cover image Lovedeath


Dan Simmons. Warner Books, $30 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51756-0

Wildly varied images of love and death, and the strange connections between them, pervade this imaginative, uneven collection of five novellas. Simmons ( Children of the Night ) starts conventionally with ``Entropy's Bed at Midnight,'' a Carveresque tale focusing on parental and marital love impacted by tragedy. ``Dying in Bangkok'' juxtaposes elements of supernatural horror with a meditation on the natural horror of the AIDS epidemic. ``Sleeping with Teeth Women,'' the most successful of the novellas, addresses its themes of love and death through a synthesized Native American folktale engagingly told by an embittered old man on a reservation; ``Flashback,'' a contrived but intriguing SF tale, examines familial love in the face of urban disintegration and a new, nationwide drug addiction; and ``The Great Lover,'' an ambitious historical fiction, takes the form of a newly discovered journal kept by James Edwin Rooke, a famous (fictional) WW I infantryman and poet whose horrific battle experiences fostered a new and mighty love for life. Generally, Simmons is far more convincing when evoking the faces of death--whether the real terrors of war or fanciful ones like a vampiric succubus--than those of love. The stories occasionally take on an unexpected facileness or wax incongruously saccharine, forcing a reader to question their sincerity and depth of thought. Fortunately, Simmons's first-rate storytelling and the eerie vividness of his darker imagery should pull the engrossed reader through most such moments of doubt. (Nov.)