24 July 2011

Books: A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons (2002)

Dale Stewart, who along with a bunch of childhood friends battled an evil entity that had taken over his old school and town, returns to Elm Haven, Illinois 41 years later. He is a mess of man, full of demons of his own, having left his wife and two daughters for a coed in Montana, who has subsequently left him.

He has returned home, and moved into Duane McBride’s old home –the same boy who was murdered by the evil stalking Elm Haven back in 1960. Here Dale, who seems to have forgotten all of the events of that summer when he was 11, tries to write a novel, in hopes of exercising the demons that seem to haunt him, hang on him like an ill-fitting coat.

But, as Stephen King once wrote, the past has a way of coming back, and Dale must come to grips with the fact he may be going insane, or the ghosts of his past are more real than he ever thought possible.

Dan Simmons is not subtle about Dale’s psychological issues, and hits the reader over the head rather bluntly with the Henry James comparisons, giving a near detailed description of the James’ The Jolly Corner. And Simmons also uses Duane as sort of window into Dale’s mind, but his memories are only limited to when he was a child and up until his death. You are left, in the end, as to whether Duane was a real ghost or part of Dale’s tortured mind.

This sequel, however, moves much more quickly than Summer of Night, as I read this in just under 24 hours, feeling that I needed to know how this would turn out. So while it reads like a summer beach novel, it does more going on than one gets from those typical novels.

A Winter Haunting is a much different novel than Summer of Night, less nostalgic of a time gone by and more thriller of the mind, something Stephen King has been doing for the last 15 years or so in his tales; which is why I like King even more than I did when I started reading him 30 years ago. Sometimes the human psyche is more scary than any ghosts.

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