"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

Monday, January 24, 2022

"Carrion Comfort" by Dan Simmons (1983)

....I despair at the rise of modern violence. I truly give in to despair at times, that deep, futureless pit of despair that poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called carrion comfort.

"Carrion Comfort" by Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons' 1989 novel Carrion Comfort is a thousand page eBook. That's a little more than I can face on the patio on Memorial Day.

So I opted for the 1983 novella, which originally appeared in the old Omni magazine. It's a great story, exciting and provocative with a deep vein of anger driving it.

Simmons introduces us to three old "friends" meeting up at the home of one in Charleston, South Carolina.

Willi is a former Nazi and war criminal, and is now working as a filmmaker Hollywood.

Nina is a youthful fashion columnist and retailer.

Melanie is older and retiring.

And all three are monsters. Though they look like us, they are conscious predators of the human race.

....All humans feed on violence, on the small exercises of power over another. But few have tasted—as we have—the ultimate power. And without the Ability, few know the unequaled pleasure of taking a human life. Without the Ability, even those who do feed on life cannot savor the flow of emotions in stalker and victim, the total exhilaration of the attacker who has moved beyond all rules and punishments, the strange, almost sexual submission of the victim in that final second of truth when all options are canceled, all futures denied, all possibilities erased in an exercise of absolute power over another....

....Merely observed, violent death is a sad and sullied tapestry of confusion. But to those of us who have Fed, death can be a sacrament....

They are also intelligent, attractive, and wealthy. Their Feeding (or Hunting) has gone on for decades. It is now their little yearly competition: who has taken control of the most people and forced them to perpetrate the most obscene crimes?

Nina has caused the murder of a Beatle. Willi has several West Coast mass murders under his belt. Melanie, however, has spent the previous twelve months not Feeding.

This sets up the conflict that will propel Melanie across nighttime Charleston in a fight for survival. Lest the reader think this makes Melanie our hero, let me assure you humans have no rooting interest when one of our predators fights another.

"Carrion Comfort" is a great vampire story, free of idealization, eroticization, Promethean wish-fulfillment. Its creatures are parasites unworthy of sympathy.

But they are fascinating, and they do have the ability for self-reflection. As our enemies so often do.

27 May 2019

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