By Dan Simmons
Little Brown and Co.
As a writer you are taught a few things right off the bat. Things that publishers and editors will never deal with. Things such as too much exposition and a plot that moves too slowly to engage the reader. Also, you are taught that if you promise the reader something you had better make good on your promise. It is the idea of Chekov’s gun, “If you put a gun on the mantle piece in act 1, you better fire it at some point.”
I would like to submit to you, my fine reader; that Dan Simmons has actually made every single one of these mistakes as well as a few more in Abominable. An aptly titled work, not for the story but for the quality of it. I will begin by telling you that under no circumstances would I recommend reading this book and I was not furnished with it by the publisher. So I’m $12 in the hole here. I’m hoping to make sure you aren’t. There will be SPOILERS and I try not to do this but in this case it is necessary so. If you don’t want to be spoiled, then STOP READING THIS REVIEW NOW! But if you are going to follow my advice and not read the book or you don’t care about spoilers please continue.
The first problem I have with this book is simple. It is TERRIBLY BORINGLY LONG! The book wears out it’s welcome while talking about Alpine style mountain climbing circa 1925 for the first 400 pages! Yes, you get to read about how they did it in old days for 400 glorious pages. Thanks Mr.Simmons, but no thanks. This I might have been able to muster if the work then, around 429 didn’t tantalize you with stories about yetis only to drop the subject completely only a couple of pages later. Obviously trying to foreshadow future events… But not really…
Second, the author decides that the characters in it are so interesting and exciting that every time we learn some new fact about one particular character named, Deacon. The entire conversation and paragraph should stop as if to say, “Dun, dun, dun…” There is an entire section near the end of the book where there are people hunting our four main characters and we find out that Deacon is a Buddhist and the entire book stops while he talks about why and how he became one. Making us think this is somehow important or interesting. I could have left Deacon completely alone considering how poorly characterized he was and he certainly fails in his mentorship of Jake Perry our main character so I’m not entirely sure why as a reader we should have cared one iota about Deacon. But Dan Simmons obviously loved him to death.
Third, the entire book is told in limited 3rd person until we reach Part 3 which is around 500 pages in and then the author switches to first person. The problem is that the author’s conceit about the book is that it’s a found journal. I’ve never known anyone to write a journal in third person and the author even highlights this himself in the introduction to part 3 by trying to explain why 2/3 of the book was written that way. It was sloppy and the book’s story up until that point was so unnecessary that it could have and probably should have started with Part 3
Fourth, the book breaks a fundamental promise to the reader. This book is a horror book where there will be yetis. Many reviews have talked about the reader feeling as if, for some reason this should have been a horror book and it wasn’t. That’s because the author basically plays a Scooby Doo on the reader. Except that in Scooby Doo you are EXPECTING the monsters not to be real. It is supposed to be a mystery. This book’s lead up was framed in such a way that it made the mystery be the excuse for the story not the reason for it. Unfortunately, the author was actually trying to make you believe that the mystery was the book. He acknowledges this many times in Part 3. And the worst part about this is that the reader never sees this coming. Part 3 begins on page 444 of a 663 page book. Which means that by the time the reader realizes that he/she has been duped they figure they might as well read through the rest of the book.
Finally, I would like to say that this book is the most unimaginative drivel that I’ve ever had to waste 663 pages of reading on. It was like watching a bad made for TV movie, where there wasn’t the budget for monsters so they had to make them imaginary. And better still, in made for TV movie style the villains were Nazis. The actual text and plot of this book don’t even pertain to the subject of this blog but I was reviewing it because other publications had the book in their best of October 2013 features. It isn’t horror, science fiction, or fantasy. It’s historical adventure fiction and horrible adventure fiction at that. I’ve read worse books this year, but none from award winning authors and none that were so terribly long!