In some ways, I am extremely excited that I have waited this long to discover Dan Simmons. My first book that I read of his was The Terror, a truly frightening story about sailors stuck in the Arctic ice while a savage beast keeps showing up to grab the men and chew them up. Then I read Ilium, then Black Hills, and I’ve bounced around with a few others. Now that I am this far into his work, I have to say that Carrion Comfort is my favorite book Dan Simmons has written.
I might even go so far as to say that it is my favorite horror novel. I have talked to many other people that didn’t think too much of it. Others, including Stephen King (and yours truly) absolutely rave about it.
Carrion Comfort summary
The book opens with three strange elderly beings–two females, one male–meeting in a house to discuss a game they have been playing for decades. Each of them has the ability to control humans. Their game is to use humans to kill other humans. They meet every so often to compare scores and marvel at each other’s ingenuity and daring–for instance, one of them takes credit for John Lennon’s murder.
For reasons I cannot go into without spoiling everything, the trio is fractured and start to fight. The chase that follows their meeting is one of the most memorable and bizarre I can recall in all of the suspenseful literature I have read.
After their split, many other characters in various decades are introduced. All of them are tied–or will become tied–to the fates of the three beings. Some of the other characters share their powers to various degrees. Others are pawns. One is driven purely by revenge, a Jewish man who met the man in one of the Holocaust camps under circumstances involving a chilling game of human chess. It’s not as corny as it might sound, I promise.
The book concludes on an island where the ultimate game is played, with all of the participants finally meeting up. It is a chilling series of scenes that make me shiver to think of.
Keep in mind that I am a huge fan of horror fiction. I choose to read this stuff, but it’s not for the sake of gore or nastiness. Dan Simmons writes horror with a brain. It is incredibly imaginative and to write it off as pulp or just another mass market penny dreadful is short-sighted.
Whether you are a horror fan or not, I cannot recommend Dan Simmons’ work enough, particularly Carrion Comfort. And Halloween is coming! Give it a try!