Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
*** Warner books 884 pages
Maybe hearing that the book was a masterpiece for more than a decade set the bar too high for this novel. I also think the blurb comparing it to ‘The Stand’ on the cover also hurt my reaction to this novel. I mean besides the massive number of pages I can't see another thing about Carrion Comfort that makes it at all like the Stand.
This novel is amazing in many ways, but I don't think I am saying anything sacrilegious to say that it might be a page or two hundred too long. Simmons is a brilliant writer and this novel does brilliant things. He expands the vampire concept away from blood to the mind and thus explores several deep issues ranging from violence, cruelty to what makes a person evil. What gives them a hunger for violence?
The novel has epic scope starting on the bottom of mass grave outside a Nazi concentration camp and going as far as island in the early 80's that has become a vacation spot for the worlds most powerful. We follow Saul a holocaust survivor who has never lost his desire to find the Oberst, a Nazi so evil he seemed to enter the minds of his victims.
Once Saul looks into this man he uncovers a conspiracy of powerful psychics who play with victims by controlling their minds. The concept is powerful, vampires who stay young by feeding off the violence between others. They enter your mind and control people using them as pawns. The psychic vampire concept is well executed in several very suspenseful moments in this novel.
The novel is well written, but that is not a surprise coming from Dan Simmons who is one of the best most imaginative writers working in and out of genre. The major characters are well done, and the book is excellently plotted. I don’t think it is as strong a novel as Song of Kali, or Hyperion.
One of my biggest problems with the novel comes in the climax when the pawn concept goes beyond analogy and Simmons devotes almost 20 pages into a mind numbing chess battle. It is a pet peeve but I hate gambling parts in Bond movies, and in this novel the Chess showdown put me to sleep.
There are alot of impressive things in this novel. I gave it three stars and not five for a couple reasons. The entire violent show down in Philadelphia seemed like an unnecessary distraction from the main plot. The dialogue of the block gang members sounded like the jive-talkers in the movie Airplane, I have a hard believing in 1980 that gang members really said honky that much. I know a little thing but it annoyed me. The suggestion during the epilogue and the near apocalypse that is avoided sounded far more interesting to me than the last 400 pages we ended up with in this novel. That and the long chess show down really hurt my opinion of the book.