Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Carrion Comfort

Yep, another review from the land before time ... edited for clarity.  Ugh, I really tiptoed around a lot back then, didn't I?  This is one of Simmons' earlier novels, before things got really weird and political.


Carrion Comfort is a rather sprawling novel about creatures of the night ... no, not those creatures of the night! PSA: This is not a vampire book. Yes, the main antagonists are called "mind-vampires," but not in the sense that they drink your bloooooood and have fangs or (even as in more recent, uncanonical interpretations) sparkle. 

Anyway, the basic premise is that a select few are born as aberrations who have what they call "the Ability" to enter other people's minds and "Use" them, not only for control, but also in the sense that they "Feed" off of the life-essence of their victims and can thus prolong their lives (although, as we learn, they are definitely not immortal). These creatures, it is hinted, are behind history's worst atrocities. One of the central story lines focuses on Saul Laski, survivor of not only the Chelmno extermination camp, but also multiple encounters with a mind-vampire he calls the Oberst, aka Willi Borden. 

As it turns out, Willi met up with two Southern socialites at the beginning of the 20th century. Nina and Melanie also both had the Ability, and the three of them formed a sort of club, where every year they'd get together and compete to have the most creative Uses and Feedings.  Melanie, unlike the others, has chosen to forgo trying to remain young, and instead spends all of her time in a mouldering Charleston mansion with her catspaw, Mr. Thorne.  She's the Miss Havisham of the group.  However, their Reunion ends up rather disastrously for everyone, and Melanie's violent reaction to the collapse of her fragile world bring together the characters who end up taking on the mind-vampires: Rob Gentry, Charleston Sheriff, Saul Laski,  and Natalie Preston, daughter of a victim of Melanie's rampage. 

ALSO (yes, Simmons is juggling a lot here, yet it pretty much all works out, although, as other readers have pointed out, he definitely could have used an editor!!!), another group of very rich and powerful men with the Ability are busy Controlling the World from California, when Willi Borden disrupts their way of life. They dispatch their various minions, among them Tony Harod, a Hollywood producer with a minor Ability, which he only uses on women to rape them (nice guy). Minions do minon-y stuff.

The story runs from Charleston to Philadelphia to Israel to Germany to Charleston to an island and out to southern California.  I racked up so many frequent flier miles here ... thank goodness for Saul and his single-minded quest to kill the Oberst, which helps keep the reader focused and grounded. The end of the book was slightly too tidy, but acceptable.

I certainly can't say this was a five star book.  It was enjoyable and some parts were very creepy, but I came away feeling slightly unfulfilled--especially for the amount of pages I covered!  The descriptions of sexytimes/rape were pretty over-the-top and gratuitous (and I seem to remember Simmons doing this in another book and I was just like gross! Stop it! Gross!). Yes, I get it, Tony Harod is a vile excuse for a human being. Let's move on, shall we?  Do you really need to describe every rape crime he commits?  Also, a lot of the plot in the second half is driven mostly by coincidence and the best luck ever (seriously, these characters should have taken a side trip to Vegas). A lot of important plot points and narrative pit stops are left unexplained and simply sprung on the reader: for instance, Saul conditions himself to create alternate personae when he dreams (long story; I didn't really understand it), but Simmons never explains this fully. Saul and Natalie also become super experts with guns, explosives, and other deadly items in a span of a few months. Evidently, when you live in Israel and your family is all in the Mossad, this ... happens? Doubtful. Sometimes Saul is described as weak and frail, yet other times he runs marathon distances, hauls people around, runs naked through a forest during an Atlantic gale (also a long story) ... I mean, wow. There were also some weird typos, like Jean Paton for Jean Patou, Marie Cassat for Mary Cassatt, as well as apostrophe abuse when it comes to possessive names.  Muphry's Law.  I accept the consequences.


If you really want to read a horror story that's apocalyptic and could double as a deadly weapon, I would go with The Stand instead. King is a master of that sweeping, epic scope.  

2 comments:

  1. I read this one some years ago and remember enjoying it. I also liked his Children Of The Night, in which vampirism is an inherited gene and Dracula is still around and thought the novel was stupid; he has replaced a need for blood with a passion for business, so is now a multimillionaire, with a family he's becone tired of...

    But his masterpiece is Hyperion, a sort of dark Canterbury Tales set in the 29th century - powerful stuff! Recommended!

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  2. Oh yes! I LOVE Hyperion! I read it when I was in college and really need to revisit it. The Shrike is so memorable...

    I'll have to add Children of the Night; thanks!

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