Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Weird Mind of Dan Simmons on Display

I made a quick stop at my county library branch this morning to drop off three books that were due back and stumbled upon a couple of interesting new novels while there.  The branch keeps only the children's books and a few of the more recently published fiction and nonfiction titles downstairs, but I always take a moment to scan those shelves.  And I'm really happy I did this time because I spotted a couple of novels that look really good - and I had heard of neither of them.

The most intriguing one is The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons, a writer I'm pretty familiar with already.  I especially love his Drood, the novel in which he so spookily gets into the heads of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.  Simmons is skilled at blending fiction with fact in very plausible ways that will subtly twist one's image of well known historical characters right on its ear.  Drood is absolutely magnificent, so I have high hopes for The Fifth Heart.

This time around, Simmons teams the fictional Sherlock Holmes with Henry James in an investigation of the supposed suicide of Henry Adams's wife, Clover.  The supporting cast includes: Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Hay.  That's already enough to get me intrigued about the book, but it hardly expresses the weirdness of this tale.  Let me quote a bit from the dust jacket and you'll see what I mean:
Holmes is currently on his Great Hiatus - his three-year absence after his performance at Reichenbach Falls, during which time the people of London believe him to be dead.  Holmes has faked his own death because the great detective has used his incomparable powers of rationcination to come to the conclusion that he is a fictional character.
This leads to serious complications for James - for if his esteemed fellow investigator is merely  work of fiction, what does that make him?  And what can the master storyteller do to fight against the sinister power possibly named Moriarty that may or may not be controlling them from the shadows? 

I just hope I can keep up with this one - and that it doesn't disappoint me.

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