Carrion Comfort (1989) – Dan Simmons

I’ve been enjoying the Dan Simmons’ books I’ve been reading, and finally had time to dig into his epic, and much hailed horror novel, Carrion Comfort. A massive read, the book is actually horrifying in the traditional sense.

I’ve always enjoyed horror novels, and the like, but this novel is truly frightening, and it is dark, cruel, vicious, and incredibly engaging. Spanning four decades the novel introduces us to a group of humans who have the Ability. This ‘gift’ enables these select few to impose their will completely on another person, allowing them to be Used any way they wish.

And we all know how terrible we can be to one another. These beings, essentially mind-vampires, murder, rape, and use anyone that they can lay eyes on. It’s terrifying and Simmons makes these horrors blunt and completely in your face. They are shocking and unnerving.

At the center of the story is Saul, a Jew who has survived the Nazi concentration camps, and a Colonel with the Ability who Used him during his imprisonment. There are other characters surrounding them, some with the Ability, and some arrayed against them, and all of them will find themselves caught up in the Game the Colonel is orchestrating, and its outcome.

I love how the story is doled out, how you can’t count on the safety of any character, and stunningly, there are moments where some of these beings you can momentarily feel sympathy for, until they remind you how truly evil they are.


There are a trio of these mind-vampires that we are introduced to before the world opens even wider, and we realize how they control, Use and use, and take whatever they want.

Saul is joined in his quest to stop the Colonel, and the others, but right until the last page you have no idea who is going to survive, and what the cost of that survival will be. By the last page there are no story threads left dangling, and everything is wrapped up brilliantly.

Carrion Comfort is an engrossing read, an unnerving read, and a must-read. There are powerful themes of violence, mental, physical and emotional, at play here, as well as justice, vengeance, loyalty and friendship.

And it’s all wrapped up in some truly terrifying moments. These people are nigh unstoppable, and when they Use someone that person loses complete control of who they are, and will not stop in their action no matter what happens to their physical body… they will be pushed until the body is completely stopped.

That is frightening. To lose everything, to feel the pain they put you through, and be trapped in your body. Simmons pens some horrific moments, and then has everything pay off.

This one is harsh, scary, violent, horrific, bloody, and engaging. If you’ve not read it, I heartily endorse it. It truly is one of the top horror novels of the 20th century.

Check it out.

I need to read something lighter now to recover…


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