Dan Simmons: Summer of Night

by Rachel Baker on July 28, 2013

This book was available for $2.99 on Kindle so I bought it – I was looking for something interesting and something that may suck me in for a few days.  I got this book, knowing a few things already:

1. I’d read Dan Simmons’ Drood and thought he was a bit too long winded on the scene setting – i.e., too much detail and too much repetition causing the story to drag in some places. I’d remembered that when I read Drood for review I got lost in the details rather than being engrossed in the story.  In retrospect, I’m not sure I would have gotten as far in Drood these days, as I did back then.

2. I knew just from the description on the jacket that I’d already a few similar books – Stephen King writes about groups of kids facing their worst fears to save the little town they live in (and often times, its a few boys and a girl in the group) – It and Stand By Me are the first to come to mind. Simmons wrote Summer of Night in 1991.  Stand by Me, the novella by Stephen King came out in Different Seasons in 1982, the movie came out in 1986. The Stephen King book It came out in 1987.  Knowing this, I wanted to see how Simmons’ story worked out.

Halfway through Summer of Night – I became very frustrated, because I felt it was a rip off of King’s stories.  And…I felt I was being completely unfair to Simmons.  Simmons was long-winded and more detailed than anything I’d read in a long time. … but King is the master of long winded and detailed.  I thought Simmons had tried to write a cross between Stephen King’s Stand by Me and It, and didn’t quite get close enough to either – It was almost like Simmons set out to write It in less pages than King did.  Further, the length of his forward and how much explanation there was about the story he was about to tell, seemed to be telling me what I should think about when I was reading and how to find the value in the book – almost like he knew he’d written something similar to someone else and didn’t want me to think about that.  Sadly, he even told me that some of his other books had various characters from Summer of Nights all grown up. I figure eventually, I will find out Simmons has a magnus opus consisting of several books for the main story line, but all his books were building up to the this opus.

I know its completely unfair to judge a book from the very beginning with another book/story in mind – and I know its completely unfair for the comparison story to have been written by Stephen King.  Let me try to explain something – I’m not comparing Simmons to King, per se.  I think its completely fair though to try to figure out what it is about a book that drives one crazy when a different (favorite) author commits virtually the same offense, especially when the story is so obviously close to the comparison author’s books.  When I boil it down, the amount of drawn out detail in Summer of Nights should have amounted to a richer world.  I don’t care if I’ve read the same basic story before – it happens all the time, actually.  What I care about it is that the elements of the story are different in a ways that aren’t obvious.  This wasn’t the case in Summer of Nights.

That said, in the end, I don’t feel as if I wasted my time at all by reading this book.  Summer of Nights was a well written novel, but it wasn’t the rich world that I tend to want if I’m going to slug through a lot of (repetitious) detail.  Summer of Nights was a decent read; and if I had to rate it with stars, I’d give it three stars, however, I will admit I finished the book only to see if the big battle scene was akin to It.

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