Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
There are going to be some spoilers in this review. If you don’t want to read them, I wouldn’t go any further.
Anyway, it’s with a heavy heart I write this review. I’ve been a fan of Dan Simmons since The Song of Kali was first published over two decades ago. Except for his Science Fiction novels, I think I’ve read everything Mr. Simmons has written during this period. In fact, I consider The Terror to be one of the top-five horror novels of all time. It was certainly a long novel, but I read it quickly and lived within its nightmare each evening when I went to sleep.
I wish I could say the same for The Abominable.
For over eight months I anxiously awaited the publication of The Abominable by Dan Simmons. Like most readers, I took in the title and read the synopsis of the novel, thinking it was going to be similar to The Terror. The marketing people at Little, Brown and Company are to be congratulated on a successful campaign in which potential readers were led to believe The Abominable would be a horror novel that takes place on Mt. Everett during the mid-1920s. They fooled me, got my money, and wasted two-and-a-half months of my time, and at my age, I don’t have a lot of time left.
You have to trust me on this one thing.
The Abominable is NOT a horror novel.
To jump into the book, expecting to read a horror novel is inviting sure disappointment on the part of the reader. I know because the same thing happened to me. Now, it was my choice to buy the book. It was also my choice to spend two-and-a-half months reading it. I would have put it down after three-hundred pages, but I made a promise to review it and so I am.
I would tend to say that The Abominable reminded me much more of Drood by Mr. Simmons than it did The Terror. The reason for this is because the title and storyline are utterly misleading. When a person picks up a nearly 800-page novel, he would normally expect the book to deal with the subject matter—Edwin Drood. Wrong. The character the novel is titled after is only in the book about forty pages or so. They are definitely great pages, but still forty out of 770 is not very many. It definitely leaves a lot to be desired. You would also expect a novel titled The Abominable and dealing with the terror encountered by a British expedition of climbers on Mt. Everett during the 1920s to be about the Abominable Snowman, but it isn’t. Of course, the Yeti is mentioned a few times within the novel, and there’s a short scene near the end where it seems the Yeti comes alive to destroy the enemy, but it’s left to the reader’s imagination as to whether or not it was actually the Yeti, or bandits dressed up like the Yeti, doing the killing. The author also makes a point of using the word abominable on one page so it can be said that’s where the title originated from. An author always has to cover all bases.
The story centers on a manuscript that was left to the author, Dan Simmons, by an old and dying Jake Perry, who was one of the climbers on an unauthorized trek up Mt. Everett during the mid-1920s. After the death of Mr. Perry, Dan Simmons decided to publish the manuscript as a novel.
And so it is.
Three climbers (The Deacon, Jean-Claude and Jake Perry) were given the necessary funds to mount an expedition to Mt. Everett by Lady Bromley in England, hoping they would be able to find the lost body of her young son, Percy. Though the climbers agree to this, their real intent is to climb Mt. Everett and plant the flag at the summit.
Many pages are devoted to the climbers as they prepare for the expedition and then head to India. Along the way, they pick up the beautiful Reggie Bromley-Monfort, whose job it is to make sure the climbers search for her cousin’s body.
Once the climb begins from the base of Mt. Everett to the top, the small expedition encounters a terror that’s more manmade than supernatural. It’s discovered that the young Lord Bromley and his climbing friend were being hunted by the Germans because of pictures they carried showing Adolf Hitler having sex with young boys. The Germans killed the two men, and are now after the group of climbers, thinking the pictures may be found by them and then used to humiliate the Fuhrer.
That’s the story for better or worse.
Sorry to ruin any surprises.
This might have been a great adventure novel if 300 pages had been cut from the book. The preparations for the Mt. Everett trek takes up 445 pages of the novel. You have to work your way through 445 pages before the climbers even arrive at the bottom of the great mountain. Now, I enjoy books about climbing, especially Mr. Everett, but after 250 pages, I found myself getting bored and skipping a lot of the filler. As a writer myself, I feel the worse crime an author can perpetuate upon a reader is utter boredom. I have no doubt that Dan Simmons is an excellent mountain climber and has a great deal of knowledge about the subject. The thing is he displays this knowledge and research for all to see for 445 daunting pages that will have you tearing your hair out in frustration. I reached the point where I no longer cared about belaying, ice axes, crampons, the different types of rope, oxygen tanks, etc., etc. I just wanted to get to the action. Once the action got started, the story picked up and got better. There just wasn’t enough action in this novel, and the book was simply too bloody long.
Dan Simmons is truly an excellent writer.
I say that in all honesty.
When the author wants to, he can create the most horrific scenes that stay in your mind for years and years. He did this with the creature in The Terror when it would creep down into the bowels of the ships at night and hunt the crew members, viciously killing anything it could capture. Mr. Simmons also did this when the describing the underground city below London in Drood. His words created a dark, ominous area hidden beneath London and where the wise refused to venture. If only he had done this with The Abominable. This novel had so much potential; yet, fell flat on its face.
There are going to be people who think The Abominable is the greatest piece of literature ever written, but I’m not one of them. How I wanted to love this novel and to be scared out of my wits. Well, it’s time to get on with other authors and novels.
I think if I’m still around when the next Simmons’ novel comes out, I won’t preorder it. Instead, I’ll wait for it to be published and then read the reviews before making my decision to buy it or not.
If you’re up to give this one a go, it’s available right here.