Some of you more well-read friends might be asking yourself, “Dan Simmons? Why don’t you give us the inside scoop on some guy named Stephen King? Or, oh, have you heard of Dune?” Okay, maybe he’s not that popular, but the more I research this guy, the more I’m surprised I’ve never heard of him.
My intro to Dan Simmons came from his story, “This Year’s Class Picture,” in the zombie anthology, The Living Dead ($2.99 for Kindle). Turns out this story won major awards (Locus, Bram Stoker, World Fantasy…) The story was first published in, Book of the Dead 2: Still Dead.
This Year’s Class Picture:
As the intro story to The Living Dead, I came into this read with high expectations. Dan places the reader into the life of a remarkably interesting woman, on a particularly important day. An elderly school teacher, and potentially the last teacher on Earth, impressed me with her resolve to survive. They say you have to keep your mind working or you’ll lose it. Well, she does so by maintaining her teaching routine with a class full of zombie children. The school bell rings and she begins writing the day’s schedule on the chalkboard – so used to the gum smacking behind her that she is no longer terrified or even threatened by their presence.
I’m giving this story 5 stars because it accomplished exactly what I wanted from the set up. I slipped easily into the setting with his precise detail and fascinating scenario. This clever woman found a way to fortify a school using a man made moat doused with gasoline, a bulldozer to clear out the kill zone, and a video monitor system complete with spotlights and alarms. Dan makes this believable by including a janitor that helped her and the local library for research. This is a zombie story about her love for her class that goes beyond their deformity and shows her excellent character willing to keep going despite the hardship set before her. This story is just the kind of vignette into survival that I like to see within the zombie genre.So, pick the story up with me going into Half Price Books on Black Friday with a coupon to kill. The horror section there is about five big-name authors mixed with several that I’ve never heard of. I remembered Dan Simmons from The Living Dead, and saw that he had some books there. I picked up Summer of Night, which despite a torn chunk off the back cover, looked very appealing.
Two blurbs caught my attention. On the cover, Stephen King wrote, “One of those rare must-read books. I am in awe of Dan Simmons.” Then on the back, the Denver Post wrote, “Impressive…combines beautiful writing and suspense into a book for which Dan Simmons deserves the bestseller status of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.” After reading these, I thought, “This is a perfect example of why I have Saturday Spotlight.” Not that my enormous web presence is going to be the missing link to Dan’s success, but because I want to point people to the authors we haven’t heard of, and who belong in the same sentence with the big names of their genre.
So far, I’ve only read the first twelve pages of Summer of Night, but I can already tell I’m going to finish it. That’s in spite of the first four pages describing the Old Central school (a creepy description, indeed). I can tell why Stephen King likes him. More so, I like him because he writes real characters – the kind that draw you in and make you want to stay to hear their story.
Thank you for stopping by. Do you have any favorite Dan Simmons stories? Here’s a link to his bibliography.