Dan Simmons

A new author to me, recently stumbled upon. I happened to notice in my local library, a copy of a very recent (publ. 2013) novel by Dan Simmons: “The Abominable”. From the front cover, it clearly involved “extreme” mountain-climbing. And, I having a fancy for cryptozoological stuff-and-doings, the title immediately suggested to me the Himalayas, and yetis. I just had to borrow the book, to find out what it was like; and to what extent it might actually treat of mysterious giant hairy bipeds.

I find that Dan Simmons is an American novelist, with a tally of nearly thirty published works. I’m in the UK – perhaps his fame is less here, than in his home country; but I had never heard of the guy before the above library “chance encounter” the other day. Googling indicated that his work spreads widely between and among genres – spanning and merging sci-fi, horror, and fantasy; and his output also includes a fair number of mysteries and thrillers.

I’ll admit to being somewhat less than captivated by this first – and so far, only – work by this author, that I’ve read. It is essentially about mountain-climbing (a subject about which the author at least seems extremely well-informed), with a hefty dose of international espionage / covert war-type skulduggery. Revolves around a fictional attempt to climb Everest, by a very small group, in the mid-1920s; plus battling against the machinations of fanatical German early Nazis, also active in that area for reasons of theirs. To my disappointment, no actual yetis feature: just a matter of occasional in-passing yeti lore; and various “bad-ass” humans using the legend to spread alarm and despondency, and to pass off their depredations, as acts by the alleged hairy giants.

I found the book pretty hugely long – some 650 pages – and the writing of it, highly expansive and wordy. All manner of different things are voluminously described / narrated, in leisurely fashion – especially, greatly assorted technical minutiae related to mountaineering. (I did a lot of skipping of those parts.) There came to mind, the accusation often levelled by non-devotees, at Tolkien – “ far too much verbose descriptive / expository stuff, just for the heck of it ! – get on with the action !” – and while this guy’s writing is far from horrifically-bad, he is for sure no Tolkien. I feel that this novel would be improved by being cut to half its actual length.

In addition: in this work, the author comes out with a few glaring inaccuracies concerning stuff which I do know about ; leading me to wonder how sound his knowledge truly is, of mountaineering – a subject re which I know next to nothing. Plus, numerous small errors / sloppinesses in spelling and use of English. I don’t feel, at present, eager to explore further works by Dan Simmons: but in view of what gathered, about his other output – I wonder whether any participants here, are aficionados of this gentleman’s work, or some of it; and would feel inclined to put a case for his merits? It’s possible that I have just chanced to come upon one of his less-good efforts.

I’ve read a lot of Dan Simmons. I did not read The Abominable, because I heard it was not one of his best.

I first got into him through his sci-fi. I really enjoyed the following: The Hyperion Cantos series, the Ilium/Olympos series, Song of Kali, and The Hollow Man (the previous two are horror and were absolutely terrifying). I also read The Terror and Drood, and enjoyed them somewhat – The Terror more than Drood, which was overly long. I tried and failed to get into Black Hills, and I have not tried his most recent, Flashback and The Abominable.

I recommend all the ones I mentioned that I finished, except for possibly Drood, if you like sci-fi and/or horror.

I really enjoyed his Hyperion Cantos. Some genuinely interesting ideas, good plot, excellent characters. Highly recommended.

I could have posted what iiandyiiii said, word for word. Except that I did like Drood for its look at the life of famous writers in the 19th century.

I wanted to like Black Hills, but the overdone eroticism was a turn-off. Is Mrs. Custer really going to give Mr. Custer a blow job behind some bushes while his men are just a few feet away? :dubious:

Simmons made his name through horror/science fiction. Song of Kali is one of the most horrific novels out there (though it’s not particularly scary) and Carrion Comfort was spectacularly good horror/sf and Summer of Night and Phases of Gravity were all excellent.

Hyperion and the sequel is his best known work, a slight slip but still top notch work. His novel, Harcase, however, seems just a way to showcase all the research he put into it – the only thing that stands out are the many paragraphs describing the characters’ guns.

I haven’t read anything of him recently, though. At the start, he was an exciting talent.

I liked the Hyperion books, although I found my enjoyment decreasing with each one. I thought Darwin’s Blade was one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

The Hyperion books are among my favorites.

I thought Hyperion was amazing when I first read it (which was as an English literature major in undergrad - we had just read the Canterbury Tales). I read the second book and it was good, but I wasn’t blown away by it.

Thanks; and to all responders. A – needless – certain amount of the above-described kind of stuff, also in “The Abominable”. General impression got from responses to date, is that – re my personal tastes – I don’t think I’ll give any more of my time to books by Dan S.

I’ve once made the mistake of reading *Carrion Comfort *and Darwin’s Blade back to back. The former was one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read; on par with the best of King or Barker. The latter one … irredeemable trash with the added insult of containing long, gratuitous, boring passages about cars, sharp shooting and gliding. Ugh.

The gulf in quality between both books was shocking. Still is.

This would seem to confirm my impression that Simmons has a weakness for burbling on, at great length, about things which he has researched and / or has a genuine great interest in. Something which maybe a very few authors of genius, can get away with; but for most authors, a big no-no.

I guess the key is whether or not the reader is interested in the stuff he’s babbling about. I read and loved The Abominable, despite its faults, which for me were more with the international intrigue plotting than the information dump. As an armchair climbing geek I ate up all the mountaineering minutiae, including the god-knows-how-many-pages on the evolution of various pieces of climbing hardware and all the historical details about ascents of Everest around the end World War One (particularly George Mallory’s), from the perspective of someone writing long after that. It was all interesting to me, though I completely understand the criticism from those who found it tedious. I liked the book so much that I’m reading The Terror right now and find it equally as absorbing, maybe more so. YYMV, I know.

There’s a great post on some of the problems with the plot of The Abominable in this month’s Whatcha Reading thread and I’d link to it if I was on a screen bigger than a Pez dispenser. I agreed with everything the poster said, and yet I still thoroughly enjoyed the book.

He wrote three riveting crime novels–Hardcase, Hard as Nails, Hard Freeze. Ultra violent as all get out. His website promised more but he never delivered.

Thanks ! With your info, have just contributed to that thread.

*Hyperion *is a masterpiece. Simmons hasn’t written anything as good since, but then again, neither has anyone else.