From Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night ::
“Sometimes I think I’ll come into the room and be feeling around for the light cord…you know, it’s sorta hard to find…and instead of the cord, I’ll feel this face.”
Dale’s neck had gone cold.
“You know,” continued Lawrence, “some tall guy’s face…only not quite a human face…and I’ll be here in the dark with my hand on his face…and his teeth’ll be all slick and cool, and I’ll feel his eyes wide open like a dead person’s…and…”
Summer of Night is truly a modern horror classic, a lush story of youth and summer framed in genuine chills. This FINALLY made it to the top of my reading list. I have just finished it and wanted to make sure I reviewed it here.
The publisher’s book description actually offers a great intro to the story ::
It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood. But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once idyllic town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood—against an arcane abomination who owns the night…
IMHO, great horror stories draw power from the juxtaposition of common settings and the gentle rhythm of work-a-day life with truly horrifying concepts and scenes. This is central to the power of Summer of Night. Simmons deftly uses this power to create a story with as much charm as it has horror.
The book is rich with the verdant, warm summers of youth. Though the story is set in 1960, so many of the details of the childlike aspects of summer depicted here resonated in a very personal way for me. From dusty dirt clod wars and the sound of bike tires on loose gravel to secret, leafy forts and outdoor community movies, Simmons puts the reader in those halcyon, coming-of-age days with a beautiful eye for detail and a heady tactile sense. This provides the base he builds his terrifying tableaus upon.
Those tableaus are at once ominous, threatening and at times bloody in the best way they can be for a story of this sort. Simmons conjures the terrors of childhood and makes them manifest. Though his uncannily experiential style you can feel, see, smell and taste the substance of those fears.
I highly recommend this book, especially to those looking for a way to put some real chills in the steam of their summer.
RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS