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Black Hills: A Novel Hardcover – February 24, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Hugo-winner Simmons, the author of such acclaimed space operas as Hyperion and Olympos as well as Drood, an intriguing riff on Dickens's unfinished last novel, displays the impressive breath of his imagination in this historical novel with a supernatural slant. In the author's retelling of Custer's last stand at the Little Big Horn in 1876, the dying general's ghost enters the body of Paha Sapa, a 10-year-old Sioux warrior who's able to see both the past and the future by touching people. The action leaps around in time to illustrate the arc of Sapa's life, but focuses on 1936, when, as a septuagenarian, he plots to blow up the monuments on Mount Rushmore in time for a visit to the site by FDR to atone for his role in constructing the stone likenesses. In his ability to create complex characters and pair them with suspenseful situations, Simmons stands almost unmatched among his contemporaries. 6-city author tour. (Feb.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Simmons's previous novels The Terror (2007) and Drood (2009) meld historical figures and events to occult phenomena, and Black Hills follows a similar pattern. Here, Simmons fuses the triumph of American Western expansion and the marvels of early 20th-century science and engineering with Native American spirituality and mysticism. Simmons is a gifted storyteller whose meticulous research and evocative prose deftly transport readers to another time and place. However, the Christian Science Monitor found the frequent barrage of historical minutiae tedious and criticized the novel's interpretation of Manifest Destiny and the harsh treatment of native populations, which it considered obnoxious and disrespectful. However, most critics praised Black Hills as a highly imaginative, interesting novel and a worthy addition to Simmons's oeuvre.
Top customer reviews
Robert D Moore
The bad news is that after enjoying the story, I was befuddled when I came to the end. And the end after that. And then the next end. And so on.
Simmons knows how to write novels, but if there's something he's weak on it's figuring out how to end a story. That weakness is fully on display in Black Hills, the story of a young Lakota boy who is "counting coup" on the dying soldiers at Custer's Last Stand and somehow picks up the ghost of the Custer who would be his constant companion for the next six decades.
The premise was intriguing and Simmons handled it well, jumping back and forth along Paha Sapa's life and the memories of Custer. Likewise, Simmons handled the settings very well - from the Black Hills at various times in history to the Chicago World's Fair to New York in the 1930s where Paha Sapa and his unwilling companion meet the aged widow of Custer to the Mount Rushmore monument where Paha Sapa works setting charges and plans to destroy the sculpture.
But as the book spins out the last threads of the story it seems as though Simmons loses faith in his story and begins hurling endings at the reader in the hope that something will stick. Granted, if Simmons had stopped with the first "ending" most readers would have considered it weak (if not a complete "deus ex machina" cheat). Perhaps Simmons decided to make up for Paha Saha's last minute reprieve as he waits for his death by tacking on endings where he lives, dies, has visions of the past, has visions of the future, etc.
Ninety percent of Black Hills is great. Simmons is a good enough writer to keep the Paha Saha/Custer-sharing-a-body concept from slipping into slapstick or parody like an Old West version of the Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin comedy "All of Me." He's also a good enough writer to hold my interest as the plot jumps back and forth in time. I just wish the last 10 percent of the book could have been up to the same level of the first 90 percent.
One of my all time favorite reads!!!
I will probably be purchasing more of Dan Simmons' books looking for the same enlightenment from them even though I know that they are fiction. .
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