Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Review: "Carrion Comfort" by Dan Simmons
The grand leap between two novels, as there is between Dan Simmon’s first novel Song of Kali and his second, Carrion Comfort, has never been as far and astounding as it is here, and completely changes how I feel about the author. I read Song of Kali a few years ago and it did not impress me all that much besides a few scares and a rather downbeat ending. I did not look forward to this book, which is why I placed it toward the end of my reading list for the first half of 2017. But this is a different beast than I had expected, and that because it makes you feel all of its 767 pages. This is the kind of horror novel that makes other genre authors jealous with its perfection in both fields it excels at. Not only is this book a big epic that spans decades and continents and waves of emotional upheaval, but it is a rather intimate story as well, one that creeps up on you with its ideas and themes, places you in the shoes of the characters and makes you think twice before you turn the light off to go to sleep at night. And I almost forgot: it is one of the best produced and most unique reinvention of the vampire mythology. It starts off with a prologue where we will meet the man who will be at the center of this novel, Saul Laski, as he is imprisoned at the Chelmno extermination camp in Poland in 1942. He is a young man who has witnessed his family destroyed, and when five officers come into the bunkers, he is ready to end his life to hurt theirs. But he is not prepared for is the force that controls him, that rape his mind and makes him commit unspeakable acts. After those first few pages we flash forward to the end of 1980 in Charleston, where three elderly people, Willi, Nina and Melanie reflect on their life, and it slowly dawns on the reader the monstrous and evil nature of these three non-descript individuals. Something happens at this meeting that causes a rift that will bring in tons of people, cost many their lives and might possibly bring about the end of the world. I was blown away by this novel every step of the way, from its deliberate yet exciting flow, to its’ rendering of good and evil (Saul and Natalie, the young black girl who becomes his closest confidant, kick the ass of anyone in Stephen King’s The Stand and Melanie, whose mind we trudge around in through various chapter, could make Randall Flagg her bitch) to brilliant set pieces, some action packed like the finale on the private island of a billionaire (and the most powerful mind vampire) and some grotesque and horrifying, such as the consensual rapes Tony Harod commits and the instance of what happened to Saul when he was controlled, a scene that is the most disturbing I’ve read since the skinning scene in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This is an astoundingly great novel, filled to the brim with energy and skill, true evil, but ultimately, it is a story about the human reserves of hope and endurance.