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A young person's guide to Dan Simmons

From recent comments to my LJ, and in IMs, it seems that not enough people have been reading on of my favourite writers. Dan Simmons is a wonderful writer, who works in so many different styles and genres that it's incredibly hard to pigeon-hole him. He works equally well at short and long forms - and has won many awards in many fields.

My recommended Simmons novels would be:
Song Of Kali
World Fantasy award winning novel that takes existential terror, mixes it with the culture shock of an American in India and then tosses it at a hallucinogenic experience that may or may not be real.

The Hyperion Cantos
Published in two parts as Hyperion and The Fall Of HyperionThe award winning SF epic that begins as a new Canterbury Tales and ends as a dark tale of rebellion against a fair-faced foe. In between we get tales of love, of loss, of faith, and of epic poetry. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Two further novels take the story forward, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.

Phases of Gravity
After you have walked on the moon, what next? Non-genre, and a highly compelling story of a man's search for the peak experiences that give his life meaning. The story is told in the anticipation and the aftermath - never at the peak.

Carrion Comfort
A big horror novel. Beginning life as a novella in Omni, Carrion Comfort is a story of vampirism without vampires, and the ultimate horror at the heart of the 20th century. It's a story of the callousness of boredom, and the redemming power of novelty.

The Crook Factory
Lying somewhere in the indefinable space between literary bigraphy, secret history and thriller is the X that marks this book's spot. An FBI agent is sent to keep an eye on (and control, if possible) Hemingway's Cuban counter-intelligence games - only to find that Hemingway is right, and things are vastly more compliated than he expected. Simmons builds his story by mixing little known episodes from Hemingway's life with the rivalries between the various secret services in the early days of the Second World War. Keep an eye out for a certain British spy...

The Hollow Man
The best SF novel about telepathy since Dying Inside. Poignant and moving, it is one of Simmons' best works. Or at least it would be if it wasn't for the pointless serial killer sub-plot...

Simmons' is a prolific writer and there's lots more out there. I've yet to read any of his ghost stories, or the vampire novels - and I've just discovered a Hawaiian horror novel that I'm going to have to track down soon...

And of course his latest SF work, Ilium, is on the to-be-read bookcases...


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2004 05:40 am (UTC)
Have his short stories been collected at all? Do you have any recommendations for short story/novella length work by Simmons?

Thanks for the novel recommendations; will keep an eye open for some of those.
Jan. 20th, 2004 05:48 am (UTC)
There are several short story collections. I'd recomend them all!
Jan. 20th, 2004 06:47 am (UTC)
I've read Phases Of Gravity, and thought it rather obvious and auctorially manipulative. I've never read the two Hyperion novels, but I recommend the late John Foyster's dissection of the opening paragraphs of the first in e-FNAC 24, neatly exposing Simmons's failure to fully think through what he's writing about and the questions this raises as readers grapple with the implied inconsistencies. You can read it on the e-fanzines website.
Jan. 20th, 2004 07:41 am (UTC)
Thanks for this; I'll be off to update the Amazon wishlist next! I must admit that I had no idea he ranged across so many genres - I knew about Hyperion, and that was pretty much it.
Jan. 20th, 2004 08:09 am (UTC)
The Hyperion Cantos ...Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Too right. I remember a conversation at a Con between devilgate and Steve WINOLJ about Babylon 5 which went something along the lines of:

devilgate: "B5 is brilliant - why didn't you tell me to watch it earlier?"
Steve: "I did. Several times."
devilgate: "But you didn't tell me it was a Hyperion."
Steve: "Oh."

Apart from serving to illustrate Steve's legendary brevity, this also can be reversed very nicely. Hyperion is a B5. If you haven't read it, go out and get it now.
Jan. 21st, 2004 03:39 am (UTC)
Just to fill in the background a tad, there: Steve had recommended Hyperion to me, and told me to get both books. I said, "Oh I'll get the second one if I like the first," and ignored his advice.

Then the morning came when I had almost finished the first on the way to work, and had to spend the whole of lunchtime searching every bookshop in Wimbledon for the second (I found it in Fielders, the independent one, fact fans). I resolved then that if Steve ever told me anything was as good as Hyperion</>, I would instantly take his advice.
Jan. 23rd, 2004 07:26 am (UTC)
Song of Kali was the first Simmons novel I read, and it truly creeped me out. Very few horror novels have that effect on me.

I've been reading his contemporary-setting crime novels, featuring the character Joe Kurtz. They're pretty good for the genre, and much more mainstream than his fantasy and horror work.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )