Book Reviews Smugglivus Smugglivus Feats of Strength

Smugglivus 2010 Feats of Strength: Ana reads Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

The Feats of Strength are an integral part of our annual Smugglivus Tradition. In the Feats of Strength, we each dare each other to read a book that we know is so far beyond the other’s comfort zone as to put it in another galaxy altogether. It is more than a mere Dare – it is a Feat of Strength.

Title: Summer of Night

Author: Dan Simmons

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Warner Books
Publication date: 1991 (first edition)
Paperback: 600 pages

Stand alone or series: First of a series.

How did I get this book: Bought.

In the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, five 12-year-old boys forge the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. An ancient, sinister evil lurks in the dark, and when a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the deepest night, the people know it marks the beginning of terror. Now Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a fraternal war of blood against an arcane abomination.

Why did I read this book: Thea made me do it for our Smugglivus 2010 Feats of Strength


Warning: this post contains spoilers.

You may be wondering why exactly this is a “Feat of Strength”. It’s ok, I too wondered when Thea first suggested this book. After all, for the past year or so I have been much more appreciative of Horror novels, I even bought and read some of my own accord. I never read this author before (although he is one of Thea’s favourites) so it’s not a case of Thea wanting me to give someone a second chance (cough Jacqueline Carey cough). The book is not THAT heavy that it could be seen as a literal feat of strength (hee) and even the blurb sounded ok to me. What is it then? I didn’t find out until I sat down to read it:

The Summer of Night is a Feat of Strength because it is so freaking similar to freaking It by Stephen King.

Now, if you haven’t been around the blog for long, you should know that in our first year of book smuggling during our first ever Halloween Week, Thea dared me to read my first full length Stephen King book (not counting The Gunslinger), It. The result was posted as a conversation in which we talk about how I loved the first 1000 pages of that book only to find myself hating the ending with the force of a thousand storms and retroactively hating the entire book. Fair? No. But that’s how I felt. And you can read about it here.

So this is my Smugglivus 2010 Feat of Strength and it seems that every year I find myself in a difficult position. I guess this is part of the fun –it is a feat of strength because it takes me so outside my comfort zone; in this case, I am outside my comfort zone as a reviewer because I simply don’t know how to address this book.

Because Summer of Night is basically It only with a better ending. It is funny (NOT) how I keep bumping into books only to be reminded of other books. So how do I review or talk about THIS book when I am reminded so much of the OTHER book? I hit a wall. I just re-read my thoughts on It and I could literally, copy and paste them here (minus the thoughts on the ending) and it would be relevant to Summer of Night. The things I loved about It, I loved about Summer of Night: the characters, the kids and their relationship with each other and with their families, how it is all like the Goonies only super scary and when they all get together in the end to fight the Evil Forces of Doom that are about to kill them, it is super cool; how both share the small town feel and a vivid 60s setting; even the writing I thought similar. Even the problems with the novel are similar: Summer of Night is a tad too long and a bit too repetitive in places although less so than It.

Unlike It the majority of the novel doesn’t happen in flashbacks. The kids are the main characters – as kids – and remain so without the appearances of their future selves (Dan Simmons apparently saved that to the sequels).

Do you see my problem here??? I am finding it really hard to concentrate solely on Summer of Night – this happened as I read the book too. I kept being distracted by so many similar plotlines: the group of kids are all boys except for one girl, the main kid has a younger brother whom he loves a lot (in It, it’s this love for a younger brother that moves the main character), the loss of innocence over one summer (although these two books do not hold the rights of that trope – it is a common enough one), etc, etc.

In all fairness, the characters DO stand on their own; they are different, with different motivations and backgrounds. And I actually quite enjoyed the book: it was suitably scary, perhaps even more so than It because instead of a freaky-clown-who-is-an-alien, the majority of the scary bits here are of that sort of thing that really do scare kids: the thing under the bed; the thing inside the wardrobe, fear of dark, ghosts and zombies. It was also quite heart-breaking in parts (Nooooooooooooo Duane!!!!) and the ending totally trumps that of It without any of the wtfuckery and all of the asskickery.

In the end, I would say this : if you liked It in all likelihood you will like Summer of Night (heck, Stephen King did). Me? I find out a truth about myself as a reader: the more a book resembles another, the less I like it. The “if you like (…) you will like (…)” does not seem to work for me, unfortunately.

I would though, like to hear from you: have you read these two books? How do you feel about them? Does similarity to another book put you off when reading a new one? Do share your thoughts!

Notable Quotes/Parts: I have to say I loved Cordie’s (the girl) asskickery.

Rating: I DON’T KNOW OK?

Reading next: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch


  • Mia
    January 5, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    So, I must also agree with you on how awful the ending to It was. I hated it so I may have to read this book simply to have a similar read with a better ending.

    However, I am terrified of clowns so even with the horrible ending to It I had nightmares for almost three weeks after I read it. Not much scares me like Clowns do. *shudder*

  • KMont
    January 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Dude, I didn’t know how to review this one either for a Dare review for yall, but that’s just because horror is not my bag at all, and I’d never reviewed a horror book. I can definitely see why you had issues with reviewing Summer of Night if King’s It was so similar. I’ll never know lol – I’m never reading King’s books! Well, maybe not never, but most likely I won’t be.

    I second the heartbreaking part with Duane, tho. This WAS a good book, I’m just too wimpy for horror. 😉

    As for whether books being similar turns me off in general, it’s starting to more and more. I’m reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver now, which I’ve heard great things about, but it’s ringing a little too close the Westerfeld’s Uglies for me, the general premise. As a result, Delirium just isn’t that exciteing to me. Yet.

  • Ana
    January 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Mia – I was TERRIFIED of It as well, I didn’t sleep well for week. Funny enough even though on paper I thought Summer of Night scarier, I had no problems AFTER reading it. Ugh.

    Kenda – THAT’S RIGHT, DUH. You reviewed it!!! *thud* I COMPLETELY forgot. And you know what? Your review is so much better than mine! LOL. Y’all, read Kenda’s review:


    And re Delirium, we will be reading it soon as well. i am slightly terrified, I heard it sort of reminds of Matched *headdesk*

  • Pidute
    January 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    The scarier part of this book should be that dan Simmons told the story in only 600 pages while it took more than 1000 for mr King.
    Hope you did something nice with the 400 pages you didn’t have to read 🙂

  • April
    January 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I had a similar problem the other day when I started Vixen by Jillian Larkin. All I could think about was how much it had in common with Bright Young Things by Ana Godbersen. For the time being I think I’ll have to leave Vixen alone and unfinished.

    Congrats on your Feat of Strength!

  • Jaime W
    January 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I remember your review of Soulless by Gail Carriger where you pointed out the similarities to the Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. I had just finished Soulless so of course I had to immediately read Crocodile on the Sandbank. You were exactly right! I haven’t decided if I will read the other two books in that series since now I’m hooked on Amelia and I’m afraid the similarities will be all I think about if I try to read them.

  • hapax
    January 6, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Question — my fifteen year old son has recently glommed onto Stephen King. I’ve resisted giving him IT because — well, yeah, the ending.

    I’ve read Dan Simmon’s SF but not his horror, and I’d never give that to a teen because frankly I would hate myself if someone a third my age could “get” what completely broke MY brain.

    How do you think this — or any of his other horror novels — would work with YAs?

  • Ana
    January 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Hapax – we don’t see why not. I asked Thea too, since she read more of his books (both Scifi and Horror.) and she agrees! Good luck. Hope he enjoys it.

  • Marg
    January 14, 2011 at 4:09 am

    I have only read one Dan Simmons book (The Terror) and I tell you it was a feat of strength to carry that tome around with me.

    I won’t be picking this one up anytime soon due to the similarities to It, which I read as a guest dare for you! Not ready to do that story again anytime soon!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.