Kemper's Reviews > Black Hills

Black Hills by Dan Simmons
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Feb 28, 2010

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, sci-fi
Read in March, 2010

When will Dan Simmons come up with some original ideas? This latest is about a Lakota (Sioux) Indian named Paha Sapa (which means Black Hills) who has the psychic ability to read a person’s memories and get a glimpse of their future by touching them. After trying to count coup on a dying soldier at the Little Big Horn, he ends up with the spirit of George Custer inhabiting his consciousness. This puts Paha Sapa at odds with Crazy Horse, whose memories he also absorbs, and forces him to run away and start his vision quest. After a terrifying vision of his people’s future, Paha Sapa tries to return to warn the Lakota, only to be blocked by circumstances that will lead him through a life of loss and regret that culminates with him attempting to sabotage the carving of Mount Rushmore.

Yeah, like we haven’t read THAT story a thousand times already….

Seriously, someone needs to put an ice pack on Dan Simmons head because I’m relatively sure that the guy's brains have got be cooking. Normal writers are not meant to shift from horror to crime to sci-fi and then start packaging elements of all of them into meticulously researched historical fiction. It was hard enough to keep up when he just stuck to mind-bending sci-fi like Ilium and Olympus, but this is just crazy.

The story of Paha Sapa and his life will suck any reader in. Plus there’s an amazing amount of detail that’s in this book regarding everything from the Lakota way of life and language, Custer’s life (and surprisingly freaky sexual escapades with his wife), the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the carving of Mt. Rushmore, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chicago World’s Fair.

In fact, there’s a little too much detail in this one. Reading the section where Paha Sapa visits the Brooklyn Bridge and is remembering all he was told about its construction by a friend made me realize that Simmons could have written an entire book about just the building of the bridge. And while it’s all interesting and well written, it’s just completely overwhelming after a while.

That’s too bad because there is a really great and touching story with a terrific main character here, but it all tends to get obscured by everything that’s going on. Simmons is an incredible writer, but he really doesn’t need to put every idea he has into one book.

I need a nap.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Ron (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ron Hamilton I doubt I will finish it.


Kemper Ron wrote: "I doubt I will finish it."

It had a lot I liked but it does get to be a slog at times.


message 3: by Text (new)

Text Addict I think "completely overwhelming after a while" describes all the Dan Simmons work I have read.


Kemper Text wrote: "I think "completely overwhelming after a while" describes all the Dan Simmons work I have read."

It's weird because he's written really tightly plotted crime novels and some great horror and sci-fi, but when he gets into historical fiction, he just goes bananas.


Emily Brown Huh. I've never heard this story before. And too detailed?? Go back to Twilight already.


Kemper Emily wrote: "Huh. I've never heard this story before. And too detailed?? Go back to Twilight already."

I think you misunderstood my comment about having read the story a thousand times before. See, it's called 'irony' which is defined as "The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect."

It's amazing what you can learn from Twilight novels. And from self-important people without a sense of humor who read everything literally.


message 7: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Heh.


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