Monday, May 28, 2007

A Winter Haunting

Have I mentioned that I’m a huge Dan Simmons fan? A quick search of my blog tells me no, but I find that hard to believe, but there it is.

I discovered Simmons with his Hyperion series (Science Fiction Book Club edition, thank you) and have been playing catch up since then. Simmons is from Illinois, and “A Winter Haunting” takes place there. Or here.

I’m always slightly intrigued when novels are set in, or mention, my area. King drives right by Danville in “The Talisman” but doesn’t stop.

A Winter Haunting is a fine novel. Simmons demonstrates mastery in every genre I’ve read him in, and horror is one of his best. This concerns a professor, Duane McBride, who returns to his home town on sabbatical to write a novel about the summer of 1960, a summer that changed his life. Along the way we learn that he left his wife for a grad student, got dumped, and failed to commit suicide.

We walk the line with Duane between madness and sanity, and most of the time we don’t know which is which. Just when you think you’ve figured something out, you find out you’re wrong. Take nothing for granted here. Simmons takes the conventions of the horror novel and turns them on their collective ear. Our protagonist most certainly does not believe in ghosts, even while living in a house that we most decidedly believe is haunted.

A Winter Haunting is a page-turner of the first order. I devoured most of it in a single day. Then, as has been my habit of late, I hit the Internet looking for reviews. I quickly learned that this is something of a sequel to “Summer Night”, resurrecting locations and some characters. Now I know what’s next on my reading list.

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