reading: Summer of Night (1991)


Remember I read the book The Terror (2007), by Dan Simmons, sometime last year? I’ve been going back and reading other Simmon’s books, and he truly is one of the best writers around. I read Hyperion, nominated for either Hugo or Nebula awards (possibly both) and liked it, but not enough to read book 2. Simmon’s is definitely a world builder, and one of the best. And able to maintain momentum like nobody’s business. I read Fires of Eden, and that one was a miss. I read A Winter’s Haunting which happens 30 years after Summer of Night, because I didn’t realize the two were connected. Winter’s Haunting was excellent as a stand alone book, and scary.

Here’s what Stephen King says on Summer of Night‘s blurb:

    “If Summer of 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 sweet surprising nostalgia. This is one of those rare must-read books….I am in awe of Dan Simmons.”

Which, you know, coming from SK is high praise indeed. And I love SK and read his books as they come out, but my complaint about him for the last 20 years is he fills in too much detail that has nothing to do with the story, it’s like blathering to your friend and wandering away from the point far afield, but your friend lets you wander for just so long before nudging you back to the point. In SK’s case, he has no one to nudge him and he’s a page-turner just to get to where SOMETHING HAPPENS.

Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons, is nothing like that. It’s a page turner because something is always happening, and more is about to happen, and oh-my-gosh I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

I was recommending the book to someone, and she said she didn’t like to read books that were too scary. So I have to say, I read The Strain series (Guillermo Del Toro) and those were absolutely read deep into the night and then go to sleep with the lights on kind of books. But Summer of Night, while scary, is not that kind of scary. It’s the kind of scary children cringe from, of shadows and imaginations and not truly being aware of the limits of reality. Oh, there’s a monster in it, but it’s still not I-can’t-go-to-sleep scary.

Using my armchair psychology, I think Summer of Night is the story SK has been trying to write all these years. But Simmons is the better writer.

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