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Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons
Member Name: darren55
Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons
Advantages: A gothic masterpiece
Carrion comfort is a novel by American author Dan Simmons; it is set in 1980 and tells the tale of mind vampires. Dan Simmons is a novelist who I have come to love over the last few years, from his hyperion sci-fi to Drood an essay about Charles Dickens and his brilliant The Terror a book set during Franklins doomed journey to find the North-West passage.
So it was with excitement that I picked up Dan Simmons first attempt at a book called Carrion comfort which runs to a whopping 767 pages and tells the story of mind vampires. The book begins with the concentration camps in 1942 and the fate of a young Jew called Saul, he is saved from the concentration camps by his father's quick actions but then has to watch his fellow Jews being sent into the deadly showers. One day is selected by a young German officer called Willi, who takes him and others to a secluded part of forest to be living pieces in a game of chess. However, Willi and his opponent can control humans by getting into their brains and over-riding their emotions. Saul somehow escapes the game in which every piece taken is killed; he is shot and placed in a pit with other dead bodies. Saul escapes and manages to get to America after the war to become a respected psychologist but with a desire to find the handsome young German and kill him for entering his mind so forcefully.
Fast forward to 1980, we encounter Melanie who is a lady in her 70's who also has the ability she is living in Charleston, US in relative anonymity. She has trained a series of servants to look after her and is a childhood friend of Willi and another mind vampire Nina. So when Nina instigates an attack on Melanie which leads to the death of Nina, Melanie's doorkeeper her presence alerts the local police force. The multiple deaths and disappearance of Melanie brings the local sheriff Billy Joe Gantry into the story, he is overweight, intelligent and resourceful and baffled by the strangeness of the case. He is soon joined by the daughter of the killer watchman and they attempt to try and get to the truth of the story. Saul Laski now a respectful New York professor is asked to provide information over the sessions he had recently had with Nina and joins forces with Billy Jo and Natalie after telling them the truth over the presence of people who can control others.
From this point we have chapters which are either centred on Saul, Natalie, Billy Jo or Melanie they tell the story of Melanie's escape from Charleston her brutal habits and the attempts by the three others to follow her progress across the US. That's the basics of the story but it only touches on the brilliance of the prose and the way the novel keeps the reader engrossed even through the material is often horrific and often explicit. Through the pages we encounter the terrors of the concentration camps, the ghastliness of the camp officers; we also live through the murder of Nina and the sequences of events which lead to her death. Melanie is the counter point to the other three; she has no redeemable features and is as corrupt as any vampire from classic literature.
The first half of the book is dominated by Billy Joe and his intelligence, resourceful and is cleverly placed as the moral opposite of Melanie. He and Natalie soon get together with Saul a more distant third of the trio, on the side of the vampires are Melanie, the malignant Willie and a sex obsessed Hollywood producer Tony Herod. Tony is the playboy fun part of the novel in a sort of way but his actions usually involved rape and sexual domination of any attractive woman he meets, his behaviour on a plane is one of the more forceful chapters in the novel.
This book was and is and will always be one of my favourites, the writing is simply breathtaking it carries the reader along despite telling complex unpleasant tales and makes us want to be with the heroes as they battle the evil vampires. The stories are so complex and varied than this reader had to read it twice to check he wasn't missing things, along with the three German mind vampires and Tony there is also a whole clique of US government officials all with varying degrees of ability. They are led by the mysterious other in the book, a nebulous character called C. Arnold Barent who we rarely meet but is a central character only by the actions of his underlings.
So the book comes to a conclusion, we have gun fights, another chess game with accompanying images and a final battle between good and evil. As this is Dan Simmons not everything ends well but it ends with the reader breathless and wishing he would return to the topic.
My book of 2012, though the book was written in 1980 well before vampires became teenage angst and sexual frustrations this is a true gothic masterpiece.
Dan Simmons also wrote my book of 2011 in The Terror and was a contender with Drood in 2010. If you haven't read any of his novel's I'd suggest getting on the band wagon and read maybe the best author around at the moment.
Summary: A classic