Paha Sapa, a young Sioux warrior, first encounters General George Armstrong Custer as Custer lies dying on the battlefield at Little Bighorn. He believes - as do the holy men of his tribe - that the legendary general's ghost entered him at that moment and will remain with him until Sapa convinces him to leave.
In Black Hills, Dan Simmons weaves the stories of Paha Sapa and Custer together seamlessly, depicting a violent and tumultuous time in the history of Native Americans and the United States Army. Haunted by the voice of the general his people called "Long Hair", Paha Sapa lives a long life, driven by a dramatic vision he experiences in the Black Hills that are his tribe's homeland. As an explosives worker on the massive Mount Rushmore project, he may finally be rid of his ghosts - on the very day FDR comes to South Dakota to dedicate the Jefferson face.
©2010 Dan Simmons (P)2010 Hachette
"Hugo-winner Simmons, the author of such acclaimed space operas as Hyperion and Olympos as well as Drood, an intriguing riff on Dickens's unfinished last novel, displays the impressive breath of his imagination in this historical novel with a supernatural slant....In his ability to create complex characters and pair them with suspenseful situations, Simmons stands almost unmatched among his contemporaries." (Publishers Weekly)
This book was amazing and definitely better as audio than text because of the native language throughout the story.
I used the "Look Inside" feature at Amazon to see how these Native American words are written out in the hopes of reproducing them here. After seeing them however, I can see I don't have the ability to type them in with the character accents and symbols required to show examples here.
If I had read this as a physical book, I doubt I would have made it through because the frustration at not being able to read the widely used native language would have been too off-putting. That would have been an injustice to the book and a shame on me because this is a great story with fantastic narration.
This was a truly wonderful story about the Lakota indians of the Black Hills. It's told in flash-forwards and flash-backs of an 11 year old indian boy named Paha Sapa. It left me with a sadness for the losses of the "natural free human beings" who lived near the Black Hills, known by them as "the Six Grandfathers". It is one of the best books that I've read in a while.
This is a fascinating book, one especially suited for audio delivery. The author uses a great deal of Lakota words that would be difficult to read, but the narrator(s) do a wonderful job of consistantly and clearly pronouncing the terms, which are then clearly explained in an unobtrusive manner. The book gave me a new insight into the world of Custer and the Indian Wars, as well as the early 20th century and the construction of the Mt. Rushmore monument. I thoroughly enjoyed it until it was nearing the end, or what I perceived would have been the end. Once the climax of the story had completed, and the issue at hand had been resolved, I expected it to soon end, and I felt a little disappointed, as I often do when I am in a good book/story. But the author did not stop. The story began to almost ramble and drone on into what seemed like hours of extraneous babble. While it was related to the primary characters, it really did little to contribute to the story; it felt like Mr. Simmons had moved into lecture mode, having a head still full of musing and thoughts and lessons he felt compelled to impart. I found myself increasing the speed, almost fast-forwarding, to get to the end. I was hoping he had something more to say, so I was reluctant to just stop listening. Even after the book was finally done, the epilog, which provided some additional information about the characters and a bit of history concerning the events in the book, it just refused to end. I finally did have to give it all up and admit I'd had enough.
But DO NOT LET THIS DETER YOU. This is a wonderful story, based on some real events and characters, and will give the reader/listener a great deal to ponder. I heard no preaching about the sins of the "White Man" or the "Victimization of the Native Peoples"; In fact, what I heard seemed well-balanced and considerd. But the insights into the thinkiing of the periods will make the entire story plausible and well worth the tedium at the end.
I do not know why I downloaded Black Hills. But I am truly glad that I took the time to check out the book. It's a totally emcompassing work of historical fiction. The author has taken great pains to study the culture of the Lacota Sioux -- in particular, Paha Sapa -- who we meet when he is a child of 11. Paha Sapa, whose name means Black Hills in Lacota, takes a minor part in "The Rubbing Out of Long Hair." He becomes haunted with the ghost of General Custer and carries that hostile spirit in his mind until he grows old.
Paha Sapa's journey follows the history of the Sioux nation. His entire tribe is murdered by the U.S. Army. He has to learn to live in the world of the people he calls "waichu". These are the white men, who the indians refer to as "fat takers".
As the plot develops, we learn much about Sioux language and culture. Paha Sapa joins Buffolo Bill's Wild West Show. He becomes a demolition expert and works on the monument at Mount Rushmore. Of course, he becomes a husband and father. My only regret is that Mr Simmons left out many details in the courtship of Paha Sapa and his wife, Rain.
If you love a great story, you will not be disappointed it Black Hills.
Initially I found this book hard to follow because of jumping around the time span it covers. I almost gave up on it, but I'm glad I didn't. Once I got past about chapter 5 I couldn't stop listening. I'm well into my second time through, and speaking some Lakota now too.
Audiobooks rock. Reading rocks too, but I can read twice as many good books this way, while walking, driving, etc.
Yes. I have, because it's an especially interesting story.
The main character, Black Hills, or Paha Sapa. He is a common man, with uncommon powers, that he himself doesn't entirely understand. Faced with a life full of joy and hellacious hardships, he has a faith that he follows to the end.
I don't always like Dan Simmons's books when starting out on one because he sometimes challenges with the high level of detail he sometimes brings and (in the case of Black Hills) subject matter that I'm not particularly interested in. However, the easily accessible horror stories I enjoyed in Carrion Comfort and Summer of Night taught me that Simmons writes good books. After initially struggling at the beginning of Hyperion and making my way to the fabulous "chewy center" of that book when the disparate pieces of the story come together into a larger picture, I knew he could write great ones. Black Hills is not set in a context I usually care to read about but, because I respect and have enjoyed the author well enough, I gave it a chance and I'm glad I did. Great story in a setting I'd never have known in advance that I'd find so interesting. Engaging characters. I recommend it. The audiobook is fantastic because the narrator is very good with accents and voices.
Someone who is an American West history buff and who, in particular, wants to be forced to learn more Lakota words than necessary for any fiction book. Also, someone who wants to hear the voice of a deceased General Custer (who for some reason doesn't know he's deceased) talk dirty.
I love Dan Simmons' books and enjoy what I learn while reading them. With Black Hills, however, I felt like the author had gone waaaayyyyyyyy too far into seeming like a smart professor and left any semblance of plot or action in the dust.
I'm not sure if I disliked the narration, which seemed ponderous, simply because the material was ponderous, or if the readers themselves were also slow and generally without inflection. I would try them again but without expectation.
Boredom and disappointment in equal measure.
This book was slow and wordy from the outset. I gave it a mighty try, I think, by listening to the first two parts - 11 hours - before I gave up. I spent most of that time thinking about how I could be listening to something better, and finally decided to do that.
When I listened to this author's Hyperion trilogy, I got the 2nd and 3rd books out of sequence (It's sometimes hard to figure out which book comes next in Audible's offerings), which was annoying but my fault.
This story is like that. The timeline is mangled. This gimmick that the author uses is distracting at best, and adds nothing to the story. At least with Hyperion, the story was about timeline perturbation. On the positive side, you could listen to the chapters at random and as long as you listened to all, the experience would be the same as going from beginning to end.
A great deal of research has gone into this book, but the author should have left at least half the facts and especially most the figures out. The plot, which is thin and not very believable, could not get me past information, which reads like a contractor's report. Instead of this plethora of facts bringing the narrative to life, they weighed it down. Had I been reading, instead of listening, I would have skipped over much of this book. The author does bring an interesting prospective to the history of Custer's era. He might have done better to write a history book instead of a historical novel.
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