I first learned of Dan Simmons from his story “This Year’s Class Picture,” in the Living Dead anthology, and loved it so much I wrote a Saturday Spotlight about him and this story. One of the benefits of this blog series has been learning new writers to follow, and notice when I’m perusing spines at the book store. This was how I found SUMMER OF NIGHT, at Half Price Books. The idea of a bunch of sixth graders fighting ghosts in a small town one summer sounded appealing, and fit right in as research for a Cub Scout zombie story I was working on. The paperback is 600 pages long, but I finished it today concluding that it is one of my favorite Horror reads. For me, the difference between a 4 and a 5 star book is whether you finish it with a “wow” feeling. That’s how this book ended, and I couldn’t be more satisfied.
The first chapter is four pages describing the setting and this creepy school prior to it being shut down. Normally, I’m not one for long descriptions of setting; those types of books take too long to read. But, Dan is an excellent writer who uses precise images to pull you into his story as if you were actually there. He does the same thing with the cast of characters, showing us how they live, what circumstances create their personalities, and what drives them. Some reviewers have said this book is long-winded, but I say it is just right. Pick up this novel expecting a journey with the characters, not a glimpse from afar. The ending is very much worth the wait. In between you will get top-notch creepy, teeth-clenching action and a rag-tag group of underdog six graders to root for against an ancient evil. Dan didn’t win the Locus Award for this book for nothing. Highest recommendation.
He wrote a sequel, A WINTER HAUNTING, which I am thrilled about, because I don’t want to say goodbye to these characters. Please don’t go check out the info on this book though because there are spoilers about what happens in SUMMER OF NIGHT. I’m only mentioning it because your investment into these characters does not end with this first book. More so, your investment in reading Dan Simmons will no doubt lead to a catalog of other excellent books, as he has award-winning titles in many genres aside from Horror.
If you’re not in the mood for Horror, here are some other award winning books by Dan, and his latest release, FLASHBACK: