Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ode to Dan Simmons

Back in high school, in my Junior year English class, we read Canterbury Tales. The stories were amazing; and just to point out how much of a dork I was, I acquired a copy of the book and read more than the assigned five stories. Every Friday in my English class, five students would give a report on a book that they were reading for leisure. Most of the time it was stuff I was not interested in--again, in high school I was reading a lot of science fiction/fantasy, dork all the way. My friend stood up one Friday and started to talk about a book he described as a 'dark Canterbury Tales.' Yep, you guessed it - Hyperion by Dan Simmons. From that day forward I have been a devoted follower to all things Dan Simmons, which really boils down to just his books.

His new book, Black Hills is out this week, and just like his last two novels, he has ventured more into the land of historical fiction, with a tweak of science fiction. In his new novel, a ten year old Sioux named Paha Sapa (translated as Black Hills) finds himself in the middle of the Battle of Little Big Horn. He is weaponless, but he spies Custer just before he dies and touches him to prove his courage. Custer's soul jumps up and enters Paha Sapa, and resides there for the next 60 years. Simmons style is amazing, as he bounces the narrative from Paha Sapa as a young boy, to Paha Sapa as an old man setting dynamite at Mount Rushmore. You also hear a bit of Custer's story as he tries to ascertain where he is; as you quickly find out, he believes he can not see because of some injury, but he is certain he is alive. It is a glorious story of the transformation that took place in our country at the time. Actually, Dan Simmons introduction to his novel is fantastic, you will find it here.

Also out this last week by Dan Simmons in paperback is Drood. It is the story of the last years of Charles Dickens life, told by his friend Wilkie Collins. There are creepy sections in this book that will give you chills. The London underground is dipicted through opium dens and a maze of tunnels that boats seem to disappear in. Now, this won't happen to everyone, but I did feel the need to read Dickens and Collins after I finished. Daniel had the brilliant idea to form a lunch time bookclub to discuss these epic novels (I don't think either one of them could write a short book). The last time I was ever so enticed to read books related to the subject material of another book was the Crook Factory. Not surprisingly, also by Dan Simmons. That time he hooked me on Hemingway.

It seems that every time a Dan Simmons book comes out, I end up reading other books that I never really would have thought about, or at least thinking about something I never would have. Even with the new book I realized I had never really read any history on that era. While there was nothing extremely obvious for me to read, my Penguin rep Joe Cain comes through to sell his summer list, and there it is. The new Nathanial Philbrick novel about Custer, entitled The Last Stand, which doesn't come out until May. I have not finished this one yet, but I don't think I would have started it so quickly if it was not for the amazing reading experience I had with the Black Hills.

No comments:

Post a Comment