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CR3 #71: A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

This book is the sequel to Simmons's Summer of Night. Dale Stewart--last seen as a terrified child in Summer of Night--has grown up. He was a literature professor and writer, but now his life has begun to fall apart. He left his wife for one of his grad students, only to be unceremoniously dumped. He's taken a sabbatical from teaching and was pushed to the brink of suicide. At the beginning of the book, he makes the decision to go spend some time in his old hometown. He rents the farmhouse where his (late) friend Duane grew up, determined to work on a novel about the summer of 1960. As it turns out, that summer isn't nearly as distant as Dale would like to think, and real life (represented by a pack of skinheads who dislike Dale's ideology) isn't exactly peachy, either.

This is a ghost story, similar perhaps to Stephen King's Bag of Bones or even The Dark Half. The past dredges itself up and begins to assert itself on the "real" world. Dale's struggle to understand what's real and what isn't drives him to the edge of sanity. The novel is mostly first-person, though some sections are narrated by Dale's friend Duane, who died at twelve during the events of the previous book. The Duane sections are a bit weird, since it's not clear if he's a real presence or something more similar to the narrator of The Lovely Bones, merely a partially-omniscient narrator. Although the previous book is suspiciously similar to King's work, this book--while in the same vein--is definitely more original. The character of Dale is a  consistent (though unreliable) narrator. There are also some interesting secondary characters, but for the most part this is totally Dale's story. There are some good action scenes that keep the story moving right along, too.

I made it through this book pretty quickly, and though I would not necessarily call it a "good" book, it was enjoyable enough to keep me interested. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Summer of Night (don't try to read it without reading that first--it won't make any sense.)

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