I appreciate that many Horror News aficionados will already have this book assigned to their ‘favourites’ list, but for anyone who hasn’t enjoyed this yet, I reckon this book pretty much has it all. Set in 1960s small-town America, it tells of a group of young friends who experience a summer of terror.
The author deftly sets the scene, layering rich character and location detail so that it quickly becomes a credible and three-dimensional (albeit nostalgic) universe. There’s Old Central, the old Gothic school and its suitably creepy teachers. The familiar but believable cast of supporting characters – the school bullies; the corrupt judiciary; the well-intentioned but bumbling lawman; the town drunk; the poor kids; the dry-humoured priest. Against this backdrop, a young boy goes missing. And so it begins…
The creeping dread that permeates the book from the beginning is truly the stuff of childhood nightmares – ones we can all relate to. Shadows under the bed. Eerie faces at the window. The dark closet which may or may not contain a monster.
Simmons cleverly captures the optimism that accompanies the endless summers of our youth, before inviting in an unwelcome array of creatures and events to soil and desecrate the long summer days. It’s a clever juxtaposition – surely nothing bad can happen at such a life-affirming juncture? Isn’t horror limited to ‘dark and stormy night’? But it does happen. And to endure, our characters must come-of-age and trust to the bonds of friendship and the boundless ingenuity of their young minds.
For me this was one of those books that I was almost unwilling to read, because I knew each page brought me closer to the end. Also, it was only on completion that I realised, being a little slow-witted, that this was the same author that had penned ‘Drood’, another book I thoroughly enjoyed. One can only sit back and admire the writing talent on show here and in my humble opinion, this book takes its rightful place at the high table of horror classics. Five Black Stars.
Book Review: Summer Of Night – Author Dan Simmons