Excerpt provided by Syndetics
<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">A Winter Haunting Chapter One Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter. I know what you're thinking. There's the old journalism anecdote of William Randolph Hearst needing someone to cover the Johnstown flood and sending a young cub reporter. It was the kid's big break. The next day the novice cabled back this lead to Hearst's paper: "GOD SAT ON A LONELY HILL ABOVE JOHNSTOWN TODAY, LOOKING DOWN IN SORROW AT NATURE'S FIERCE DESTRUCTION." Old-timers swear that Hearst did not hesitate ten seconds before cabling back this response: "FORGET FLOOD STORY. INTERVIEW GOD." I say I died forty-one years ago and your response is, Forget the story about Dale. Who cares? Tell us what it's like to be dead -- what is the afterlife like? What is it like to be a ghost? Is there a God? At least, these would be my questions. Unfortunately, I am not a ghost. Nor do I know anything about any afterlife. When I was alive, I did not believe in ghosts or heaven or God or spirits surviving the body or resurrection or reincarnation, and I still do not. If I had to describe my current state of existence, I would say that I am a cyst of memory. Dale's sense of me is so strong, so cut off and cauterized from the rest of his consciousness by trauma, that I seem to exist as something more than memory, something less than life, almost literally a black hole of holistic recollection formed by the collapsing gravity of grief. I know this does not explain it, but then I do not really understand it myself. I know only that I am and that there was a -- "quickening" might be the best word -- when Dale decided to return and spend the winter at the farm where I once lived and where I died. And, no, I have no memory of my death. I know no more of that event than does Dale. Evidently one's death, like one's birth, is so important as to be beyond recall. When I was alive I was only a boy, but I was fairly smart and totally dedicated to becoming a writer someday. I spent years preparing for that -- apprenticing myself to the word -- knowing that it would be many more years before I could write a real short story, much less a novel, but practicing with opening paragraphs for stories and novels nonetheless. If I were borrowing an opening for this tale, I would steal it from Thackeray's boring 1861 novel Lovel the Widower: Who shall be the hero of this tale? Not I who write it. I am but the Chorus of the Play. I make remarks on the conduct of the characters: I narrate their simple story. Thackeray's ominiscient "I" was lying, of course. Any Creator stating that he is a simple Chorus and impassive observer of his creatures' actions is a hypocrite and a liar. Of course, I believed that to be true of God, on the few occasions when I considered that He might exist at all. Once, when Dale and Mike and I were having a chickenhouse discussion of God, my only contribution was a paraphrased quote from Mark Twain: "When we look around at the pain and injustice of the world, we must come to the ineluctable conclusion that God is a thug." I'm not sure if I believed that then or now, but it certainly shocked Mike and Dale into silence. Especially Mike. He was an altar boy then and most devout. But I'm digressing even before I begin the story. I always hated writers who did that. I still have no powerful opening line. I'll just begin again. Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter. Dale Stewart drove from western Montana to central Illinois, more than 1,700 miles in 29 hours, the mountains dwindling and then disappearing in his rearview mirror, endless stretches of autumn prairie blending into a tan and russet blur, following I-90 east to I-29 southeast to I-80 east to I-74 south and then east again, traveling through the better part of two time zones, returning to the checkerboard geometries of the Midwest, and forcing himself down through more than forty years of memories like a diver going deep, fighting the pain and pressure that such depths bring. Dale stopped only for food, fuel, and a few catnaps at interstate rest areas. He had not slept well for months, even before his suicide attempt. Now he carried drugs for sleeping, but he did not choose to stop and use them on this trip. He wanted to get there as soon as possible. He did not really understand why he was going there. Dale had planned to arrive at Elm Haven in midmorning, tour his old hometown, and then drive on to Duane's farmhouse in the daylight, but it was after eleven o'clock at night when he saw the ELM HAVEN exit sign on I-74. He had planned to move into Duane's old house in early or mid-September, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the fall colors and the crisp, sunny autumn days. He arrived on the last day of October, at night, in the last hours of the first Halloween of the new century, hard on the cold cusp of winter. I screwed up, thought Dale as he took the overpass above I-74 and followed the night-empty road the two miles north toward Elm Haven. Screwed up again. Everything I haven't lost, I've screwed up. And everything I lost, I lost because I screwed it up. He shook his head at this, angry at the bumper-sticker-stupid self-pity of the... A Winter Haunting . Copyright © by Dan Simmons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
It looks as if Simmons is about to become really big: Darwin's Blade made the Los Angeles Times best sellers list, and both The Crook Factory and Children of Night have been optioned for film. In this novel, which reintroduces characters we met as children in Summer of Night, Dale Stewart returns to his childhood home to recoup after a disastrous love affair but gets caught up in a long-unresolved murder. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.