Mini Review: The Abominable by Dan Simmons

17333261Title: The Abominable

Author: Dan Simmons

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Format: Hardcover

Where I Received the Title: Library


Dan Simmons’ latest novel begins with an introduction where he describes his experience meeting Jake Perry in 1991. Mr. Perry had aged into his later years, but had a story to share with the author about his experience in Antarctica. Simmons’ profitable meeting with the explorer evolved into the novel, The Abominable, a heroic adventure of three mountain climbers who dare to venture to the top of Mount Everest. While the title lends the reader to suspect that there may be yeti on the snowy ridges, a greater danger awaits them.

I cannot be certain if Simmons’ introduction bears even an iota of truth, but it is effective nonetheless in giving credence to this novel as historical fiction. I can’t fathom how he is able to be as prolific as he is with the dense, well-researched novels that seem to come out annually. It takes place one year after the Mallory and Irvine expedition of 1924, which has a fascinating history in itself. Mr. Perry and two fellow climbers embark on a climb of Everest to recover an aristorcrat’s lost son (which largely is a means of obtaining necessary resources) and seek to be the first to summit the formidible mountain.

This is the perfect novel to read in the winter. I love reading manly adventures (although one of the wonderful climbers of this story is a very capable, practical, and courageous woman). The bitter cold weather that causes frostbite through the thickest of clothing is best experienced on the page under the comfort of a down comforter. Simmons attends to the setting with beautiful description and his research is flawlessly interwoven within the narrative.

There is early discussion about yeti, but the novel makes no promises of having a speculative nature. Only Simmons’ previous body of work gives the reader a hint that the unnatural may occur. Because this novel was so well written and the historical details were given the utmost attention, I found myself really hoping that yetis played no part in the story.

The novel begins slowly, but I never lost my attention. I loved reading about the mountain climbing techniques and the dangers they faced. I will not spoil the ending or say whether or not anything fantastical graced the pages, but I did like how Simmons created a premise with great motives and dangers worse than the avalanches and snow storms that surrounded the mountain.

Dan Simmons is such a talented writer and whether he is writing science fiction, horror, or adventure, each novel is a pleasure to read. The Abominable is no exception.


Review: Flashback by Dan Simmons

Title: Flashback

Author: Dan Simmons


Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books

Format: Hardcover

I usually try and refrain from talking politics on this blog. I have not amassed a large readership that I fear of alienating, nor am I selling any kind of product that I fear will suffer from making political statements. Essentially, I just don’t have the desire to turn this blog into a political mouthpiece. But after reading the novel, Flashback, I fear it is impossible to avoid the subject.

At first glance, Flashback appears to be a typical dystopian novel. I thought it at first seemed inspired by a hallucinatory narcotic novel by Philip K Dick or perhaps paying (self-acknowledged) debt to Robert J. Sawyer’s Flash Forward. Perhaps there is some inspiration from past writers, but the novel serves an entirely different purpose.

Set twenty-something years in the future, a struggling society finds solace in a drug called flashback. The drug allows a person to vividly relive past experiences. Ultimately, the drug brings out the worst in people and women are raped to lock in a memory that can be recalled hundreds of times over.

The protagonist, Nick Bottom, is a detective who falls into the allure of flashback after his wife is killed. His life and career fall into shambles, he becomes alienated from his son, and he spends all of his remaining resources on reliving time with his wife. There appears to be no end in sight to Nick’s destruction until an allucrative businessman from Japan hires him to solve a murder of who killed his son.

Nick, who is out of money (and thus, out of flashback), takes the case and soon finds himself wound up in a huge conspiracty. His path intertwines with ihis son, who remorsefully is connected with a gang of teenagers who are bent on murder and rape to gain memories to relive. Nick must overcome his drug addiction to save his son from an untimely death and ultimately save himself.

I will mention that I love the idea for the plot. I also love Dan Simmons writing and I thought his Hyperion Cantos was absolutely brilliant. He really is my kind of writer — out of the box science fiction with a literary flair. And while I enjoyed reading this novel as well, I just couldn’t get over the obtuseness of the politics involved.

The dystopia that Simmons pictures has the Islamic Caliphate ruling all of Europe. Several states of the US have seceded and most of those remaining do not pay taxes. And it’s all Obama’s fault. Simmons refers to Obama’s foreign policy as being one of “appeasement” that began with a speech given in Egypt and perpetuated into global destruction. This theme runs throughout the course of the novel, wearing the reader down with what really is a hyperbolic extension of liberal politics.

In many ways, I align myself with conservative/libertarian school of politics, but I found Simmons vision to be an untruthful exaggeration. Yes, this is fiction, but real examples are given of what brings about America and Europe’s collapse. It seems that perhaps Simmons himself was on flashback, reliving Bush-era military adventurism while writing this novel.

Politics aside, the novel is interesting and Simmons does an excellent job of tying the characters together. In traditional Simmons style, there are references to Shakespeare and other literary figures, giving the novel its unique fingerprint. The characters and plot never rose to the grand scale of Hyperion and I felt at times that Simmons’ dialog seemed a bit artificial in trying to pull off the grittiness of the future. Nick Bottom, while somewhat a loser, is still a character we can feel empathy toward as he attempts to make up for lost time.

I did enjoy reading the novel and for those who can look past the politics, it is a joy to read. If you are new to Simmons, there are better choices of novels, but Flashback still delivers an entertaining read.

Review: The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Title: The Fall of Hyperion

Author: Dan Simmons


Publisher: Spectra

Format: Trade Paperback

Six pilgrims, each with distinct purposes, have landed on the mysterious planet of Hyperion. They come with selfish motivations, but the fate of humanity rests on their shoulders. Hyperion, the first novel of the two-book duology (and part of a four-book Cantos), detailed the stories of the individual pilgrims in the form of a frame story. The Fall of Hyperion leaves where the first novel left off, with the travelers landing at their pilgrimage site.

I must say that I enjoyed the follow up to Hyperion. I found the first book to be brilliant and while this may have not met my fullest expectations, it was engaging and helped tie up the mysteries of the planet Hyperion and the fate of the Hegemony of Man. Much of the story is told through Joseph Severn, the second cybrid of John Keats, who is connected to each of the pilgrims through his dreams. He serves as an informant for the CEO of the Hegemony and later plays a major role in the fate of mankind.

I will admit that I am struggling to write a synopsis of the novel — the plot unfolds like layers of an onion, slowly revealing the secrets of the Shrike, the purpose for the pilgrims, the nature of the TechnoCore,  the true intent of the Ousters, and several other mysteries that were left unresolved in Hyperion. The novel’s framework is often loose, with departures from linear storytelling and is interspersed with poetry and the semi-cryptic language spoken by Ummon of the TechnoCore.

While I did not feel that The Fall of Hyperion reached the brilliance achieved in the first novel, it falls nothing short of excellent. The world-building is astounding and I was left satisfied at its conclusion. There are still some questions, that I hope will be made clearer in subsequent books. My biggest criticism of the work is that some of the rich characters fell a little flat toward the end. Father Dure seemed to suffer little agony, still bound with a cruciform that drove him to self-crucifixion. Martin Silenus, the passionate and often drunk poet, also suffered from apathy after being so driven in the previous novel.

Overall, my criticisms are slight in comparison to what Dan Simmons has achieved. I plan on reading the final two books in the series and perhaps will read them all again. If you enjoyed Hyperion, you need not waste a second reading any reviews and should pick up this title immediately.

Review: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Title: Hyperion

Author: Dan Simmons


Publisher: Spectra

Format: Mass Market Paperback

After finishing Hyperion, I am somewhat of a loss of how to review this book. First of all, I am twenty-plus years late in reading this novel. Secondly, it is the first volume in a series, and though there is a sense of completion, it does not stand alone well as a novel.

Outside of the reaches of the Hegemony of Man is the planet Hyperion. Seven pilgrims embark on a pilgrimage to the mysterious planet. On its surface awaits the Shrike (a powerful and deadly creature) and the Time Tombs (ancient monuments that defy time itself). Each pilgrim knows that death is a near certainty, but there are greater purposes at stake. In order to better understand what awaits them, the pilgrims each in turn tell their tale of what has led them to Hyperion.

The novel is a collection of stories within a larger story arc. A priest tells of his discovery of a peculiar religious cult, a soldier tells of finding a mysterious but deadly lover, a poet tells of his cantos that seems to be accompanied by a series of brutal murders, a scholar tells why he is bringing his infant daughter to the planet, a detective tells of her murder investigation, and a consul tells of a couple who ages at different rates due to the husband’s time dilation aboard a ship. While the stories these men and women tell have little in common, there is one common bond — Hyperion.

When reading this novel, it is clear that Simmons is not only establishing himself as a science fiction author, but as a literary one as well. There are many commonalities with the life and writings of John Keats and the very format of the novel is similar to Canterbury Tales. Simmons also takes artistic freedom in his frame stories, writing from different points of view and tenses. While this novel is very smart, it is far from perfect. Simmons’ literary endeavors are a bit overreaching at times, but I applaud his effort in making this a complex and beautiful novel.

Each individual story is also creative and fascinating. The characters do not embark on their pilgrimages out of curiousity — it is out of desperation and it has become their life mission to return at this particular time. I was fascinated how Simmons could make each of these stories different and unique. The priest’s tale and the scholar’s tale especially stood out for me.

I am eager to read the rest of the books in this series and then to read them again. I highly recommend this novel.