies feel obligated and pressed by fear to take things into their own hands, especially when none of the adults will believe them, and if they say anything will probably have them admitted to the crazy house.

Yes; scary, gross, ruthless deaths. This is not a nice story and yes, people are horribly mudered. The tweens must come up with an idea of how to rid the town of this horrible situation. Their very different personalities help them to develope and execute an elaborate but believable plan that puts all of their lives in serious danger. They all know going into this dangerous situation that their plan must succed in order to restore safety to the town, themselves and their loved ones.

This book was a bit like a paranormal "Stand By Me". It was a good story and I liked it, however, I liked the next one, (The Winter Haunting), much better, it was more of a ghost story and wicked, goosebump, good. Perfect for Halloween.
Profile Image for Adam Light.
Author 21 books250 followers
December 17, 2013
I'm not sure I would go as far as to say that Dan Simmons' Summer Of Night is a "must read" for all horror fiction fans. I made it forty years before ever hearing about it.
What I will say is that I find it almost criminal that this coming of age horror tale is so obscure. I am thankful for the freinds I have on Goodreads for cluing me in on Simmons.The first one of his books I read was the astonishingly complex and brilliant Carrion Comfort, which is a "must read." This one should be read by anyone who enjoyed It, Boy's Life, Something Wicked This Way Comes and their ilk.
I have to say that this is a slow-paced novel, more atmospheric than action-packed, but the pacing felt perfect for me, and there is plenty of creepiness throughout. The last 100 pages were relentlessly exciting.
I loved ot.
Profile Image for Debra.
1,910 reviews109 followers
January 25, 2016
Stephen King book blurb says: "If Summer of the Night isn't the best horror novel of the last five years, it is surely one of the best three - a gorgeous and terrifying story of five boys who come face to face with a monstrous entity during an enchanted Illinois summer thirty years ago. Simmons writes like a hot-rodding angel, loading his American nightmare with scares, suspense, and a sweet, surprising nostalgia. This is one of those rare must-read books, easily surpassing Clive Barker's Books of Blood. I am in awe of Dan Simmons."

This book was written in 1991. I have to believe there were many better horror novels around that time, including Stephen King's! I just can't agree with sai King on this one. It wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't great. I hate to disagree with King cause he's the MAN, but geesh... maybe he was paid A LOT for this blurb? Shaking head in wonder.

I can't agree with anyone who has reviewed this book and compared to Stephen King's IT and found this one superior. WHAT? No way, Jose! IT was in all ways superior to Summer of the Night. I think Mr. Simmons was trying to create his own version of IT, but fell short. Now, don't get me wrong; I think Dan Simmons is a great writer and his recent stuff rocks. But this one... well...

Ok, let's talk about continuity and repeated text galore! For example he mention's that Dale's basement has flooded 4 times in 4.5 years; several chapters later he says that the basement has flooded 2 times in 4 years. He also mentions that the same basement has no windows two different times. Another time he mentions that Lawrence usually wanted to hold his older brother's hand while falling asleep, but most of the time Dale told him no. He mentions the same thing almost verbatim later in the book. Simmons does this several times... I guess it's nice he wants to remind us of something he told us earlier in the book, but it really annoyed me.

Also, there is one boy in the group who sets out to fight the evil in their town that has never actually witnessed a supernatural event. All the other characters have seen stuff and experienced stuff that scares the bejesus out of them, but not Kevin? Why does he even believe his buddies when they share their experiences? His character is very under-developed so you have no idea why he buys into participating in life-threatening plans, when he has no first-hand experience of what has been going on.

And why did a key character get killed off early in the book; the most well fleshed-out character of them all? Why take the time to get us so invested in him and then eliminate him?

I did find that Dale's and Mike's characters were well-developed, but didn't really buy Kevin's and Jim's. Lawrence was somewhere in between, but why was he often alone in the brothers' shared room when he was sooooo afraid of what is under his bed? No way would he EVER be in that room alone, even in daylight.

An HOW could any of these boys experience periods of "normal" boyish moments like searching for a buried cave, playing hours of baseball, etc. when they all knew they were in grave danger at any time of the day and night? I'd be sticking close to home and worrying myself sick!

Just too many things didn't work for me with this book. It took me longer to read than my usual fast pace, and it wasn't plausible. It did have some creepy parts and the premise was good, but otherwise I just wouldn't recommend this to others.
Profile Image for Mindi.
794 reviews264 followers
December 22, 2016
When I was a kid I loved John Bellairs. His books were horror for the pre-teen set. All of them were steeped in Catholicism and involved small town kids from bygone eras who had to fight some sort of ancient evil. Usually there was an adult there to lend a hand, but for the most part the kids were on their own when it came to saving the world. Summer of Night is like John Bellairs for adults in the best way.

The kids in this novel! I loved every one of them. My copy had an introduction by Simmons that was written 10 years after the novel was first published. This book, and that introduction seriously made me want to weep for the kids of today. Simmons talks about how life really would have been the way he wrote it for kids in 1960. Summer would arrive, and kids would leave their homes in the morning and spend the day exploring and playing until dark. He references a study that was conducted in 2007 on a single family from the Great Grandfather who was 8 in 1919 to the current child of the family who was 8 at the time of the study. The Great Grandfather as a child of 8 was permitted to walk six miles to go fishing out of town. The 8 year old in 2007? He was permitted to walk to the end of his street.

Now I know a lot of people, especially parents, are going to argue that crimes rates have gone up, and that child kidnappings have increased since 1919. There have also been numerous studies about crimes against children in recent years, and the truth is, our children are really not as threatened as we think they are. In reality, our perceptions of evil in the world have just increased. Smart phones, internet, and video games aside, kids today simply do not play outside nearly as much as kids did even in my generation. I grew up in the 80's, and I remember leaving the house in the morning during the summer and not returning home until it started to get dark. I rode my bike, played baseball, and hide and seek in the woods. I scraped me knees and bruised myself more times than I can remember. It was awesome. My 13-year old Stepdaughter barely leaves the house. I have never seen her ride a bike. Sure, she has technology that we could never even begin to image in the 1980's, but I can't help feeling sad that she never got to be free as a kid.

The parts of this book that really stuck with me were the kids just being kids. I loved the dirt clod war, the excavation of Bootlegger's Cave, the camping, the bike riding...all of it reminded me of summer and being a kid.

Then there is the story! Just like in a Bellairs novel an ancient evil has been awakened, and the kids are the only ones who know that something is horribly wrong in their town. They start off exploring on their own, but when something terrible happens they realize that the entire town is in danger, and they come together to fight to save it.

Summer of Night is creepy, atmospheric, and nostalgic. There are some truly unsettling parts in this book, and about halfway through Simmons pulls the rug out from under you. I loved this one. It made we wish so much that if only for a single day, we could just put technology and our fears aside and let our kids run, and play, and be free.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,411 reviews7,408 followers
October 15, 2020
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

4.5 Stars

This may have “summer” directly in the title and take place during that magical time of childhood where kids are set free from the confines of the school house for a few months, but lemme tell you it is the perfect read for . . . . .

When Tubby Cooke goes missing on the last day of school, the rendering truck seems to be chasing people down, a fella dressed as a olde timey soldier begins wandering the streets and a long-forgotten bell rings in the dark of night, it sets off the hinky meter of a group of 12-year old pals. Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen and Kevin (and little Lawrence, can't forget Lawrence) soon discover it’s up to them to save their town before they all fall victim to the rising evil.

There’s nothing quite like reading a book set in a fictional location near the town where you grew up (complete with shoutouts to said hometown along with references to things like War Memorial Drive that only local yokels would recognize) – even more so when that town is in the middle of nowhere farm country. And although this took place in the 1960s - the free reign until the streetlights came on or your mom came out hollering it was time for dinner was very much the vibe of my youth in the 1980s as well.

The obvious comparison of Summer of Night will be to King’s It, but it is my opinion that Summer is far superior and rich in both characters and setting with an ending that doesn’t shit the bed. (Maybe Simmons wasn’t totally whacked on the booger sugar when he wrote his version *shrug*) The simple fact that I breezed through all 60 pages of this puppy squisher in one day should speak for itself. I was enraptured (and frequently on the edge of my seat with anxiety) with this story, these children (especially sweet Mike - the most perfect child fiction ever created) and solving the mystery of what was behind Tubby’s disappearance and all of the other creepy goings on. YMMV if you are a reader who gets bored or bogged down in the details and don’t want to lose yourself completely in the environment and atmosphere.
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
February 5, 2013
All Dan Simmons fans know that he can write successfully in any genre he chooses and that he likes to mix horror into various other genres. Here is his YA/horror novel. It's a bit too horrific, profane, violent, sexy and grim to actually appear in the YA section of any bookstore, though, what with all the guns, swearing, incipient sexuality amongst eleven year-olds, kiddie-crime and gruesome, well, horror. Which is, of course, why it's great and worth any eleven-year-old's time (or that of any older person, for that matter). Of course nightmares might be expected because it's so scary but those might not be confined to the 11-year-olds, either.

All the protagonists are 11 except for one who is younger and they are up against something ill-defined, sinister and extremely dangerous - but they don't know that when they decide to investigate the disappearance of a class-mate on the last day of school before the summer of 1960. Of course, being a YA novel, the kids need to solve the problems without the help of adults, a perennial plot-constraint/difficulty of the genre that Simmons deals with superbly. First of all, his choice of setting in small-town Illinois, 1960, is great because it solves most of the problem on its own; kids then ran rampant without supervision for entire days, went camping without adult accompaniment and went wherever they wanted that was within range of their bikes and energy. In our disappearance-investigating kids' small town of Elm Haven, this includes a wide range of locales, such as farmland, woodland, the town dump and the railroad/way. Private gun security in the USA back then seems to be similar to that of today i.e. non-existent and all the kids seem to have been taken shooting by their fathers...

The characterisation is excellent, which is good because there is a mob of kids who get more and more involved in an increasingly dangerous and malicious series of supernatural encounters and they need to be well differentiated from each other. There is, however a slight flaw, which is the writing itself. Generally speaking it is the evocative, atmospheric prose one expects from Simmons, but just occassionally, scattered through-out the book are individual sentences that stand out glaringly as bad - and easily corrected. A minor annoyance in a novel that manages to capture the nostalgia for childhood summer vacations/holidays from school, the fears, concerns and bonds of school-children and the spookiness and dread inspired by the inexplicable events occurring exceedingly well.

Which leads me to say which genre I think this book belongs to: yes, I already claimed it is Simmons' YA novel but I also believe it is his Ray Bradbury novel. Its resemblances to both Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes are striking: small-town Illinois setting, nostalgic look back at childhood summers, unexpected tragedy and evil, nostalgia for old horror films and stories, wannabe writers...

This book perhaps starts slowly but it ramps up to a gripping and terrifying experience and is never dull. It foreshadows later Simmons works such as Drood and The Terror in narrative and thematic approach. It also doesn't suffer from the bane of Simmons' books; mood-destroying/tedium inducing lit.crit. essays.

Great stuff.
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,067 reviews264 followers
May 21, 2021
Nostalgia Horror is my favorite flavor of scary, and Summer of Night is right up there with all the best examples, like It (and almost every other SK novel), Something Wicked This Way Comes, Boy's Life and Ordinary Grace. Obviously some of these are scarier than others, but you get the idea.

Set in 1960 rural Illinois, the story follows a group of kids who discover true evil in their little town. It starts with the disappearance of a younger boy from their school. Soon after, a stranger dressed in a soldier's uniform is seen wandering the town at night. Then one of the kids is chased down by a truck while walking his dog. Slowly but surely, the incidents grow more threatening. When things finally reach a breaking point, they each investigate a different piece of the mystery and eventually realize it all points back to their school.

I have to mention, there's something that happens in the middle of the book that... well, I screamed when I got to it. It was so unexpected, and my reaction was pure shock. Well done Simmons, but I'm still upset and reeling.

There are definitely a whole lot of characters in this book, past and present, and it took me a while to get them all straight. By far, my favorite character is Duane. One of the leaders of the kids, Duane is the smartest one in the group. He's fascinated by the space race between the US and Russia, and he reads everything he can get his hands on. He loves his aging Border Collie. He's also sensitive, loyal and kind, and I saw a lot of my kid self in his quiet awkwardness.

The horror is multi-faceted: there's spooky startling stuff; there's gory gross-out stuff; there's giant-scary-truck-vs.-young-kids stuff. The tension was high, but not constant. I'm still a little confused on the nature of the evil itself but it hardly matters since the novel was such a rollercoaster, throwback joy to read.
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