This is a "wot I think" kind of review of the Black Hills book by Dan Simmons.
I quite liked Simmons' previous books "Illion" and (less so) "Olympos".
If you're a bit older, you might've read the Hyperion series (my dad's favourite):
So I bought Black Hills as a christmas present for my dad. The blurb sounded quite interesting, even though I'm not a Western fan.
What's it about? A Sioux boy with a strange talent touches Custer during the battle of Little Big Horn and Custer's "spirit" transfers into the boy's head.
I went into it expecting this to be the center of the story. It's not.
Black Hills is a book surprisingly similar to Terry Pratchett's "Nation".
A boy from a primitive society has a special talent involving talking to ghosts and gods. He falls in love with a white girl and his fate is (maybe) to save his people somehow, if he can.
They're both about the conflict of a modern way of life and the primitive way, which is seen as something pure.
Both books also contain a very moving, yet surprisingly clumsy confession of the authors - a confession of love for science. And hope for a better future with better humanity, which is only possible with the aid of science.
Both confessions are somehow expected, but very hamfistedly screwed into the endings.
I wish both of them went about it with more subtlety, but it's obvious this stuff is really important to them and they wanted to get it across.
Simmons adds both points of view though, usually through the eyes of Custer's ghost. Indians are certainly not idealized too much.
Black Hills is a difficult book to read. It's told retrospectively and not chronologically. It's well crafted though, so points of the substories are properly emphasized and the whole story manages to be done by the end of the book.
Simmons is guilty of some documentary-like descriptions and dialog, but I didn't mind that too much.
It's a tough read, some parts might not be exciting or interesting, especially stuff about bridges, building them, mining or sculpting of Mt. Rushmore.
And if the last 30 pages were condensed into 5 and if he handled the main message with subtlety, I would've been really extatic.
As it is, it's just a good book with an idea.
I've never been interested in the american indians, but I am now.
No art today, sorry!