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on 16 February 2014
The Abominable is a novel of peaks and troughs, unfortunately more troughs than peaks. To start with, the blurb on the back is very misleading, hinting at a supernatural thriller instead of a book anchored solely in the art and lore of high-altitude climbing. Yetis are hinted at in the book very briefly, yet they never appear despite the hints offered by the blurb, cover and the title of the work (this in itself would be fine, yet I can't help but feel that this was a cynical and intentional misleading to cash in on the success of Simmons' much more successful effort The Terror). Instead, in true Simmons' fashion we are inundated with a deluge of climbing facts and minutiae, have obscure name after name and fact after fact thrown at us until we sometimes forget we are reading a novel and become sure we have picked up a training manual.

Simmons once again provides us with a door-stopper of a tome, flaunting his penchant for grossly over-writing and his disregard of the benefits of a good editor. For me the author's pompous, opinionated and egotistical leanings become more obvious with each book he writes. His disdain of editors is evident in this needlessly lengthy, often repetitive book. Sometimes his prose leans towards the unbearable; certain passages are rehashed repeatedly, are inexplicably drawn out and jam packed with huge chunks of baffling and/or confusing facts and explanations.

The story proper starts atop the Matterhorn as the novel's lead trio of Jake Perry, Jean-Claude Clairoux and Richard 'The Deacon' Deacon learn about the disappearance of famous climbers Mallory and Irvine on Everest and resolve to go climb the mountain to discover more about their fate. They do so using the death of another climber, Percival Bromley, as a conceited ruse to garner funds from his mother to enable them to travel to and summit the as yet unconquered peak.

Therein we are battered with roughly 300 pages of excruciating climbing jargon as the trio prepare for their trip that will sail over the head of most readers, save the most ardent climbing aficionados. The writing is frequently over-long, over-written and poorly structured as Simmons fights tooth and nail to shoehorn in as much of his extensive research as humanly possible. This often leads to awkward and unrealistic passages of conversation where one character asks another a highly implausible question which leads to an overwrought and drawn out explanation as Simmons 'shows off' his often bland, unnecessary and tedious knowledge. Every single foreign character at some point says something along the lines of 'How do you say in English? Ah, yes...' which quickly starts to grate. The Deacon, one of Simmons' lead characters in this book, is instantly dislikeable. He is single-minded, petulant, pompous and irritating, and I found myself harbouring a deep distaste of the character despite Simmons' attempts to highlight his heroic characteristics.

The second section of the book picks up somewhat after the often mind-numbingly boring introductory section and I found myself riveted as the story focused more on the dangers of the actual climbing of Everest. The descriptions, whilst on occasion still overly long, settle into a more respectable length and can actually be digested without an expert climbing manual. However, the level is not maintained for long and the book unfortunately peters out with a whimper after a sudden and jarring change of direction which alters the perception of everything that came before.

The reasons behind the trip suddenly and inexplicably change towards the end of the novel; Deacon's blind and often infuriating desire to reach the summit whatever the cost suddenly reveals itself as a meticulously planned mission. For me this sudden change didn't sit well with the Deacon's previous behaviour at all and seemed strangely out of place. Also, the explanation of Bromley's ill-fated expedition is explained in great depth early on, yet the goalposts are also moved on that one, too, raising questions as to why he and his partner embarked on this impossible mission in the first place and why the people who they were trailing didn't flag their behaviour and their obviously being chased as at all strange. Simmons fails to address these issues to an acceptable standard, in my opinion, and I was left scratching my head in confusion at times.

The finale of the novel, in striking contrast with the rest of the story, lacks depth and seems rushed at parts. When more detail was required that might have helped maintain interest and tension, Simmons serves up the opposite and the conclusion is over and done with in a short number of pages, proving again that his pacing leaves a lot to be desired.

A few other minor gripes include the protagonists referring to themselves by incorrect nationalities; Jake refers to himself as European and Kurt Meyer, Bromley's young companion, is on one occasion refereed to as German when in fact he is Austrian. The author, in true Simmons fashion, is once again openly dismissive of other cultures. Often 'British' mannerisms are described as insufferable, German historical clothing dismissed as stupid, and again Simmons relishes the opportunity to be derogatory towards Indians, mocking their use of kindling for the fire, claiming their landscape to be uninspiring and their bustling cities as savage and almost inhospitable.

Overall, I came away from The Abominable feeling pretty disappointed. There were a few enjoyable sections during the second part of the novel that had me gripped but unfortunately these moments were lost in between the cramming in of needless and boring factual knowledge.

For me Simmons peaked with The Terror. Drood was enjoyable enough, but that too suffered from being overwritten and wavered badly towards the end. Since then I have read Carrion Comfort, Black Hills and The Abominable and each time I was left disappointed. If you are desperate to read something by Mr Simmons I would suggest you start with The Terror, but I would be hard pushed to recommend this effort to anyone but the most ardent Simmons or Everest/mountaineer fiction fan.
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on 24 December 2014
This book should have been at least, at the very least, 150 pages shorter than it is. 300 pages shorter would have been better, effectively leaving off the entire ending. I found the whole 'here we are on the mountain, look how clever we are, such brilliant climbers, oh hell, there's a bunch of Germans pointing guns at us' scenario utterly laughable and the reason they were all there equally laughable.

I do a lot of editing. Therefore it follows I do a lot of reading. My insistence always when reading a story is - does this have any logic to it? The most obscure horror/fantasy story can still retain an element of logic. Unfortunately logic took one look at Everest and went walkabout. Pity the characters didn't follow suit.

Speaking of which, none of the characters were 'real' people. They came with strong prejudices which nothing shifted, despite extreme circumstances, they were racist and difficult, and should have learned from their experiences not to be either. We were asked to suspend belief in Super Woman and Super Man along side her, to believe the Germans, not having the crampons carefully designed by the French expert climbing with them, still got to the levels they did with no apparent loss of breath or strength...

Mallory and Irvine were thrown in as coincidental people. Everything focussed on a) the summit and b) Lord Bromley, dead on the mountain somewhere. And guess what? despite all that snow, ice, howling gales, blinding blizzards and all, they found all the bodies. How clever is that?

Truthfully, I am grateful I found this in a charity shop and didn't pay the full cover price for it. I won't be looking for any more of Mr Simmons' books. That's one thing trawling the charity shops is good for - checking people out before paying full price for either a paperback or a kindle copy. I've deleted so much from my kindle it's untrue and I'm going through paperbacks the same way. Is no one providing a decent read these days?
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2014
A word of warning - this book has recently appeared on supermarket shelves and, given its title, cover photo and a cover quote from Stephen King, it's understandable that people might expect some horror-strewn story about Yetis. If that's your thinking as well, you'd be very very disappointed. This is a very long 728p novel - vastly overwritten in my opinion - and up to about p500 is largely to do with mountaineering. If you're not interested in that and have possibly never heard of Mallory and Irvine, then avoid it at all costs.
I confess I was getting along with it fairly well until that 500 page point but then it descends into what I would call 'farce' and I couldn't take it seriously.
If you haven't bought it yet, some homework might be advisable - a number of theories abound about Mallory and Irvine's disappearance. An easy-reading version is Jeffrey Archer's novel of a few years ago. Further reading might show why the 20s and 30s attempts on Everest were from Tibet via the North East ridge and not from Nepal via the Western Cwm and the South Col as used by the successful 1953 expedition. I haven't read Dan Simmons before. I found his research generally spot on even if it sounded a bit like a lecture at times. No spoilers, but don't assume the title refers to what you're lead to believe it is.
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on 10 February 2014
Having read a number of Simmons' works I was excited to dig, or more aptly climb into his take on ascending Everest. Sadly I was bitterly disappointed; the mountaineering descriptions are wonderful but the story is flabby, the characters shallow, & the Apex low. Using historical settings is one thing but to build on history with such, at best, abandon, and at worst frivolity made an unsatisfying conclusion to a story in desperate need of editing. It was only in closing the book for the final time that I felt a mountain had been climbed.
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on 23 February 2014
Usually I can tell whether I will enjoy a book after a few pages. Sadly this was one of those books that I did not enjoy. I persevered but it was slow moving and a big disappointment. Sorry Dan
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on 27 August 2014
Let me cut straight to the point , I bought this book purely on the merits of it being a Horror / thriller , it is no such thing. The inside cover reads ' As the winds rise and the temperature and oxygen levels drop, Deacon (one of the main characters) and his companions hear howls in the distance. A dark creature is tracking them up the mountain, sending them scrambling blindly into Everest's dangerous heights to escape it'
SPOILER ALERT (Read no further if you don't want to know what happens)
There is no 'Dark creature' , there is no 'Abominable' snowman - as suggested by the title of this book. The abominable in question is supposed to be some candid photographs of Adolf Hitler with several young boys, taken before his rise to power in Germany. The book is a deliberately miss-marketed and promoted as something it isn't. Its dull as dishwater and obviously the marketing people realised they had a stinker of a book and decided to deliberately mislead people into thinking it was a horror novel.
The plot concerns three climbers who mount an expedition to find the remains of a english nobleman, at the behest of his rich family and who is feared lost on Everest in mysterious circumstances .The book is set shortly before the second world war and involves a German plot to recover some damning photographs of Adolf Hitler, eventually , after a long and very very dull plod , we discover that both threads are interwoven, unfortunately by this time you simply couldn't care less, as you realise you've been tricked into buying a book that isn't anything like its been marketed.
I found this a slow, unrelentingly tedious read,with the author ( a mountain climbing enthusiast in real life ) taking almost full chapters to describe the type of knot used when tying a rope . He obviously finds the subject worthy of such a drawn out, long-winded description but its simply mind-numbingly tedious.
Please avoid this book , unless your the kind of person who finds knots interesting .
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on 16 February 2014
I came to this expecting as others clearly did - and which the artwork strongly hints at - something similar to The Terror, a truly brilliant and original historical//horror novel, weaving mysticism, mythology and horror with excellently researched facts of the ill fated 1840s Franklin expedition, in a terrifyingly atmospheric tale of doomed, stranded men being picked off at will by an unseen entity amidst the desolate, frozen wastes of the unforgiving Arctic. Instead, The Abominable turns out nothiing like it; the first 400 pages are an exhaustive and frankly very tedious detailing of mountaineering techniques and methods of the 1920s as our heroes prepare for an Everest challenge to find the lost remains of a previous expedition that went missing. It's not until around p.500 that the action gets going although we are given some early hints of what the threats might be.

Without wanting to spoil the story, you find yourself thrown into a totally implausible political thriller complete with crude, comic book national stereotypes and caricatures: an insanely brave, eccentric Frenchman with silly accent; a stiff upper lip Brit; a beautiful Anglo-Indian heroine; and of course a group of ruthless and brutal pantomime Nazi villains in hot pursuit. Last of all, our insipid narrator, who's character development never gets to Base Camp, and who seems to do very little throughout the book except get sick and become incapacitated as an excuse for the writer to give us endless details of the causes and effects of altitude sickness.

In the end, we get a horribly lazy, clichéd spy thriller that revolves around Nazis set in 1924/25 and that makes the ahistorical leap of assuming everything that would happen 20 years later was already common knowledge, at a time when the Nazis were little known outside Germany, a historical license that you'd expect in a crude Hollywood historical blockbuster like U-571 or The Patriot, but not in a serious historically researched novel. Some of the unintentionally (or not?) comic peaks such as when heroine's 'clothes fall off' Kenny Everett-style at 27,000 feet to distract Evil Nazi No.1 holding a Lugar at our heroes, and - I kid you not - machine-gun wielding Nazis dressed up as yetis! At points it reminded me of Steve Martin's hilarious spoof noir film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid [DVD] and I began to wonder if the writer's tongue was in his cheek while writing it.

What I found most frustrating is that the Simmons of "The Terror" appears to have gone missing, or he must have left his writer's imagination at home, because there are so many missed opportunities to create something like the Terror, but instead we get a mountaineer's training manual with a comic book good vs. evil Nazis thriller tagged onto the last two hundred pages.

If he had attempted to weave some of the Buddhist/Tibetan mysticism/mythology that is hinted at, along with the Nazis' documented interest in the origins of the Aryan race from that part of the world - for which Himmler later despatched research expeditions of the 'Ahnenerbe' to locate the origins of the mythical 'aryans' - that might have provided the perfect link between the different stories and a pretext to weave some chilling paranormal/mythologic, occult and horror elements into the narrative. Instead, we're given the crudest mechanism for the whole cloak and dagger business, involving sexual deviance in the Nazi leadership. All of which makes me think either Simmons lost interest in this book early on, or left it to one of his research interns, who simply wrote up all her research, or he wasn't involved in this book at all, but was obliged to publish something to keep his publishers happy and came up with this idea in order to hoodwink those who had read the Terror. Either way, it couldn't be worse if it had been written by his reasercher, a lazy, unimaginative and tiresome disappointment that won't do Simmons' reputation much good.

Finally warning to any German readers you may find the visceral Germanophobia in the book a little hard to stomach. I don't know if it's just a cheap narrative device to pep up a barren plot or the writer's own prejudice, but it belongs to a different era and reinforces the penny-dreadful spy-novel feel of the book.
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on 18 March 2014
Very dissapointing. This is a long and very slow tale that is more a history of mountain climbing than a tale of horror. The best bits are just trying to copy the success of "The Terror" while the supposed true story approach is tedious at best. Unless you are specifically interested in reading a novel about climbing I would suggest giving this one a miss.
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on 26 January 2014
Really well written and stylish book which unfortunately descends into farce. Absolutely ridiculous ending spoils an otherwise very entertaining read. The last part of the book is just downright silly and frankly annoying, having invested a serious amount of time in the book. Still 2 stars for the first 500 pages or so.
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on 6 January 2014
It is difficult to write a review of this book without any plot spoilers but I shall try my best. Firstly I enjoy Dan Simmons work in the past, favourite books having been The Terror, Drood and Hyperion. A previous reviewer does mention that people are reviewing this purely from the perspective of The Terror and he does have a point. Other reviewers have criticised the amount of detail going into climbing. I was thrilled by the amount of detail and obvious research that Simmons had gone into with the climbing. One of his traits as an author is the research and detail which bring about a believable background and storyline. By focussing on real detail and tying in with historical fact the reader is drawn, almost hypnotised, into a process where the most fantastical becomes believable. In the Abominable the fantastical development of the plot is just taken a step too far and in my opinion descends into farce and the kind of stereotypes that we find in Enid Blyton, Frederick Forsythe and Dennis Wheatley but without the positive elements of these authors' stock villains.

The build up to the assault on Everest and character development are great scene setters and you have a real sense of the tension heading to breaking point. I found the main characters likeable and, as a rule, well set within their time. One of my bugbears is authors merely taking a stock character from the modern world with all our shallow sensibilities and placing them in the past which does not in my opinion work. Simmons has been great in the past for creating a genuine feel for the time he is writing about. I did get the impression however that Simmons had an eye to a film franchise and felt there was some compromisation of the story because of this. Early on we have Indiana Jones style Nazis (the villain stereotypes I mentioned before) and a feisty, beautiful female lead who is almost a stock cinema caricature. At the time I felt this could be over looked as the story seemed to be developing along a believable way.

Simmons also seemed to be knowingly playing on elements of the horror/fantasy genre hinting at almost Lovecraftian storylines and drawing the readers along like a cat playing with mice. This is a great plot device when used correctly but not when the alternative actually ends up even more unbelievable and readers are left feeling short changed. It is good to build up tension in one way but not if you are to take it away as you draw towards the climax. You end up carrying on reading just on the hope that you have misread something or that Simmons is going to bring the story back on track as a clever plot twist but to no avail.

There are a number of bits were I ended up just putting the book down in incredulity- one of the characters is revealed as a deeply devote Buddhist late in the book with the statement didn't you see him sitting cross legged and made even more absurd by the quatification of the statement that he was sitting chanting "Om Mani Padma Hum" while doing so. Also there is also a major piece of equipment which is utilised toward the end of the novel which just turns up, the author stating it had been carried by sherpas all along. Now such detail may be forgiven in other authors but not when the whole of the novel is based on consummate detail and indepth information, it just appears like the author has lazily thrown this in later on when he suddenly realises that it was needed.

The climbing detail and tension with the hazards of the mountain are great initially but when other elements are introduced the perils of the mountain are largely forgotten about and massive movements across this dangerous terrain skipped over when previously we were subjected to pages of prose. One minute our heroes are in danger of losing their life through exposure the next they are able to trip many miles of ground within just a paragraph. This just seems inconsistent and again does not fit well with the earlier attention to detail.

That said I am grateful for Simmons in reigniting an interest in exploration books and climbing as I have now gone on to order factual books about Scott's Antarctic expedition and conquests of Everest as this one really does not pull it off and the reader really is short changed.

I was torn between rating 2 or 3 stars but have opted for 3 due to the excellent attention to detail and background early on in the novel- it is just a shame that the last 200 pages or so go downhill.
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