Author: Dan Simmons
Genre: horror, science fiction, short stories
Pages: 354 (paperback edition)
Published: January 1994
A collection of five novellas exploring the exquisite conjunction of love and death, combining literary artistry and undiluted emotional impact. Includes Entropy's Bed at Midnight, Dying in Bangkok, Sleeping with Teeth Women, Flashback, and The Great Lover.
The novella is an ideal length for dark fiction: short enough to sustain mood, long enough to develop interesting characters. This fine collection of five novellas shows off Simmons' range of styles: a literary tale of a man and his daughter on a scary mountainside; a Bram Stoker Award-winning horror tale about female vampires in Thailand; a semi-horrific Native American story about a young Sioux who undertakes various trials in order to become holy; a dark science fiction tale about a drug that has pernicious effects on society; and a harrowing, ambitious tale about the horrors of World War I.
Reviewed by April.
I picked this book up because I’d never heard of it before, and now I’m wondering why it’s so obscure.
Lovedeath is Simmons at the level of, well, Simmons. All of his work I’ve read so far (which is admittedly not much) has been at the very least excellent (if not outright mind-blowing) and this one is no exception. This is really a collection of five novellas which are centered around the themes of- you guessed it- love and death (but really nothing so simple).
A note about each piece:
Entropy’s Bed at Midnight- a father loses his son and wants to protect his daughter- but what’s the cost? Hell, just stepping out the front door can kill you. I like the way Simmons juxtaposes the memory of the past loss with the reality of the present fear of loss. It’s a simple story but told in a heartbreaking manner that has bittersweet written all over it.
Dying in Bangkok- Darker than the first tale, this is a pretty creepy look at the underbelly of pleasure and the ways in which our sexual desire can lead us astray. It’s sensual, cautionary, and a bit disturbing all at once- an excellent mix.
Sleeping with Teeth Women- A little Native American guilt, anyone? (Just kidding.) This is about a seemingly useless young man
Flashback- Simmons’ nod to science fiction, this is about a drug where people can live out their memories again, at the expense of the present. I sensed a little of the cautionary in this as well, in a more realistic sense than the second of this collection. This is almost dystopian and could become reality fairly easily; it’s a plea to live life to the fullest and live in the present, something a lot of us forget to do.
The Great Lover- I understand why this was saved for last. It’s a long novella, but twists beauty and grimness to create a tapestry that is one of the better short works of speculative fiction I’ve ever read. The paranoia, terror, and tragedy of war is intertwined with the main character’s epiphany of the meaning of life. Sounds trite, but come on- if anyone can pull off this kind of depth it’s Simmons, and he does it with flying colors.
So- read this. Even if some stories are too terrifying or gritty for your taste, you’d be hard pressed not to find something to like in this collection. And if you’re a Dan Simmons fan, it’s a must read.