Carrion Comfort

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I don’t know how brilliant author Dan Simmons escaped my attention for so long, but I recently listened to the audiobook of his tale,  Carrion Comfort,

The title alone, a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins,  a brilliantly original poet who made up new words when necessary, suggested that this would be a smart novel.   I had no idea until after I’d finished it that Steven King  had described it as  one of the  three greatest horror novels of the  20th century.   However, like all great novels, it transcends genre.

One of the ways this novel does that  is by demonstrating that certain aspects of humanity are every bit as monstrous, and create as much horror, as any supernatural entity.      The book focuses on the multitude of historical evils that have been spawned by racism.    Questioning the motives of history even while recounting it, the author dares to confront the true nature of slavery, and in so doing, redefines and expands the concept of it to include collective mental slavery to social and political propaganda.

The mind vampires in Simmons’s novel bear a striking resemblance to the very real 1% who control the majority of the world’s natural resources.  Like the monstrous entities in the novel, their most popular ( and profitable) form of entertainment seems to be using their power to indulge in ever more gruesome forms of violence by proxy.

I have always believed that science fiction writers are the prophets of our age.  Mr. Simmons, with this masterpeice of social observation and knowledge of the human condition, has led me to suspect that “fiction” writers within the horror genre may be our most  valuable modern-day historians.   Their “fictions” have not been funded by corporate or government interests for purposes of social control.

Indeed, the fictitious  Island Club  of the novel is  a more accurate depiction of our current social power structure than any Fox news political analysis or New York Times article on politics.   Rather than  prophesying the future,  Simmons  so successfully described the past  that he was able to render the present inevitable, and the truths inherent within it unavoidable.

I think this book should be taught in  schools instead of the largely revisionist accounts of past events that are currently being called factual history.    Rather than fictional good guys and bad guys,  this author’s characters  successfully demonstrate that the potential for evil is a part of us all,  a potential that is most often triggered and developed by both extreme power and extreme powerlessness.    Just as  a soft ocean wave gently lapping the shore can, under pressure, become a tsunami that destroys all in its path,  so too can a towering majestic mountain be reduced to a single grain of sand.

Like the classic movie  Terminator  2, this  book  provides  thrilling  chase  scenes,  brilliant social commentary, and  great special effects.   One of those special effects is  the ability to illustrate the extent to which we  all often serve as little more than marionettes propelled into action by those who use knowledge of our psychology to  control us.

The professional readers of this audio-book deserve accolades as well.  They successfully brought the characters to life, giving each a different voice, complete with regional accents.     Perhaps they were inspired by the magnitude of this novel, but they surely distinguished themselves by showcasing their talents to the fullest on this worthy project.    I give this audiobook, it’s author, and it’s readers a full five stars and believe that it is destined to become a future classic.

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