cover image Fires of Eden

Fires of Eden

Dan Simmons. Putnam Publishing Group, $22.95 (399pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13922-2

A talking hog with a bad attitude and a hungry humanoid with a shark's mouth in his hunchback are but two of the many loopy touches that Simmons (Lovedeath) puts into this fractured horror novel. There's also an unusual dual narration: a third-person account of the occult revenge wreaked on a ritzy but politically incorrect Hawaiian resort, and a first-person chronicle, drawn from a 19th-century diary, of similar troubles witnessed by the diarist, Lorena Stewart, and her traveling companion, the young Mark Twain. For all its eccentricities, though, the book is unlikely to add to Simmons's clutch of awards (Hugo, Bram Stoker, World Fantasy, etc.), because at heart it's powered by an utterly conventional horror premise-that nature will bite back when bitten-and because its dominant, present-time plot is peopled by cartoonish types. Chief among these is Byron Trumbo, the Trump-like tycoon who has so offended Hawaiian islanders with his sprawling resort carved into wilderness terrain that some have called upon ancient Hawaiian gods (hog and co.) and the giant volcanoes they control to destroy the resort. Simmons generates moderate suspense as Stewart's descendant and others race to save lives and souls from erupting volcanoes and malevolent gods, but not enough to avoid the reader's feeling that he should have shoehorned the entire story into the Twain segments, whose deft period charms more aptly suit the antiquated themes, characters and pyrotechnics on display. Author tour. (Oct.)