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Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Summer of Night (1991)

by Dan Simmons

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
My father once complained that we no longer have the degree of freedom he enjoyed in his childhood - kinds of freedom, he said, that he could not even describe to me. Many readers of this novel apparently harbor similar feelings, based on the author’s note in the introduction:

Since Summer of Night was published in 1991, I’ve received more mail, e-mail, and comments on it than on any of my other novels (except perhaps for Hyperion). What fascinates me is that the preponderance of letters are from people around the world who are about my age, who remember a childhood from the era around the summer of 1960 when the novel is set, and who have been moved to say that their childhood memories of freedom are so similar to that of the kid-characters in my novel. And then they lament that their own children and grandchildren lack that freedom.

The setting really is the highlight of this book. Just like Stranger Things made me nostalgic for an 80s that I was barely alive for, Summer of Night was quite effective in summoning nostalgia for a 60s that I never knew - though the world it portrays has harshness as well as charm. Anyway, it's a fun story. ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |
I enjoyed the story for the most part. The scary parts are really good, suspenseful and lots of twists in the story. What kills the book for me is all the back story, it was too much and kept taking me out of the story. Then there’s the old character arcs that need to be retired and never written about again. Not all boys growing up in the 40’s are misogynistic. Not all single female school teachers are fat and stupid. Not all single mothers are considered sluts by their school age sons. Not all school age girls are inept, fat, or have speech impediments. ( )
  caanderson | Sep 3, 2018 |
(11) Wow - Stephen King eat your heart out. This was published ~ 5 years after Stephen King's 'It' - I can't remember too much about that novel but surely it must have inspired this one. Simmons is an incredibly versatile author who is a fantastic story-teller. I have read several of his novels now (The Terror, Song of Kali, The Crook Factory, Drood) and they are all page turners and really quite different. 'The Terror' still remains my favorite but this was a pretty intriguing yarn and must be a close second.

Comparisons with 'It" are obvious - a group of close knit pre-teen boys in small town America before the dawning of the internet and social media - when bikes and baseball were Kings -- battle Evil (with a capital E) as it comes to their little idyllic corner of the world. In this case 'the Borgia Bell' resides in their creepy school which is about to be torn down. The boys begin to see things that are inexplicable and horrifying beginning with the last day of school when a classmate goes missing. The contextual details are amazing - The smell of the Rendering Truck, Duane's flannel shirt and the glasses he keeps adjusting on his face, the blanching relentless heat of a midsummer day, preteen half-man, half-boy confusion -- all so well-done.

It was a bit long, I think. I am not sure which parts needed to be dispensed with besides that awful sex scene with 12 year olds. But, there were times I felt like skimming to get to the action. I did think the finale in the school was a bit over the top - I think perhaps 'less is more' would have sufficed regarding all the tissue nodes, and eyes, and flesh farms everywhere. It undermined part of the excellent fear factor that had been built up with melodrama. It was its best before all was explicit such as the scene in Dale's basement, or the ones in Dale and Lawrence's room - what kid has not been horrified with 'the basement,' 'under the bed,' or the possibilities of 'the bedroom closet.'

Anyway, incredibly entertaining. I will miss Dale and Lawrence and Mike's world. I think I may seek out the sequels and ? the movie. Definitely need to read more by this author. ( )
  jhowell | Feb 25, 2018 |
I was urged to read this book by a friend after I panned Simmons' "Drood," a book vaster than empires and more slow. Six hundred pages into it and with another 300 to go, I tossed it aside, but said friend assured me that "Summer of Night" was more typical Simmons. My response, after completing the book," is a resounding "Yes, and..?"

Simmons' horror novel is less ponderous than his historical fiction, but only marginally so. The story is this: somewhere in the midwest, a bunch of tweenage boys go toe-to-toe with a horrible beastie-thingie out of mythology which has gained control over many of the adult authority figures in their little town. It's the kind of thing Stephen King would go all slam-bang-splatter over, and Neil Gaiman would infuse with wit and charm, but Simmon's storytelling style is so leisurely and his characters so underdeveloped that I was bored before I ever got to the Big Confrontation.

Part of the problem is that Simmons has multiple main characters. There's Duane (stocky stolid bookworm), Michael (dedicated altar boy who has a special bond with his disabled grandma), Harlan (who resents his promiscuous mother), Kevin (whose father drives a milk tanker - honest, that's all I can remember about him), as well as Dale and and his little brother Lawrence, who are...well, brothers. Lots of main characters usually translates to lots of backstory, and Simmons has an irritating habit of leaving one of his boys at a crucial moment to switch to another, build that kid's story to a climax and then leave us hanging while he moves to yet another boy. This plate-spinning style of narration makes it hard to remember what Duane was up to, for example, when we finally get back to him after going through the Harlan/Kevin/Michael/Dale and Lawrence cycle, and meanwhile the forward movement of the main plot slows to a crawl. (Female characters are strictly peripheral in this book, although Cordie, a stereotypical girl from the wrong side of town, is more memorable than some of the major boy characters.)

Perhaps it's a consequence of Simmons' focus on keeping up with so many subplots, but the development/explanation of the demonic forces seemed flabby and underdeveloped. And (SPOILER AHEAD) isn't it a rather lame literary cliché to have the town's resident Wealthy Folks to blame for the Bad Stuff That's Happening?

I now feel that I've given Simmons enough of my time. I know he has his fans, and I don't think he's a bad writer - but there are other authors out there waiting to be discovered. So long, Dan.
( )
  mrsmig | Jan 19, 2018 |
Other reviewers have stated what this book lacks much more clearly and concisely than I can, but basically the faults can be summed up thus: inconsistencies, needless repetition of description, long uneventful "fillerish" scenes, forgettable characters and conspicuous derivation from more popular works such as IT by Stephen King, which is a far better work in every respect. In addition to the problems already mentioned, the author's prose was not up to par and felt very mediocre in many passages. Expect faulty grammar and illogical, confusing syntax.

Now for the good. The book isn't entirely bad, otherwise I could not have finished it. This book would have been a lot better if it were shortened by about 200 pages. There are some great descriptions in this book and instances of lovely writing. Unfortunately, they are just too few and far between. When action does occur, which is rarely, it is very entertaining and suspenseful. You can tell Simmons is a good writer, but it just seems as if this is the original manuscript copy and no editing or revision has been done at all. Too bad. ( )
  LostInReverie | Aug 6, 2017 |
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This is for Wayne, who was there when it all happened.
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Old Central School still stood upright, holding its secrets and silences firmly within.
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A monstrous, timeless entity is devouring children. Adults either refuse to understand what is happening, or are themselves agents for the monster. A group of young boys, in uneasy partnership with an outcast girl, realize they must kill the creature before it devours them all.
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In the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, a sinister being is stalking the town's children, and when a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the town's residents know it marks the end of innocence.

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