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Black Hills (2010)

by Dan Simmons

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6303137,247 (3.67)25
Haunted by Custer's ghost, and also by his ability to see into the memories and futures of legendary men like Sioux war-chief Crazy Horse, Paha Sapa plans to silence his ghost forever and reclaim his people's legacy--on the very day FDR comes to Mount Rushmore to dedicate the Jefferson face.

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English (28)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Did you ever think about how the Indians felt about the defacing of Mount Rushmore? It was The Six Grandfathers, to them, and they were never asked their opinion.

Good job, Simmons, on planting hope in our minds, for a brighter future than the one the capitalists have planned for our Earth. It would be nice if it came to pass, thusly. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Having demonstrated that he can write successfully in any genre he chooses, Simmons plainly wanted a greater challenge, so he decided to create his own: the historical horror/supernatural genre. [b:The Terror|3974|The Terror|Dan Simmons|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165368437s/3974.jpg|3025639] and [b:Drood|3222979|Drood|Dan Simmons|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1253942563s/3222979.jpg|3257056] showed just how ambitious an idea this is and neither is perfect. For this, his third entry in his own genre, Simmons makes his own life easier by not using the first person voice of a Brit and thus avoiding all the problems of writing British English when you are an American English speaker - then makes it harder again by making the narrator a Lakota Indian and having to deal with a language that is not remotely like English...

So Paha Sapa (Black Hills) tells his life story and a remarkable life it is, what with being at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (or Greasy Grass in Lakota), inhabited by the ghost of Custer and the memories of Crazy Horse (who is pretty crazy), a participant in Buffalo Bill Hicock's Wild West Show, a powder-man at the Mt. Rushmore sculpting and a man prone to visions when at spiritually important locations.

Through the voices of various people, the visions and direct experiences of Paha Sapa, Simmons is able to tell the tale of the final destruction of the plains Indians' way of life, starting with the Pyrhhic victory of the Greasy Bighorn (or Little Grass, or something) and the subsequent environmental degradation caused mainly by cattle ranching but this is no simple monument to a dead culture. Simons points out that the Lakota were violent, stealing women and horses from neighbouring tribes, having gained their territory by ousting the people who were there when they arrived...which might remind one of what the European settlers did. Other tribes were much the same. They were not, despite their religion, "in harmony with nature" either, having apparently hunted to extinction various paleo-megafauna (which is a just fabulous word) of the North American plains. The Lakota called themselves Human Beings and every other racial grouping were not proper people...most other tribes' languages made the same distinction for their tribe...

Where is Simmons going with all this? Only so far as to say, oh look - the Plains Indians were human too, and prone to the same foibles, crimes and passions as everyone else. They were certainly sinned against but they were sinners too. Which raises the question, what's the difference between a bunch of tribes with essentially the same technology, philosophy and religion warring with each other for territory and a completely alien culture coming along and doing the same thing but to all the tribes at once? It feels like there is one. The book forces you to think over questions of cultural relativism, colonialism and evangelism. Here is a classic "Outside Context Problem" as discussed in Iain Banks' [b:Excession|12013|Excession|Iain M. Banks|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1288930712s/12013.jpg|1494164]. However, Simmons hasn't discussed the same topic over and again ad nauseum so it isn't annoying...

It's an impressive feat, as were drood and the Terror but they were both flawed; is Black Hills? Unfortunately, yes it is. The problems are all in the "Paha goes to New York City" chapter where Simmons goes completely crackers and starts writing like Dan Brown! By which I mean that he insists on pouring every tedious statistic about the dimensions, weight, shoe and hat-size of the Brooklyn Bridge. I had serious flash-backs to the Louvre scene at the beginning of The Da Vinci Code. Also the shakes, sweats and a fever. The horror!

Listen guys! Readers do not care what the length, breadth, height and weight of any famous building or engineering work is, expressed to three significant figures and dumped on them all at once like, well like a 597 metre long, 1.27 metric tonne, 3.14cm diameter coil of steel cable. (See? And I just made those figures up 'cos they just don't matter.) All of this ruins an impressive, evocative story about how the caissons for the bridge were made fast on bedrock below the mud of the Hudson. So, authors, having done the work to discover a fact is not sufficient reason for putting said fact in the book. If it doesn't advance the story, help set the scene or aid the subtext, leave it out.

Paha Sapa has three visions in the book. One is very bleak indeed and comes true. Another has his ancestors exhorting Paha Sapa to take action to save his people. He has a completely false notion of what this action should be. Can he save his people? The third vision is a prophecy: the plains will be restored to something like their former glory and neo-Indians will live there, within a newly rebuilt eco-system, resuscitated after clinical death by climate change and mono-culture farming.

I don't share Simmons' optimism but it's worth reading about it. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Not my favorite Simmons book by a long shot. The writing is excellent. The story is engaging but overall I found it boring. The parts with Custer really made me want to close the book. Simmons made him sound like a man out of time....which in a way he was since Paha carried him around for sixty years, but when he spoke I felt like I was listening to someone who was born in the late 20th century. Paha was a great character. Like many of Simmons's characters he was flawed and human. ( )
  JHemlock | Oct 11, 2019 |
As usual his need to show off his research is in abundance, but here it stifles the story rather than revealing motivation, and chunks of exposition appear just when things were getting interesting. Still, he's a magical writer when he lets his imagination soar, and parts of this, in particular the sections dealing with the protagonist's spiritual quests really soar.

It's not in the same upper bracket as The Terror or Carrion Comfort, not as gripping as Drood, and hasn't got the thrills of The Abominable, but it held my attention, although I could have done without knowing quite so much about General Custer's sex life. ( )
2 vote williemeikle | Dec 30, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simmons, Danprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Demange, OdileTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, KenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Hecetu Mitakyue oyasin

« Qu'il en soit ainsi – tous les miens ! – chacun d'entre nous. »
Je dédie ce livre à mes parents, Robert et Kathryn Simmons, ainsi qu'aux parents de ma femme, Karen, Vern et Ruth Loquerquist. Je le dédie aussi à mes frères, Wayne et Ted Simmons, ainsi qu'au frère de Karen, Jim Loquerquist, et à sa sœur, Sally Lampe.

Mais avant tout, ce livre est dédié à Karen et à notre fille, Jane Kathryn, qui sont pour moi Wamakaognaka e'cantge – « le cœur de tout ce qui est ».
First words
Paha Sapa retire sa main précipitamment, mais pas suffisamment pour éviter le choc, fulgurant comme la morsure d'un crotale, de l'esprit du Wasicun mourant qui, d'un bond, s'introduit dans ses doigts et remonte le long de son bras jusqu'à sa poitrine.
J'aurais attrapé la grippe espagnole même si j'étais allé à Dartmouth, et même si j'étais resté à la maison avec toi. Les choses étant ce qu'elles sont, j'ai été accompagné jusqu'au bout par de vaillants camarades, et j'ai accompli ma destinée en rencontrant la plus charmante des jeunes filles. La grippe m'aurait trouvé n'importe où. La jeune fille peut-être pas. Il est important que tu le comprennes. Maman est d'accord avec moi.
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Haunted by Custer's ghost, and also by his ability to see into the memories and futures of legendary men like Sioux war-chief Crazy Horse, Paha Sapa plans to silence his ghost forever and reclaim his people's legacy--on the very day FDR comes to Mount Rushmore to dedicate the Jefferson face.

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