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Black Hills?? [BLACK HILLS] [Paperback] Unknown Binding – 2011

3.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006ZY0F8M
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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3.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by saying that I am a huge Dn Simmons fan. The Hyperion Cantos alone placed him in a personal pantheon of literary greats with the ability to offer stunning story arcs of monumentous events with fast paced dialogue and unique, believable characters. OK, eulogy over. As a die-hard fan, Dan Simmons novels are a 'must-buy' event, but I had remained uneasy at the direction he was taking since the end of Olympos. The Terror developed my concern, Drood confirmed it, and now Black Hills has created behavioural change. Put simply, I accuse Dan Simmons of losing his creative originality and of taking his loyal fan-base for granted. Black Hills once again sees Dan make the same mistake as his previous two works for mistaking thorough research for story. Paha Sapa is a delightful character, quickly drawing from the reader an empathetic connection, as does the story of the treatment of the Indian tribes in general. The work also creates a terrible sense of loss of a more spiritual existence that both the native Americans in particular, and Western society in general, have lost in the wake of material progress. But wrapped around this is a poorly concocted story that has only one objective - to give Dan the opportunity to display the depth of his historical research. The result is endless unmotivated exposition where the words coming out of the characters mouths are wooden and unrealistic - I found myself laughing and becoming exasperated as the book progressed. Mr Simmons clearly eeds to acknowledge his limitations, reappraise his structural planning, and return to a style and genre that made him his'name'. For the first time since reading my first Dan Simmons work (Carrion Comfort) I will no longer consider a Simmons release a literary event.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of much of Dan Simmons work (Hyperion, Illium, The Terror, Song of Kali) but this was one didn't work for me.

There's a huge amount of research woven into the story, and the scenes of Paha Sapa's young life will be fascinating for those lacking knowledge of familiarity with the Lakota (I'm not an American so I'm fairly ignorant of the history of the Native Americans of the plains) and I liked the fact that he showed a warts-and-all depictions of the life of the Lakota, and didn't lapse into sentimental cliché.

However the story starts to drag after a while. There are long periods of the story in which nothing very much happens, with little suspense generated. One of the main plot arcs is built around a historical event, so as a reader you already know what's going to happen. Hence the story suffers from a lack of dramatic tension.

Meanwhile, Paha Sapa's infection with the ghost of Custer is largely ignored and has no real role in the plot. For 95% of the novel, the ghost's only role is to write long, smutty letters to his wife, which adds nothing to the story in my view (except to make this reader feel awkward at times at the bad sex). I'm guessing these missives are supposed to provoke an initial sense of profound loss (to tie in with the spiritual loss theme as the Native Americans are slaughtered and forced off their land), leading towards the main theme of the novel (everything changes). But it just didn't work for me. I got bored, rather than moved.

Meanwhile the ending section, with two rather unbelievable plot twists in quick succession, seems like a fairly clumsy attempt to make the “everything changes” theme blindingly obvious for those who missed it the first time around.
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Format: Hardcover
Paha Sapa, whose name means "Black Hills" in the Lakota language, is not yet 11 years old when General Custer takes his Last Stand. Paha Sapa is there in person, and on finding the corpse of the one his people call "Long hair," presses his hand to the dead general's chest to count coup. In so doing he becomes afflicted with the ghost of his people's enemy, which takes up residence within him. A startling relationship which abides throughout much of Paha Sapa's extraordinary life.

Sixty years after this historic moment, Paha Sapa is again part of American legend when he is working for Gutzon Borglum as a dynamiter on Mount Rushmore. Now diagnosed with cancer, Paha Sapa intends to blow up the monument the day President Roosevelt is due to arrive for a dedication ceremony. In so doing Paha Sapa hopes to avoid the fulfilment of a revelation given to him long ago, whilst seeking a vision for his tribe in the days following the Battle of The Little Bighorn.

The level of research Simmons has put into this novel is astounding. As I followed the life of Paha Sapa through the different time zones of the story, I was awed by the great swathe of history I was witnessing. The story flits between several different times in the life of its protagonist (something which at first is a little confusing,) revealing a broad vision of the changing landscape of America. As well as The Battle of The Little Bighorn, and the sculpting of Mount Rushmore, other iconic events are entwined in the story: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, The World's Columbian Expedition in 1893 with its landmark original Ferris Wheel, the messianic Ghost Dance prophecy, and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
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