Saturday, January 14, 2012

Prayers to Broken Stones: Review

Prayers to Broken Stones is a collection of the early short stories by Dan Simmons. I remember being knocked out by his novel Hyperion when I read it in the early 90s. My best friend sent me this collection of short stories shortly thereafter and I somehow managed never to get around to reading it. All I can do is shake my finger at my younger self and say, "You missed something. Should have read it sooner."

Wow. I don't remember making the connection to Harlan Ellison when I read Hyperion, but if anyone comes close to writing like Ellison, it's Simmons. (And, interestingly enough, the introduction is written by Ellison and he claims to have discovered Simmons.) He has that same ability to move effortlessly between genres...a little horror here, a little science fiction there, a little bit of the dark thriller...and all of it making deft and accurate comments on the human condition. And this is his early stuff--the "I'm just getting into my writing groove" stuff. Makes me want to run out and buy the most recent thing he's written just to see if he kept it up and made it better.

This book has it all--from pyschic vampires who get their jollies (and "feedings") from making other people kill to a story of Resurrectionists who can bring your mom or dad or son or lover or whoever back from the dead. But is that really a good thing? There are stories built on the battle of Gettysburg and the loss of the Challenger shuttle. And stories cutting the televangelists down to size. There's even a story explaining why there seems to be so much more cancer nowadays....and stories that hold the seeds that would grow into Hyperion.

The man can write. He can take you back in time to a Civil War battlefield or whisk you away to a planet you've never heard of--and you absolutely believe that you're there. He may have just started in these stories, but he's miles ahead of other first-time writers. Four stars.

Favorite quotes:

I desperately want to talk to her now. I want to ask her who it was who so deftly crafted and shaped the legend that was our love.

"Remembering Siri" (page 121)

The past is dead and buried. But I know now that buried things have a way of rising to the surface when one least expects them to.

"Iverson's Pits" (page 237)


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Hello Bev - I have a couple of unread Simmons books on the shelves where they have been gathering dust for probably the best part of a decade (or *** gulp *** maybe more) but you have really made me want to redress that - especially in connection with Harlan Ellison, who is absolutely one of my favourite authors. I've also ordered this one from Amazon - thanks very much.


Bev Hankins said...

Hope you like them, Sergio!

Julie said...

I love Simmons and I love short stories .. this one needs to be on my to-buy list! Thanks for the review@

Roof Beam Reader said...

Hmm.. is this the same Dan Simmons who wrote Drood? If so, I'm intrigued. If not, I'm still intrigued. Lol

I plan on reading The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) and Our Mutual Friend (Charles Dickens) for my own TBR Pile Challenge this year, then later in the year I hope to read Drood - which references both authors and the mystery surrounding Dickens' final works and his death.

Good work on having two down already! I'm almost done with my second as well (trying to get more from this list out of the way earlier in the year, rather than scrambling in November/December as I had to do last year).

Bev Hankins said...

@Roof Beam Reader: Yes. Same Simmons. And, I have to tell you, I much prefer his SF writing. I read Drood...and can't say that I cared for it. It was WAY too long for one thing. I definitely think it could have been a much better book if somebody had told Simmons to cut at least a third of it--if not more.