BOOK REVIEW: Children of the Night by Dan Simmons

REVIEW SUMMARY: A technically well-written story about vampires and the quest to stop AIDS, but over-description and a disappointing plot twist stole interest.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  A doctor adopts a Romanian orphan baby and discovers a secret that makes her enemy number one for a Mafioso band of vampires.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Well-researched in science, location, and vampire lore; visceral action
CONS: Technical jargon slowed the story; weak characters; the turn halfway through removed almost all interest in finishing the story
BOTTOM LINE: Probably looked good as an outline, but the execution failed to keep interest, especially after a midpoint twist threw most of it out the window.

Children of the Night begins with a preface of the author’s first hand research visiting Romania and historical locations important to Dracula’s life, and the tragedy of that country’s orphan problem. The story begins with a team of Americans visiting Romania to investigate the orphanage system in order to report back with recommendations for aid. The characterization is interesting enough to keep you reading, and when this section ends, the reader is left with a haunting revelation about the vampires’ plans.

Dr. Kate Newman is the main character, and the book follows her struggle to fix a long-broken system of treating orphans with inadequate supplies and methods. Kate is a strong-willed character who shows how much she’s willing to lose to save an abandoned baby.  Once she returns to the States, an amazing scientific discovery leads to her heading up a team of researchers eager to cure AIDS and remove the vampires need for human sacrifice. They, of course, don’t like that idea, and life-threatening action ensues.  The consequences of this action are where the story fails. After this twist, the direction of the story takes a hard left away from the initial premise.  Kate goes to Romania with her priest friend, Michael O’Rourke–whom readers of Summer of Night should remember and root for–and together they try and take down the Vampire Mafia.

What ensues is a cross between Dracula and The Bourne Identity, but fails to deliver like either. We see a few chapters from Dracula’s memories, which are gruesome and serve to make the threat of his return more realistic, but ultimately fail to create horror in the present. Another downfall in the story’s engagement is that the car chases and Dracula’s backstory were only mildly interesting, with the chases seeming like geography filler and the backstory an exercise in grossing out the reader. The intent seems to have been grounding the adventure in its setting, adding a little to the mystery of guessing the secret bad guy, and allowing the reader to experience Dracula’s perspective. Some readers might enjoy these aspects of the story, but this one didn’t. While the descriptions are done well some of the time, the car chases were poorly done, making it difficult to visualize where they were going. The brief romantic subplot failed to create the kind of sympathy needed to really care about what would happen, and more than anything, provided too much information between the sheets for this reader’s taste. While Father O’Rourke was one of the best characters in Summer of Night, his decisions in Children of the Night were very disappointing.

The ending delivered a high-action, slightly rewarding climax to finish the book, but overall, the story did not satisfy. After loving Summer of Night, Children of the Night was a major disappointment.

9 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Children of the Night by Dan Simmons”

  1. Simmons is one of our best writers. But he falls in love with his research or his words and doesn’t edit them. Ever since the dawn of the Stephen King Telephone Book Standard. Editing has taken a major hit and so much fat has been forced down our throats.

    His Summer of Night goes on a little too long at the end but is a much better book.

    1. True, Summer of Night was a little too long km but I loved being in the characters’ lives. Children of the Night lacked the love for the characters that would have helped get me through. I glazed over the medical jargon in the first half because I was enjoying the main character’s story, but once I stopped caring, the Romanian setting became too much to bear.

  2. I don’t read a lot of vampire fiction in large part because I consider Dracula to be one of my favorite novels and I find most other portrayals of vampires lacking in comparison. Adding to that I have stayed far away from any other novels featuring Dracula as a character (although I intend to read The Historian one day). Just a strange affectation of mine.

    That being said, I’m jealous of Simmons’ research trip and am sorry that it didn’t result in a more successful result for you. It is frustrating when you are enjoying the first half of a book and it takes an unexpected turn in a direction that is ultimately unsatisfying.

    I have heard good things about Simmons and have his novel The Terror on the shelves.

    1. The Terror is a extraordinary History Horror Novel. Now once again Simmons will blow you away with the amount of research he has done. And one of the most hated moments I have ever had in reading fiction is when he described every single thing a captain would do in that age to get ready for travel.(The type of clothes etc) Everything but how many breaths one needs to inhale before he feels prepared.

      Having said that. It was Amazing how Good the book was for 70% of the novel. I can safely say if there was any editing done on the book. This would have been considered much more then just the best horror book of the year. I’m talking a book put up there with Dracula etc as required reading for all future fantastic readers.

      Definitely Read it! Just be prepared to be disappointed when not all of it is Brilliant.

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