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Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
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Carrion Comfort (1989)

by Dan Simmons

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1,541346,968 (3.88)68
Recently added bympotts, Sluggish, michellelarock, private library, Mocate, AstridBehrends, Inkdrunnergirl

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English (32)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Although Simmons' book is considered to be a classic of contemporary horror, I found it a bit too slow-paced for today's reader. Its chief strength is a unique explanation for the most serious acts of violence in the world--that there are a group of people with a genetic mutation enabling them to control other people and make them commit acts of horrific violence. The implications of such a view for moral and criminal responsibility are fascinating as well as the difficult task of rooting out these creatures. The characters were well-developed throughout. The plotting has moments of excitement and horror, but not enough for my taste. The ending, which I shall not give away, is something that has the potential to cause chills. Overall, this is a solid horror novel with a unique thesis that goes a bit slowly for me--someone else may have a different opinion, of course, and how well a person likes the pace of a novel is, to a significant extent, subjective. "Carrion Comfort," of course, comes from one of Gerard Manley Hopkins's "terrible sonnets" from his "dark night of the soul" in which he felt the absence of God. I cannot say how well the novel reflects the message of the poem. ( )
  mpotts | Sep 20, 2018 |
After first reading THE TERROR, then SUMMER OF NIGHT, and now CARRION COMFORT, I can honestly say that I am a huge Dan Simmons fan. The man writes horror like no one else, and that is because he is able to take the genre and expertly mash it up with others, giving us something truly special. THE TERROR has elements of historical fiction and the best of Jack London in it, while SUMMER OF NIGHT taps into Baby Boomer nostalgia as good as anything Stephen King has written, along with being a great coming of age in a small town story. But CARRION COMFORT is nothing like those first two, making it plain that Simmons is a truly versatile writer, and a master of many subjects.

CARRION COMFORT is Simmons’ epic take on vampires, and I do mean epic, as my paperback copy clocks in at 767 pages. There are no fanged bloodsuckers to be found anywhere on those pages, instead, Simmons gives us his own take on them, his creatures of the night have no problem walking in the day, and instead of blood, these are vampires who feed on the minds of others, stealing their thoughts, emotions, and personalities, ultimately hollowing them out completely and taking control of their bodies. This is often portrayed in horrifying detail, although there is little real gore. And like true vampires, they are very long lived, becoming cold and cruel, utterly incapable of empathy on any level. They are among the most truly evil villains I have ever encountered in any piece of fiction, and as all of us horror fans know, if the author gets the bad guys right, half his work is done.

As I noted, CARRION COMFORT is a long book and sprawling book, with a large cast of characters, with the action jumping to multiple locations. Though some reviewers have complained about the length, I am one of those readers who crave the deep dive into character and plot, and as there is a lot of action, and many POV’s from interesting characters, for me, the story never seemed to drag. Simmons begins his novel in a Nazi concentration camp in the waning days of World War II, where a protagonist and antagonist is introduced, and then jumping the story ahead to the year 1980, where the main action takes place as a meeting of a secret society of these mind vampires, or Users, takes a bad turn, resulting in some major carnage, and putting an unlikely trio of heroes on a mission of revenge against an enemy a million times more powerful than themselves. Though the good guys get a lot of space, this is one book where we really get to know the villains well. One of the Users, Melanie Fuller, is given the singular honor of having a first person POV, and the result is that the reader is treated like one of the Users themselves, as Melanie calmly explains herself, and the atrocities she inflicts upon the truly innocent, as though she is confiding in her own kind. It is a great technique to draw us into the story. On the other side, no book could have a better hero than Saul Laski, a Jewish survivor of the Nazi horrors who has never given up on finding the User who tormented him in the camps. We also meet a young black woman determined to avenge her father; a good old boy Southern sheriff who is anything but a caricature; a sleazy Hollywood producer who literally uses women; a deputy director of the FBI who is anything but a public servant; a Washington power broker whose real power is a horrific secret, and then there is the Oberst, a sadist with delusions of grandeur, capable of putting his former Nazi cohorts to shame. There is a rich cast of supporting characters, some good, some bad, some just victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, as this book does have a high body count by the end.

CARRION COMFORT was written in the 80’s, and published in 1989, and one can see some of that decades cultural touchstones in the novel, as it as more shoot outs and action scenes, involving semi and automatic weapons, helicopters, fancy sports cars, and explosions than a Schwarzenegger movie. One character is clearly modeled on some of that decade’s more prominent, and shameless, TV televangelists. Simmons does manage to avoid getting bogged down in info dumps or unnecessarily long scenes where back story is inserted; his writing is cramped with detail – he paints a picture well – but for the most part, you always feel like the story is going somewhere.

Of particular interest to aspiring, or even successful writers, is the introduction Simmons included in my edition, where he relates his early struggles as a writer to get CARRION COMFORT completed while still holding down a job as a school teacher, along with the subsequent battle with an editor at a major publishing house, one that ended with him buying back his own book rather than put up with this person’s abuse anymore. It is no doubt some score settling, but it is also an interesting look at the creative process and the machinations of the publishing business.

CARRION COMFORT is a book that should be read by every lover of good horror fiction, yet I think far too few have ever heard of it, which is a shame. It takes an original approach to an old horror trope, and the best thing I can say about is that you never are sure which way the story is going on any given page. We are always wondering what will happen next, and for me, that is the highest praise I can give a book. It is what makes it such a page turner despite its length. And what a movie it would make in the right hands, I would love to see what David Cronenberg could do with it, or even Steven Spielberg. I’m sure it would turn out better than READY PLAYER ONE. May I suggest Richard Dreyfuss as Saul and Jessica Lange as Melanie. ( )
  wb4ever1 | Jul 12, 2018 |
Dan Simmons is one creepy man! This book was very creepy, very interesting, and very long! Although I loved this books and all the creepiness that went with it, I found it was too long. The 800 pages probably could have been edited down to around 600 and it wouldn't have lost anything. This seems to be a trend with Simmons though as The Terror was super creepy and way too long as well. ( )
  ChelleBearss | Mar 10, 2018 |
I do about 74% of my book 'consumption' via recorded books that I listen to, while in the car. I had serious doubts about Carrion Comfort... 32 CDs???? 39 hours??? That was going to take something like 3 weeks.

But it was worth every moment, and has been a thoroughly enjoyable 3 weeks. Terrific story, with several plot lines that weave in an out of each other. And just when you get so engrossed in one plot line that you forget the the others... Simmons draws you back to a different plot line. And yes, in the end, everything wraps up nice and neat.. although perhaps not how the reader expected or wanted! ( )
  LaurieGienapp | Dec 8, 2017 |
I enjoyed the book as a sort of supernatural thriller; although I didn't really find it scary. Having come to the 20th anniversary edition; I don't know how much of this is to do with time & gore-thrillers having moved on; or how many familiar plot lines seemed to crop up. The human chess playing; the mad island owner...
But it was well written enough to keep me going to the end (nearly 800 pages in my edition) even though it was a little predictable ( )
1 vote jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, despair, not feast on thee;

Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man

In me or, most weary, cry I can no more..."

—Gerard Manley Hopkins
Dedication
This is for Ed Bryant
First words
Saul Laski lay among the soon-to-die in a camp of death and thought about life.
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Disambiguation notice
Carrion Comfort was published in France as L'Échiquier du mal in multiple editions. There was a single volume (combined with the main Carrion Comfort work), a two volume set and a four volume set. The boxed sets are combined into the main Carrion Comfort work, but the individual volumes should not be combined together.
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Book description
THE PAST... Caught behind the lines of Hitler’s Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp. Until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazi’s themselves…

THE PRESENT... Compelled by the encounter to survive at all costs, so begins a journey that for Saul will span decades and cross continents, plunging into the darkest corners of 20th century history to reveal a secret society of beings who may often exist behind the world's most horrible and violent events. Killing from a distance, and by darkly manipulative proxy, they are people with the psychic ability to 'use' humans: read their minds, subjugate them to their wills, experience through their senses, feed off their emotions, force them to acts of unspeakable aggression. Each year, three of the most powerful of this hidden order meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of induced bloodshed and deliberate destruction. But this reunion, something will go terribly wrong. Saul’s quest is about to reach its elusive object, drawing hunter and hunted alike into a struggle that will plumb the depths of mankind’s attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…
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Three elderly friends, who possess supernatural powers and who feed off of emotions generated during the murders they orchestrate, meet every year to discuss their game, an ongoing competition of mass murder and vampirism.

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