40. Summer of Night – Dan Simmons
About two days before I started reading this book, I got stuck behind a rendering truck on a two-lane highway. I currently live in a town where dead animals are processed. The rendering truck picks them up and takes them to the plant where they are minced. And I am familiar with the smell of animal death as I have a specific burial place for my little pig family and the pig family members rarely pass away less than an hour from the burial place. To be fair, only two pigs have ever been less than frozen en route to the site; but that smell does not go away and few things make me feel more guilty than gagging over the smell of my little friends. So, when the rendering truck was chasing after several main characters, it was easy for me to be absolutely horrified. And strangely enough, Summer of Night is set along a stretch of Illinois that I am utterly familiar with from driving up and down I-74 on a regular basis. I once stopped in Brimfield to clean winter shit off my windshield, I drive by Bradley University in Peoria every time I go to or return from Mississippi (and very recently I was driving by on my way to and from Ohio), and the Spoon River rest stop tends to be my last call before I’m all the way home. It’s also a location where I stare at my gas gauge and wonder if I’m going to have to pay exorbitant Illinois gas prices before I can cross the bridge into Iowa (side note, I-70 is a total shitstorm of dips and holes, we do in fact need massive infrastructure spending, I-55 is like a beautiful red carpet in comparison). My familiarity with the scent of animal rendering and the area made reading Summer of Night pretty fun. It’s the first Dan Simmons book I’ve made it through – I’ve only tried to read The Terror, and I have now put it down twice even though I really want to read it. That one creeps too slowly.
Anyway, I really, really liked this book. I’ve read some other books about haunted schoolhouses and teenagers in earlier decades facing evil, and I’m happy to say that Dan Simmons made the narrative perspectives work and didn’t spend so much time having the kids ruin and change clothes . However, I may never forgive Dan Simmons for one of the death scenes. It was a really awesome way to go, but I wanted that character to see it through to the end. And it was totally cliché to kill that character even if it happened in an awesome way.