Carrion Comfort

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

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This book has been on my to be read list for a while. In fact, I picked it up during a sale and it has been sitting on my Kobo for about six months now. After finishing it this week I wish I had read it earlier. It is a really well written, highly researched novel with a depth that I don’t usually feel.

I have heard Dan Simmons himself says it’s about mind vampires. But that hardly scratches the surface of this immense book.

There are multiple characters with various points of view that branch off in different directions, but what ties them all together is the central plot. A small group of people that can control (‘use’ they say in the book) other peoples minds. Once done the used person is usually killed which gives a little life force/energy to the user. These mind vampires are wealthy, powerful people and tend to form cabals and work with each other.

The story starts by introducing the main protagonists. One of these is introduced when a group of these mind vampires turn on one another. A great chapter which has them using anyone within eyesight to help attack each other.

It is from the aftermath of this particular chapter that I gained respect for Dan Simmons as a writer. You truly feel the significance of each character. One is killed almost instantly, and his existing relationships branch out in a way that feels real. People don’t die in real life without leaving friends and family behind that miss them. Same in the fiction in Carrion Comfort.

From here the novel spans many years, including a very vivid account of the Holocaust during the second world war. Each character’s actions feel like a perfect progression for them knowing their background the way we do.

Another amazing thing about reading this novel was the amount of research and background that has gone into it. I was left feeling as a fellow writer at the amount of information and expertise that each character has in his/her field. I ha e completed this novel feel like I have learnt an important lesson about character development.

I recommend this novel to everyone that is a fan of fiction. It is horror, but the relationships and conflicts of the characters would not feel out of place in any genre.

If you are an aspiring writer I would also regiment you grab a copy of this book and read it carefully as it is an example of how to write an engaging, well-researched novel with realistic three-dimensional characters. James Patterson, maybe you should pick up a copy.

My Verdict : 4/5 – Recommended

 

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Gwendy’s Button Box

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar.

gwendys-button-box-cover-high-resIf you’re like me then anything with the name King on it piques my interest. I was a big fan of his work when I was younger. In fact, I regarded some of his novels as the pinnacle of writing and storytelling. Unfortunately, I think his stranglehold on me has weakened in recent years. But when I do pick up one of his recent novels it feels like slipping on a comfortable sweater. This book was no exception.

Gwendy’s Button Box is a short novella collaboration between Stephen King and Richard Chizmar and centres around the life of Gwendy. It starts with her receiving an unusual box from an enigmatic stranger as a child and then follows her life through to adulthood where she has to give it back.

The box has many buttons on it which relate to continents on earth for some reason and has to power to give out silver dollars and magic chocolate animals. Sounded weird to me when I read that sentence back, but King and Chizmar make it work. There is a brooding sense of dread and dependency on this box that Gwendy can’t escape. Reminded me a lot of Frodo and the cross he had to bear with the ring.

It is very Stephen King type story. A strange, inexplicable reality merging with our own and the main protagonist becomes a writer later in her life. Hallmarks of a Stephen King story. The writing style is very much King as well. Simple, easy to understand and engaging. I’m afraid I have never read anything by Richard Chizmar in order to compare styles, but I bet they are not much different.

The story was OK. It was entertaining but I think that was in part due to its length. If it went on any longer asking the moralistic questions of someone with a powerful, mysterious box in the way it did, I think I may have grown bored.

Usually, King would introduce some kind of offset for the good. A malevolent force that tries to get its hands on the box in order to unleash chaos. Nothing of the sort in this book.

Gwendy was an engaging character, although I’d have to say a little bit generic. To vanilla in my opinion. But this is coming from someone who has read a lot of King and can kind of see the pattern developing as I read.

It is worth picking up this book as it will keep you entertained for a few evenings. But this is not the genre-defining, awe-inspiring work I have become used to with King. But hey, it’s fall and it’s cold outside. You could use a sweater. Maybe an old comfortable one?

My Verdict : 3/5 – Worthwhile