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Old 02-15-2011, 10:41 AM
 
9,238 posts, read 20,096,320 times
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I never enjoyed most sci-fi, but read a great review a few years ago of Dan Simmons’ book Hyperion, which was compared to a modern day Canterbury Tales, so I bought it. My boyfriend has been into sci-fi books for years, and had heard of him, but hadn’t read him either.

Wow, this was a book I could not put down. Sure it’s “sci-fi” but the story (many multi-layered, entangled storylines, actually) is more important than the futuristic setting. I also find it really interesting how religion, paranormal activity, and ideas about life after death get worked into something in the sci-fi genre (kind of like why I enjoyed Star Trek TNG).

Turns out Hyperion is the 1st of a 4 book series; it’s followed by:
The Fall of Hyperion
Endymion
The End of Endymion
There are also interesting historically accurate references to 19th century poet John Keats all through the series, along with more exploration of religion & divinity. There are so many plots and sub-plots, but it’s not overwhelming; you just get pulled in deeper & deeper.

He has another pair of books that are also sci-fi, but although I’ve bought them, I haven’t read them yet. The boyfriend did read them, and said “this guy’s a really good writer.” This is coming from someone (like me) who is a bit of a snob about what decent writing is, and a person who has read tons of tedious, poorly written sci-fi in his life. Evidently a lot of sci-fi writers are great with cool ideas but not such great writers.
Ilium
Olympos
These books work ancient Greek mythological gods a la Homer into a futuristic setting.
But then I discovered Simmons’ historical fiction!

Drood: The story of 19th century author/drug addict Wilkie Collins and his relationship with Charles Dickens. It’s a little bit horror, a little bit psychological thriller, a little bit detective mystery, and little bit paranoid, drug-addled stream of consciousness, written in the first-person, from Wilkie Collins’ point of view. Nearly every “fact” Simmons mentions turns out to be based on accurate history (I found myself clicking on Wikipedia all through the book). Simmons is a meticulous researcher. It’s really cool how as Collins gets more and more psychotic, you have no clue whether what he’s telling you, the reader, is real or his delusions (kind of like A Beautiful Mind).

The Terror: The story of the lost Franklin arctic expedition in the mid-1800s, told in the first person by all the different characters who all give pieces of the story. Simmons evidently picked up this technique from his extensive research on Drood, as it was a technique that Wilkie Collins invented and was known for. This book is also a mixture of genres: horror, mystery, history, and even (Eskimo) mythology/religion. If you had asked me before reading this if I’d thought Eskimo mythology or explorations to find the Northwest Passage held any interest for me, I’d had laughed at you. But this was another one I couldn’t put down, and it was sending me to Wikipedia every few hours to look up historical info.

Black Hills: The life of a Lakota “Sioux” man, who as a boy encountered Custer at Little Big Horn just as he died, and Custer’s spirit entered his mind and stayed with him all his life, even in his older age, when he helped to carve Mt. Rushmore. The story, part history, part social commentary, part ghost story, is again in the first-person, and in Dan Simmons’ way, you really feel you know the narrator as a living breathing person, who has this other famous “person” living in his head. I never had interest in “westerns” but by the time I found this book, I was so confident in Dan Simmons, I knew it wouldn’t be “cowboys & Indians.”


The only other one I read was Carrion Comfort, one of his very early horror books, which after reading the books above, is not so well written. I guess you can really see the progression and maturity of the writer over time. This book had some really compelling “horror” ideas (sort of a vampire story but they don’t suck your blood but rape your mind) and some researched history (like a landmark in Phila I’d never heard of) but I found it a little annoying to read. Some things were predictable to me, but I admit they might not have been predictable back in 1989. I think what he really did accomplish well, is that you really start to hate the characters. Not hate them in an abstract sense, but truly hate them like they were actual people (or monsters.) But while the “bad guys” are fully developed and hate-inspiring, the “good guys” are a little flat, uninteresting and two-dimensional.

Anyone else read Dan Simmons? Which of his books should I try next?
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:46 PM
 
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Dan Simmons might be the best author alive today. I've done a lot of reading across all genres, and what stands out to me is that Dan Simmons seems to be able to write in any genre as well as (or better than) the best authors in that arena. Sci-fi, Historical Fiction, Crime, Horror- it doesn't matter, he's going to do it well. I could go on with my thoughts on the matter, but I'll try to keep this short. Suffice it to say, I'm a big fan.

As for recommendations, it seems like you have done a pretty good job with his books already. The Hyperion series was phenomenal, and I found 'Illium' and 'Olympos' to be comparable, although different. I won't even try to describe 'Terror' and 'Drood'- you've read them, so you already know.

He has written a few detective-noir novels that are excellent (Hard Case, Hard Freeze, and one more)- comparable to Spillane or Westlake for a gritty detective novel. I'm not sure if you're in to that, but as we know, Simmons doesn't limit himself to just one genre.

There is also a collection of short stories, 'Worlds Enough and Time' that is good. I guess it would be classified mainly as sci-fi- but definitely some though provoking stories there, regardless.

He has also written a horror novel called 'Song of Kali', which I believe is an earlier work but also the one that 'put him on the map' so to speak. I haven't read it yet, but it is certainly on my 'to read' list. By all accounts it is truly a chilling story- to the point that you want to put it down and forget it ever existed, but at the same time can't bring yourself to stop reading it. Again, don't know how you feel about horror novels, but IMHO Simmons is great enough to transcend the subject matter and write a damn good novel that makes you think.

Oh yeah, there's another one called 'Darwin's Blade'??? or something that is an OK crime/drama. I don't remember it as one of his best, but I read it a long time ago- so maybe it has just been overshadowed by some of his other works.
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Old 03-12-2011, 02:27 AM
 
Location: Canada
6,049 posts, read 7,052,219 times
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I have read Dan Simmons, starting with his early horror books. I have also read The Terror and I have Drood in my to-read stack. I remember liking his early horror books, but I can't remember them specifically so I don't know if I would read them the same way today.

Summer of Night is one title I remember, along with Phases of Gravity, Carrion Comfort as well as Song of Kali.

From what I remember he is definitely one of the more literate writers out there.
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Old 03-12-2011, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Chesapeake
179 posts, read 443,372 times
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The children of the night was a good read too.
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:51 AM
 
Location: .
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Great author..I just finished Drood....very good
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:35 PM
 
Location: New York City
74 posts, read 55,536 times
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Default Love Dan Simmons!

Drood is incredible. Very creepy and cool. I think Simmons is a phenomenal writer and though I like sci-fi, I'm not hard core. But because I loved Drood, I'm now reading Ilium. Absolutely incredible.
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Old 05-25-2012, 09:05 AM
 
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I recently read Simmons' Summer of Night and A Winter Haunting. Winter... is supposedly a sequel to Summer.., but they can be read separately.

I was a little disappointed by Summer of Night, but I took into consideration it was of Simmons' very early books. It was basically a horror story from the point of view of a group of 11-12 year old boys in the early 1960s (think "Stand By Me"). But I found the "monsters" in the book a little unbelievable and the story sort of juvenile.

But this is why Simmons is a genius: He wrote A Winter Haunting many years later, from the point of view of one of the boys, now grown up. It's not really a horror story, but more suspense, but the cool thing is that in that book you find out that the first book was written by the ghost of a dead 12 year old boy. So by the end of the second book, the reader figures out what really happened in the 1960s story and what was an embellishment by the adolescent boy, now dead, who had aspired to be a writer.

So Simmons realized his early book was kind of juvenile, so he "explained" it years later within another book, by revealing that the first book was written by a kid! (This is not really a spoiler, as this "revelation" was not central to the plot, just a gift to readers who had read the first book).
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Old 05-25-2012, 05:10 PM
 
Location: The Great White North
414 posts, read 926,143 times
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Dan Simmons is great. I'm currently reading Endymion and loving it. I've also read Ilium and Olympos. While good, I feel like the whole Hyperion series is just a little bit better.

I read The Terror and really enjoyed it. Thanks to all the posters for the other recommendations!
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:19 PM
 
Location: Poshawa, Ontario
2,986 posts, read 3,530,331 times
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Song of Kali and The Terror are two of the best horror novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Simmons is a genuine master of his craft.
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Old 06-22-2012, 11:45 AM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
24,507 posts, read 16,497,237 times
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It's all in the details, and Simmons handles minute details masterfully. When I read The Terror, my first Simmons book, I picked it up in February on a particularly cold winter. His small details of the crew, living in deep cold on a ship trapped in the ice, was literally so chilling in description that I had to stop reading. It gave me the chilblains!

I could not pick it up until the middle of the following May, and read most of it out on the sunny deck. I have never had a book physically affect me like that, before or since.
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