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Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Summer of Night (original 1991; edition 1991)

by Dan Simmons

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1,169236,922 (3.96)65
Title:Summer of Night
Authors:Dan Simmons
Info:Headline Book Publishing (1991), Hardcover, 473 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:1960s, coming of age, horror, supernatural, midwest

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Summer of Night by Dan Simmons (1991)


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4.5 stars

Summer of Night is one of those books where the story is a delight to read but the review is kind of hard to do. It's also my first novel from Dan Simmons. After finishing this book, I definitely want to read more of his work soon.

The story is a sort of coming-of-age tale centered around a group of children growing up together in a small town in the 60's. School is out, summer is here, how exciting. The author brings alive the excitement of that first summer day when school is out and only months ahead await children who are eager to explore, to live, to have fun without responsibility. Idyllic summer days and nights. It opens in an old school that has seen its last class for it's about to be closed down, and the children all coming together on different days to try and solve the mysteries of the town, the horrors which await them. Each child comes from a different household holding its own basket of dysfunction. The households become as interesting as the main tale.

Although the story is deep and steeped richly in imagination, it's a fully characterized book, focusing on the internal thoughts and relationships for each of the children. I was dismayed at the death of a favorite, which I never saw coming. Simmons doesn't hold back the horrors of the death punch when delivering shocks for the book.

Nothing is predictable with how it will turn out and what will happen next. The ending with the villain and the wrap-up is in-depth, intelligent, and heavy with created history. There are no convenient or suddenly established plot points, but instead it was well constructed before the book was born to be slowly unraveled as small pieces are slowly handed out to the book's characters.

It's a slow ride that didn't invest its hooks into me right away, so patience IS needed to trust this one to take off successfully. Still, despite the slower start, the internal character shifts are handled effectively and work well to not try the reader's patience. Huge emotional stakes in the characters’ lives helped me keep reading.

Simmons was also talented with writing some truly creepy scenes, especially when deaths were involved, very awful and haunting stuff. Violence and blood isn't backed away from when it's needed, but it's not splashed on the page for mere shock effect.

I did knock off half a star for some sluggishness and the death of a character who brought much to the story so that when they were gone, some of the magic left with them. Overall, though, this was an incredibly ambitious book that worked on all levels.

If you're a horror fan who enjoyed the childhood trials in Stephen King's IT, or the bonding and tragedy in Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, you'll almost certainly love Summer of Night. There's something especially effective about drama-horror focusing on adolescence and coming of age in the midst of trials and struggles, calling upon the power of friendship to draw strength to defeat foes so much larger than individual self.

Convincing in drama, rich in mystery, with hefty doses of genuine horror - all make this book an experience not to be passed up.
( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
School is out in the small Ohio town of Elm Haven. This will be the last class of Old Central built in 1876. The atmosphere has always been less than pleasant but now it is perpetrated with evil beyond imagination. The kids of Elm Haven sense this evil and are determined to fight it but the entity has lived too long to give in easily. The advantage is that few adults will believe them if they told. The book is filled with how life was in small town America 45 years ago. It will really bring back memories. You can almost smell the corn growing as you remember lazy summers of your childhood. If you like really good horror stories then this is just your ticket. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Dan Simmons was well-cemented in place as one of my favorite authors before I read this book - this just raises him that much more in my esteem. The man can write in apparently every genre with the same level of intensity.

Summer of Night tells the tale of six boys who have just finished the sixth grade (well, one of them is actually a couple of years behind) at the same time that their school - a more-than-one-hundred-year-old building - is being closed for good. But, as they prepare for an adventurous summer vacation, an ancient evil seeks to complete a transformation that began when the school was built.

The story is replete with the stuff of which adolescent nightmares are made ... and symbolic, perhaps? I don't know what Simmons' intent was when he wrote the book, and the introduction that accompanies this edition does not preclude the possibility of this, but there is plenty of reason to wonder if some of the things that happen, and the principals involved, could well stand as symbols of many of the things involved in the passage into "teen-hood." And that just increases my estimation of Dan Simmons' writing.

One of the characters in the book is apparently Simmons' representation of himself. The story is set in a small town in Illinois (where Simmons apparently grew up), it takes place in 1960, when Simmons would have been around 12 years old, and the protagonists are - by and large - 12, as well.

Enjoy!!! ( )
  jpporter | May 24, 2015 |
I read the reviews before buying this audiobook, and was surprised by the vast differences in reviewer opinion. For some, the book was too long, and others never wanted it to end.

This novel is long, but if you grew up in the 50,s 60;s, or 70;s, you will probably feel a sense of nostalgia. If you grew up before those decades, I would imagine the book would seem wordy and too lengthy.

Summer of Night falls somwhere between "It" and "Stand By Me" in the dewey decimal system of your mind, which are both by Stehen King. I loved this novel, and think the writing vividly depicts a coming- of- age story involving several teen boys. They cus, they drink, they go on adventures. They have good parents, they have awful parents, and they rely on each other.

There is the issue of childhood death in this story along with the parental grief that follows. That kind of raw emotion has always been difficult for me to take as a reader, but Simmons manages to make it part of the overall horror story instead of an emotional mess.

The writing is good, I got lost in the book, and I really liked the characters and the charater development. Dan John Miller was an excellent choie for narration. ( )
  steeleyjan | Apr 16, 2015 |
It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood. But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once idyllic town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood—against an arcane abomination who owns the night...

Nostalgic, reminiscence Gothic tale crossed with Stephen King’s IT.

"Few events in a human being's life--at least a male human being's life--are as free, as exuberant, as infinitely expansive and filled with potential as the first day of summer when one is an eleven-year-old boy"

I love the way Dan Simmons writes and here he is pitch perfect capturing that uniquely childhood experience of that first day of the holidays with the whole of summer stretching out in front of you filled with anticipation, fun and adventure…maybe a little too much adventure in this case

Summer of Night boasts a fascinating cast of characters, relationships, conflicts and horrors set in the in the bucolic town of Elm Haven, Illinois in 1960.

Beautiful writing with characters you care about, the author does a wonderful a job of visualising Gothic midwestern America.

Clever, frightening, and gripping and highly recommended
( )
  jan.fleming | Feb 9, 2015 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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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