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Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons(1948- )
Dan Simmons was born in Peoria, Illinois and grew up in the Midwest. He received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art. He received his Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years. Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado — in the same town where he taught for 14 years — with his wife, Karen. Dan is one of the few novelists whose work spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, suspense, historical fiction, noir crime fiction, and mainstream literary fiction. In 1995, Dan’s alma mater, Wabash College, awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions in education and writing.

Carrion Comfort: An early work by Dan Simmons

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

Carrion Comfort is one of Dan Simmons’s earlier works, first published in 1989. It is about psychic vampires who feed off of other people, manipulating their thoughts and thereby controlling their actions.

The notion of a psychic vampire is what made me want to read this book — it’s an idea far too interesting to pass up. Simmons’s vampires are unique, and they do live up to the hype in some ways. Ultimately, though, they often tiptoed right up to being absurd and ridiculous. The lack of believability at certain parts of the book diminshed my enjoyment of the novel. If there had been fewer completely unbelievable scenes — unbelievable even in the context of horror fiction — Carrion Comfort would be far more haunting than it is.
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Hyperion: A real treat for the imagination

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

There is space opera, and then there is Space Opera. Dan Simmon’s 1989 Hyperion is S.P.A.C.E. O.P.E.R.A. From grand schemes to the most minute of details, vivid character portrayal to imaginative and original future technology, gorgeous scenery to a multi-dimensional, motivated plot, everything works. Weaving his tale, Simmons proves a master storyteller, each of the seven tableaus presented begging to be devoured. As a result, it is virtually impossible to read Hyperion and not want to follow up with the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion. Thus, potential buyers be warned: this is only the first half of a highly engaging story.

Hyperion’s success begins with world building. Simmons put hours and hours of thought and planning into the background details of his universe and how these elements work together. ... Read More

The Fall of Hyperion: A grand finale

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Having carefully woven each strand in Hyperion, in The Fall of Hyperion Dan Simmons braids them together into a singular narrative that fantastically concludes the tale. With whip-crackling energy throughout, the fate of the Hegemony, Ousters, and the Shrike are revealed. All of the questions Simmons created — what will happen to Sol’s daughter? Will Kassad get his revenge on the Shrike? Will the Consul be able to open the time tombs? And ultimately, what is the Shrike? — are answered in more than satisfying fashion. Moreover, the mysterious disappearance of the tree-ship captain, Het Masteen, is not only explained, but fits perfectly within the framework of Hyperion to affect things as no reader could foresee. With this and other details, Simmons shows the subtlety of his story’s design, and proves himself a master storytell... Read More

Endymion: More fabulous storytelling in the Hyperion universe

Endymion by Dan Simmons

The original HYPERION duology was a great success for Dan Simmons. It won him numerous awards and accolades, not to mention rave reviews and huge sales figures. The setting so fertile, Simmons indulged further, producing additional books typically called the ENDYMION duology. No less imaginative and visual, the pair, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, nevertheless take Simmons’ universe in a new direction: where Hyperion focused on mythological quests for power from a base of Keats' poetry, Endymion is honed to spirituality from a personal view. The following review is for the first half of the duology.

Endymion opens by introducing the man who becomes the main protagonist of the story. The eponymous Raul Endymion hangs in space inside a Schroe... Read More

The Rise of Endymion: Great science fiction for the 21st century

The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

After busting through the door with a whole new Hyperion story in Endymion, Simmons returns with The Rise of Endymion to close it. Answering all of the questions and satisfying all the plot build up of the first half, Rise concludes the story in grand fashion, living up to expectations. It does, however, leave a little wanting thematically.

The Rise of Endymion opens where Endymion left off. Aenea, Endymion, and the others are in the American West recovering from the attack by the church and learning architecture from a cybrid of Frank Lloyd Wright. They are quickly separated, however, and Endymion goes on a perilous mission of which he knows not the end. Simmons upping the ante imaginatively, the dangerous and exotic events of Endymion’s life prepare him in every w... Read More

The Hollow Man: Confused and overly-complex

The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons

I’m a huge fan of Dan Simmons’s work — when he hits. With The Hollow Man, he misses. Though his talent as a stylist is once again on full display here, the story is confused and overly-complex, leaving the objective of The Hollow Man obscure and ambiguous. One look at the plot devices at work — neuroscience, serial killers, homelessness, telepathy, depression, the mafia, quantum physics — ought to tell you the story is bogged down with excess baggage. And did I mention the abused, deaf-blind boy with Down Syndrome who plays a hand in the novel’s climax?

Regarding content, The Hollow Man is the story of a telepathic man who undergoes a drastic life change after his wife, also telepathic, dies. The severing of this bond, which we are led to believe is stronger than the average relationship due to their mind-to-mind connection, causes the man t... Read More

Hardcase: Nothing special here

Hardcase by Dan Simmons

Readers of Dan Simmons have been spoiled by his numerous great works: THE HYPERION CANTOSSong of Kali, and The Terror, for example, which sold well around the world and in many languages. Hardcase, unfortunately, finds Simmons returning to earth from the heights of this success. Hardcase is run-of-the-mill action — well told, but still average.

Before buying the book, I noted that many reviewers enjoyed Simmons’s delving into detective noir to tell the story of hardened private eye Joe Kurtz, who solves a mystery while trying to stay alive with killers on his trail. Having now read the book, I’m at a loss to see where the spirit of Raymond Chandler can be seen glowing in the text. Certainly some of the elements speak to the noir genre — Kurtz’s office below a porno shop, his moral position outside the law but fighting for justice, and t... Read More

The Terror: Historical, horror, and literary fiction

The Terror by Dan Simmons

The Terror is based on the British vessels HMS Erebrus and HMS Terror and their voyage to discover a northwest passage in the 19th century. Using their unknown fate as a literary springboard, Dan Simmons freely fills the gap in history as his imagination allows, and in the process has created a work of historical fiction that transcends genre. Classified horror due to one of its plot devices, the novel is in fact much deeper in scope. On the surface it is the story of the two ships and their crews’ attempts to survive, frozen in the ice for more than two years, but at another level, it is an examination of the hubris of humanity and its attempts to defy nature.

Reining himself in from the vivid descriptions and vibrant storytelling of the HYPERION CANTOS or JOE KURTZ novels, Simmons’ imagery of a frozen wasteland in The Terror require... Read More

Black Hills: A Lakota Indian channels General Custer

Black Hills by Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons has impressed with the variety of themes and settings he takes on in his novels. He has written science fiction, horror, historical novels, crime and literary fiction. The man's a very versatile writer. Black Hills, like his previous two novels The Terror and Drood, could be considered historical fiction with a clear supernatural theme.

The novel tells the story of the Paha Sapa. His name means Black Hills in Lakota but it is only used by those he is most intimate with; to the rest of the world he is Billy Slow Horse. Born in 1865, Paha Sapa lives through the final days of the independent buffalo-hunting lifestyle of his people. In 1876 he is present when a coalition of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho defeat General George Armstrong Custer in wh... Read More

The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz: An homage to Jack Vance

The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz by Dan Simmons

A few years ago Subterranean Press published what has ever since been my favorite anthology of all time — Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance. It’s a hefty collection of stories written by 22 authors who consider Jack Vance an influence on their own work. Each wrote a story set in Vance’s DYING EARTH universe and many of them attempted — often quite successfully —Vance’s trademark style. Each also wrote an afterward which explains how Vance influenced them personally. I’ve reviewed that anthology here.

This month Subterranean Press is releasing Dan Simmons’ contribution to that anthology as a hardcover stand-alone novella. It has previously been released on Kindle. The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz takes plac... Read More

Song of Kali: A terrific horror novel from a future Hugo Award winner

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

In Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, Edward Bryant, writing of his choice for inclusion in that overview volume, Dan Simmons' Song of Kali, mentions that Simmons had spent precisely 2 1/2 days in Calcutta before writing his first book, in which that city plays so central and memorable a role. Despite Simmons' short stay, Bryant reveals that the author filled "voluminous notebooks" with impressions and sketches of the city, and any reader who enters the grim but remarkably detailed horror novel that is Song of Kali will be amazed that its author spent such a short time there. The city is superbly well depicted in this book, and indeed is its most fully fleshed-out "character:" a vile, overcrowded, steaming cesspool of a city that breathes iniquit... Read More

The Fifth Heart: Moving and thoughtful

The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons

There are several issues with Dan Simmons’ new novel, The Fifth Heart. It’s too long for one, its 600+ pages probably a good 100-150 pages too many. Simmons has fallen too much in love with his research, slowing the book in multiple places. He drops one of the more intriguing storylines a bit too easily. And the mystery/resolution are a bit anti-climactic. That said, The Fifth Heart still works as a smart literary mix of adventure, historical fiction, and metafiction, even if it could have been better with some pruning.

The year is 1893 and Henry James, depressed over his career, his fast-approaching mid-century birthday, and the recent death of his sister is about to commit suicide by stepping into the Seine River when a man steps out of the shadows and interrupts him. The man, to James’ surprise, is Sherlock Holmes, whom Jam... Read More

This Year’s Class Picture: A scene from a zombie apocalypse

This Year’s Class Picture by Dan Simmons

Sci-fi and horror master Dan Simmons has only one real character in this short story: Ms. Geiss, dedicated fourth-grade teacher extraordinaire. She seems to be one of the very few remaining humans following the frequently mentioned, but never-explained, “Tribulations” that had some role in creating an environment where zombies roam the planet.

This Year’s Class Picture opens rather bluntly:
Ms. Geiss watched her new student coming across the first-graders’ playground from her vantage point on the balcony of the school’s belfry. She lowered the barrel of the Remington .30-06 until the child was centered in the crosshairs of the telescopic sight.
But don’t get Ms. Geiss wrong. All of her students are zombies, and without proper precautions, she could ea... Read More

Magazine Monday: Jamais Vu, Issue One

New magazines fascinate me. These days they seem to be popping up on the internet like mushrooms after a summer rain. Jamais Vu: The Journal of Strange Among the Familiar is the latest of these ventures to cross my desk. The first issue, dated Winter 2014, opens with a message from the Editor-in-Chief, Paul Anderson (the one who makes the content decisions, as opposed to the Executive Editor, Eric S. Beebe, who bills himself as a figurehead who pays the bills). Anderson explains that Jamais Vu is an experiment arising from Post Mortem’s start as a publisher of anthologies. Rather than continuing with anthologies, which don’t sell particularly well, or resorting to the $.99 digital “short” that’s all the rage on Amazon these days, Post Mortem decided to try a magazine. If the quality of the magazine consistently matches that of the first issue, this venture ought to be a success.

The first story, “Photo Captions” by Gary A. Bra... Read More

SHORTS: Brookside, Simmons, Card, Sheckley

The Last Days of Jericho by Thomas Brookside (2010)

The Last Days of Jericho is Thomas Brookside's follow up to his incredibly creative and well-executed novella De Bello Lemures, or The Roman War Against the Zombies of Armorica. Let's make one thing clear: Thomas Brookside may be self-published, but his writing is as crisp and descriptive as that of any big house published author. Both stories take place in a very particular historical setting, and Brookside nails the narrator's tone and delivers an extremely genuine-sounding account.

The Last Days of Jericho tells the story of the fall of Jericho in ancient Canaan. Brookside's fictional account represents Joshua's god as a supernatural, near-monster-like entity that destroys everything in its path. The first-person narration is handled by a fictional citizen in Jericho who manages the... Read More

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.

Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr.... Read More

More speculative fiction from Dan Simmons

Dale Stewert — (1991-2002) Publisher: This masterfully crafted horror classic, featuring a brand-new introduction by Dan Simmons, will bring you to the edge of your seat, hair standing on end and blood freezing in your veins. It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood. But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once idyllic town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood — against an arcane abomination who owns the night…

Science fiction book reviews Dan Simmons 1.Summer of Night 2. A Winter HauntingScience fiction book reviews Dan Simmons 1.Summer of Night 2. A Winter Haunting

Ilium — (2003-2005) Publisher: The Trojan War rages at the foot of Olympos Mons on Mars — observed and influenced from on high by Zeus and his immortal family — and twenty-first-century professor Thomas Hockenberry is there to play a role in the insidious private wars of vengeful gods and goddesses. On Earth, a small band of the few remaining humans pursues a lost past and devastating truth — as four sentient machines depart from Jovian space to investigate, perhaps terminate, the potentially catastrophic emissions emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of the Red Planet.

Science fiction book reviews Dan Simmons 1. Ilium 2. OlymposScience fiction book reviews Dan Simmons 1. Ilium 2. Olympos