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A Winter Haunting Mass Market Paperback – December 31, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
The old saw "You can't go home again" is a chilling understatement for this highly effective supernatural shocker, Simmons's first horror novel since Fires of Eden (1994) and a sequel to Summer of Night (1991). The latter was an eerie chronicle of a summer of lost innocence for a group of preadolescent chums who confront an entity of irrepressible evil in rural Elm Haven, Ill. Four decades later Dale Stewart, a survivor of that summer, has returned to endure a winter of adult discontent: his wife has left him, his sideline career as a novelist is sputtering and a disastrous love affair has driven him to attempt suicide. Medicated to the gills for depression, Dale seeks inspiration for his next novel in a house that figured in events of the summer of 1960. But remnants of the old malign influence have survived and they manifest as vicious spectral dogs, threatening neo-Nazi punks, cryptic messages that appear magically on his computer screen and delusions that suggest he's losing his mind. Simmons orchestrates his story's weird events craftily, introducing them as unremarkable details that only gradually show their dark side. In a nod to Henry James, whose psychological ghost story "The Jolly Corner" is repeatedly invoked, he blends jaw-dropping revelations of spiritual intrusion with carefully manipulated challenges to the reader's confidence in Dale's faculties and motivations. Though it features its share of palpable things that go bump in the night, this novel is most unsettling in its portrait of personal demons of despair that imperceptibly empower them.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-"Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter." What follows proves to be just as spooky as this opening suggests. Dale Stewart suffered a traumatic summer in 1960 when he was 11. His friend Duane McBride was mysteriously killed by a runaway piece of farm equipment. That story is told in Simmons's Summer of Night (Warner, 1992). Now, Dale, who is a professor and author of mountain-man adventure stories, is not doing well. He left his wife and family during a love affair with a graduate student who has since left him. He survived a suicide attempt and is being counseled for severe depression. Against his doctor's advice, he travels to his boyhood hometown in Illinois to spend his winter sabbatical in the now-empty home of his deceased friend. Even inattentive readers will spot the signs that Dale is in the midst of a horror story: the second floor of the farmhouse is sealed off with layers of plastic, yet a light glows at night as if someone were in there; he is repeatedly threatened by a group of dangerous skinheads; and a dog that appears to increase in size stalks him. And plenty of other spine-tingling events occur. Whether it's just horror fiction or Dale is actually insane hardly matters. It's good spooky fun that teens will love-but may not want to read when alone, at night, during a storm etc.
Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I found I could not warm up to the main character, although I did when he was a boy, nor did I particular like his his younger girlfriend. The ending was somewhat confusing, too, I wasn't sure what happened with the girlfriend or how the man had changed from his brief stay in his former childhood home. Was he ever aware of what happened in the past that had caused him to have memory loss of the event and PTSD?
A good twist with all the people who turned out to be ghosts, or were they all from his imagination? How about the ones he evidently did not realize was deceased. So, there had to be ghosts. The skinheads were real enough and scary, however.
Stewart gets to his destination and strange things start happening immediately. Strange black dogs, skinheads, and a self-typing computer are just a few of the spooky happenings - and things escalate from there.
Author Simmons has a way with bringing the commonplace to the forefront and then letting you see that it didn't really exist. This ended up being one of the spookier books I've ever read. It had me turning lights on and peering into dark corners. It was a fitting follow-up to "Summer of Night." Oh, you don't necessarily need to read "Summer of Night" to enjoy this book but it does fill in some of the nooks and crannies and make for a better reading experience, I think. It, also, is an excellent horror novel. I reread it for probably the third or fourth time just prior to "A Winter Haunting" and I just keep finding new things to appreciate about it.
Now Simmons only needs to write books about spring and autumn and scare the bejeebers out of me, setting up the entire year quadfecta of horror-filled seasons.
The themes and subtexts in this book are almost exactly opposite to Summer of Night. Where it was about childhood friendships, conflicts and freedom in 1960, A Winter Haunting follows a few of the original characters and the small Illinois village forty years into the future and into middle-age. Rather than free-wheeling eleven year-olds trying to deal with something too big and strange for them to fully understand, the scale is smaller, focused mostly one of the boys who grew to adulthood haunted, both literally and figuratively by that Summer of 1960. It's compounded his mistakes along the way, to the extent that he's not even sure of their magnitude.
So it's different from the original. If you want another Summer of Night, you'll be disappointed.
On the other hand, if you want a creeping, subtle, Dan Simmons blend of supernatural and psychological thriller, this is for you. You can never quite track where the line between the two is, and you never get bored while he pushes it in one direction or other. I'm a slow, impatient reader and I absolutely tore through this one.
There are some creepy scenes in the novel (I won't spoil it for you), but for me, the story gets mired down and sidetracked too much in all of the past events leading up to the present situation Dale finds himself in, along with all of the research he must do to figure out some cryptic messages he is receiving, and those lengthy sidetracks seemed to take some of the tension and thrill out of the story. Whereas the first novel, Summer of Night, was such a masterpiece of horror and intensely frightening, A Winter Haunting is a little more tame in comparison. Please don't get me wrong - this book is indeed a very clever horror story, superbly written, and definitely worth reading. I just wish it had a little more bite and a little less bark. Still, this is Dan Simmons we're talking about here, a master of horror, so you know anything he writes is great stuff. I highly recommend it, but if you haven't yet read the first book, Summer of Night, I strongly suggest you read that first before starting this one. You will LOVE it.