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Dan Simmons, “Black Hills”

February 14, 2012

I have recently been reading a book by Dan Simmons an author I occasionally like to read. Ever since I was three or four years old I have read to pass the time waiting for something interesting to happen in life. I have never been particularly much of an adventurer. I prefer waiting for the train to arrive rather than wandering the platform or the tracks looking to meet it. Whenever it arrived I hop on and ride it to wherever until I fell off or more often than not was pushed off. I would then sit by the tracks again and read until the next train came along.

It has never been particularly important what I read (although I have my preferences), fiction, non fiction, cereal boxes, bus schedules they were all the same, doorways into adventure. Reading the content list on a soup can could leave me traveling in my mind to the sources of the natural and not so natural ingredients occupying hours while waiting for something to happen.

Anyway, Simmons is generally classified as a writer of speculative fiction although rarely of the “science” or “fantasy” kinds. Recently he wrote a novel called “Drood” that imagined the circumstances surrounding the writing of Dickens’ novel of the same name. The current book “Black Hills” recounts the life of a Sioux holy man from the Battle of Little Big Horn through the sculpting of Mount Rushmore. He previously wrote a novel retelling the Iliad. What marks Simmons’ novels are that they are inevitably long (I like that) and he has never met a fact in his background research that he has not found a place for in his novel (I like that too). His failure is that his stories are always about motivation (Why was Wilkie Collins so jealous of Charles Dickens as to contemplate his murder; Why did Paha Sapa plot the distraction of the Mount Rushmore monument?). Unfortunately, the motivation given rarely appears to me to justify the action contemplated and so ultimately his novels are not completely satisfying.

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