BOOK REVIEW: CARRION COMFORT BY DAN SIMMONS

Carrion-Comfort

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: CARRION COMFORT

AUTHOR: DAN SIMMONS

PAGES: 767

PUBLISHER: QUERCUS

YEAR: 1989

GENRE: HORROR FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrion_Comfort

www.dansimmons.com

Carrion Comfort is a library book. I checked it out purely because of the Stephen King quote on the front cover ‘Carrion Comfort is one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century. Simple as that’.

Carrion Comfort won the Bram Stoker Award, The Locus Poll Award for Best Horror Novel, The World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and The August Derleth Award for Best Novel in 1990.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

THE PAST

Caught behind the lines of Hitler’s Final Solution, Saul Laksi is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. But he will soon fall into the clutches of an evil far older and greater than the Nazis themselves.

PRESENT

A rare few individuals have the Ability – the psychic power to influence the mind of others. Each year they meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of debauchery and slaughter. But this year things are not going according to plan…  

EXTRACT

Saul Laski lay among the soon-to-die in a camp of death and thought about life. Saul shivered in the cold and dark and forced himself to remember details of a spring morning – golden light touching the heavy limbs of willows by the stream, a field of white daisies beyond the stone buildings of his uncle’s farm.

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION

 

Carrion Comfort blew me away. I loved every word of every page. Carrion Comfort is a huge, epic novel. If I had to compare it with other novels I would liken it to IT or The Stand by Stephen King. Carrion Comfort is a huge, ambitious novel. Simmons offers the most unique twist in vampire mythology I’ve read in a long time. His characters are realistic and great. Simmons is a talented, competent writer. I loved his concept for Carrion Comfort and the way he executed this on the page. I need to read more by this author and buy a copy of Carrion Comfort to add to my collection.

REVIEW

 

I usually don’t comment on the cover of a novel but felt compelled to mention the cover for Carrion Comfort. I think the cover is pretty shit considering my copy was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the novel’s first publication. I would never have given the shit cover a second glance if not for King’s quote.

I love the title of the novel. I’m not entirely sure what it means but Carrion Comfort is an interesting title.

I loved the characters in Carrion Comfort. The cast is quite large and includes Saul and the people who join him to bring down the mind vampires, Melanie and her two Ability using companions who meet every year to discuss The Game, the various crimes and murders they have had a hand in and The Island Club, a group of wealthy people who also use the Ability and meet every week to make a group of hapless victims kill each other. Each character, even the most minor ones such as various people the villains conditioned as slaves was very well written. Simmons made his characters believable. The villains like Melanie and others with the Ability were truly sinister and the good guys including Saul were wonderfully flawed. It’s not easy to write about such a large cast of characters without having at least one dud or stereotype. Simmons pulls this off. I was impressed.

I loved Simmons’s take on vampire mythology in Carrion Comfort. Melanie and others who use the Ability are mind vampires. They don’t feed by drinking human blood, they feed on the surge of power they get controlling the minds of others. This surge of power is particularly high when they use others to commit acts of violence. They get off on the terrible things they can make people do to themselves and others. I thought this idea was much creepier and more sinister than drinking human blood. Some with the Ability, such as Nina, the Oberst and Melanie towards the end have a terrifying range of dominance. Their potential for destruction was very unsettling.

Carrion Comfort is a huge, ambitious novel. Simmons offers us the idea that these mind vampires are behind pretty much every terrible atrocity in history including Nazi Germany. They have had a hand in terrible acts of violence throughout history. I loved Simmons’s concept for Carrion Comfort. He’s got a decent set of balls for tackling such a huge idea.

I loved all the little sub plots running through Carrion Comfort. In Nazi Germany, Saul was one of many Jews who were used by a sinister Nazi known as The Oberst to play a sinister game of human chess. The Jews were the chess pieces and their moves controlled by The Oberst using his Ability. The yearly reunion by Nina, Melanie and Willi (The Oberst) to discuss The Game ends in terror when a spat between both women results in nine bizarre murders. This sets Saul, Natalie, the daughter of a victim and Sheriff Gantry on the trail of Melanie and her sinister friends. Saul believes the people they are hunting have the same powers he witnessed in Nazi Germany. Melanie’s Ability grows to an alarming level. The final ‘plot’ thread deals with The Island Club, an even more sinister group of people who have the Ability.  They meet once a year with a group of people they have kidnapped. They control their victims in The Hunt and have fun making them slaughter each other. I loved the way Simmons was able to connect all the threads together. I loved the little links between everything. It’s not easy to write such an ambiguous novel and keep it all together. I was impressed by the way Simmons handled this.

I loved the way Carrion Comfort is structured. Each chapter deals with one ‘thread’ in the novel, gradually building up the plot and characters until everything comes together in a dramatic, brilliant conclusion. Despite the length of this huge novel I raced through the pages.

Simmons is a very good writer. I found Carrion Comfort very well written. The language was simple but powerful and effective. Simmons didn’t waste a word. There was no flowery prose or long winded sentences. Every word was perfect. I got caught up in this great novel and wept along.

I loved the ending of Carrion Comfort. Saul and Natalie infiltrate The Island Club with the help of Tony Harod, a creepy Hollywood movie producer. He has the Ability. He mainly uses his Ability to sexually dominate women in a sort of mind and body rape. He was a creepy bastard. Saul kills The Oberst. He is offered membership of the club if he hunts down Melanie and The Oberst. Saul is able to kill The Oberst. The other members of the club agree to keep   The Hunt confined to their private island. Natalie goes on a suicide mission to kill Melanie. In the teasing epilogue, Simmons reveals Natalie killed Melanie’s double and she is still alive, stronger than ever in France. The ending blew me away.

My copy included an introduction by the author to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the novel’s publication. Simmons discussed his early career, his inspiration for Carrion Comfort and the long path to publication. I know not every reader like this stuff but I love it when author’s do this stuff. It’s like a magician giving a sneaky peek into how some trick is performed.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Carrion Comfort is a brilliant example of just how good horror fiction can be. Simmons offers us a huge, ambitious monster of a novel. I loved it. Carrion Comfort is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s on a par with Stephen King’s IT or The Stand for greatness. Simmons has been added to my list of authors I need to read.

I had never heard of Dan Simmons until I checked Carrion Comfort out of the library or so I thought. The copy I read contains an introduction by the author to celebrate the novel’s 20th anniversary. Simmons mentions two of his earliest short stories, The River Styx Runs Upstream and Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams. I read both of these stories in my teens and loved them. I have no recollection of Simmons as the author. If I had been pushed to give an author I would have attributed the stories to Clive Barker if anyone. Weird, huh? I must have read them in a collection with other authors and thought Barker wrote them because he edited the collection or had featured stories as well. Odd how memory works isn’t it especially since The River Styx Runs Upstream inspired my own stories.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

 

3 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: CARRION COMFORT BY DAN SIMMONS

Add yours

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this outstanding blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my
    Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.
    Chat soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: