The Abominable

The Abominable

3.8 21
by Dan Simmons

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ALA Reading List Award for History, Short ListA thrilling tale of high-altitude death and survival set on the snowy summits of Mount Everest, from the bestselling author of The TerrorIt's 1924 and the race to summit the world's highest mountain has been brought to a terrified pause by the shocking disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy

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ALA Reading List Award for History, Short ListA thrilling tale of high-altitude death and survival set on the snowy summits of Mount Everest, from the bestselling author of The TerrorIt's 1924 and the race to summit the world's highest mountain has been brought to a terrified pause by the shocking disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine high on the shoulder of Mt. Everest. By the following year, three climbers — a British poet and veteran of the Great War, a young French Chamonix guide, and an idealistic young American — find a way to take their shot at the top. They arrange funding from the grieving Lady Bromley, whose son also disappeared on Mt. Everest in 1924. Young Bromley must be dead, but his mother refuses to believe it and pays the trio to bring him home. Deep in Tibet and high on Everest, the three climbers — joined by the missing boy's female cousin — find themselves being pursued through the night by someone . . . or something. This nightmare becomes a matter of life and death at 28,000 feet - but what is pursuing them? And what is the truth behind the 1924 disappearances on Everest? As they fight their way to the top of the world, the friends uncover a secret far more abominable than any mythical creature could ever be. A pulse-pounding story of adventure and suspense, The Abominable is Dan Simmons at his spine-chilling best.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In his latest historical thriller, Simmons returns to the icy climes that made The Terror so brilliantly harrowing, only this time aiming a little higher: Mount Everest. It's 1924, and the international alpine community is reeling from the disappearance of George Mallory atop the as-yet-unscaled peak. Galvanized by the tragedy, young Jake Perry and his two climbing companions vow to make it to Earth's highest point. After securing the patronage of Lady Bromley, the grieving mother of a man who also disappeared during the Mallory expedition, they join forces with the missing man's cousin to scour the mountain and belay their way to the summit. As they ascend, the expedition takes on a terrifying significance when the climbers discover why Bromley went missing and what they must do to survive. While the ultimate reveal is somewhat anticlimactic, it's the long journey that matters, and Simmons doesn't skimp on any of the gory details. The techniques, equipment, and ascent are described with painstaking historical accuracy, which makes the actual expeditions of the early 20th century seem all the more incredible. VERDICT Simmons proves his versatility once again with this dizzying adventure. Historical fiction and thriller fans will find plenty to like. [AMC is currently developing a series adaptation of The Terror.—Ed.]—Liza Oldham, Beverly, MA

In 2012, Dan Simmons celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his first publication: the short story "The River Styx Runs Upstream," which appeared in Twilight Zone magazine in 1982. Credit for discovering Simmons goes jointly to Harlan Ellison, who had Simmons as a student in a workshop and recognized his talent, and the perspicacious but generally under-acknowledged Twilight Zone editor T.E.D. Klein. (I've always felt a kind of generational and circumstantial kinship to Simmons, since Klein bought my own first story some three years later.)

In those three decades Simmons has written about thirty books, and they have sorted themselves out across at least five genres: horror, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and crime fiction. Simmons exhibits a roving, curious intellect not content to inhabit any one literary niche, a hummingbird darting among the blossoms. His fascination for a variety of subject matters, traditions, and styles means that each book of his, while harking back to certain of its siblings, will likely represent something new in his career.

Allied spiritually to his novel from 2007, The Terror, which told the tale of the doomed Arctic mission in search of the Northwest Passage undertaken by Captain John Franklin, The Abominable also conflates rich historical verisimilitude with fantastical doings. But ratios are reversed this time out. Whereas the supernatural maintained a central role in The Terror, the uncanny is only a dash of seasoning in The Abominable: piquant and essential to the recipe, but not the main ingredient.

Like some twenty-first-century H. Rider Haggard or Edgar Rice Burroughs, Simmons opens the book with a classic gambit: a credibility-establishing introduction detailing the history of the manuscript we now hold in our hands. In 1991 a dying old adventurer, one Jake Perry, ostensibly regaled Simmons with enigmatic tales of his exploits with Admiral Byrd and other contemporaries from the early part of the twentieth century, hinting at even more exotic incidents he could not speak of. With death from cancer imminent, Simmons continues, Perry promised to capture his secret memoirs on paper. Perry came through, but the results got lost for two decades, only reaching Simmons recently. Now, Simmons promises, we shall experience the long-delayed account.

The subsequent narration, in Perry's charmingly nuanced, first- person, present-tense voice, unfolds in a leisurely but never overstuffed fashion that agreeably emulates that of fiction from the mid-1920s setting of the story. There are glancing references from Perry to his life in 1991, when he is allegedly composing this memoir in a nursing home, but Simmons steers clear of any metafictional games: this reads like the work of a reflective Doctor Watson, rendering his account just subsequent to a thrilling chase.

We open atop the placid but still potentially lethal Matterhorn — suitably enough, for a novel devoted to the glories and dangers, seductions, and frights of mountaineering. Three faithful chums — American Jake Perry, Englishman Richard Davis Deacon, and Frenchman Jean-Claude Clairoux — are on holiday when they learn of the death of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in their attempt to ascend Mount Everest. Deacon knew Mallory personally and is most affected. But the tragedy soon reveals another dimension.

Also dead on the faraway slopes is one Lord Percy Bromley, a young wastrel scion of a wealthy family. The really perplexing thing is that Bromley had no connection to the official expedition and was not even supposed to be in Tibet. To complicate matters further, Bromley's grieving mother is not quite convinced her son is truly dead and commissions our heroes to mount a new expedition to learn the truth. They are promised some local aid in the form of assistance from "Cousin Reggie," resident on a Darjeeling tea plantation.

This slow buildup occupies the first half of the novel, during which Simmons efficiently and entertainingly accomplishes many things. First, he brings out the complementary natures and characters of the three men in an assortment of social settings. Although they are more than national stereotypes, the men do conform broadly to regional traditions. Perry is the eager, naïve, quick-witted American. "J.C." is the sanguine, dapper, emotional Frenchman. And "the Deacon" is a conundrum: an Englishman bearing silently the wounds of the Great War, hiding a poetic soul in a cloak of competence.

Meanwhile, we witness thrilling, albeit low-key alpine incidents that illuminate their various skills and competencies in several practice climbs. Here we begin to encounter the immense physicality of mountaineering:

Climbing up the mountain, the climber is leaning into the rock face, body intimately spread out against the rock, cheek touching rock, fingers groping for any ledge or handhold in the rock, the climber's entire body seeking out even the smallest ledges, fissures, wedges, overhangs, slabs - - it's like making love to the mountain.
On other fronts, Simmons nicely evokes the wide-open nature of the era, when great and challenging expeditions to mysterious corners of the globe still loomed as headline-grabbing possibilities. He sets up a potential villain for our heroes: Nazi mountaineer Bruno Sigl, the only witness, at some remove, to the alleged avalanche death of Percy Bromley and another mysterious German, Kurt Meyer. And of course he drops in some subtle references to the yeti, a mythical beast that the title — which, it turns out, has more than one meaning — prepares us to expect.

A fair number of these pages are devoted to what might be dubbed "gear porn." In a rather proto-science-fictional, even steampunkish manner, the various technologies, newfangled and old, connected with mountain climbing are lovingly catalogued and explicated, in the style of weaponsmaster Q offering James Bond the latest spy gadgets. (Simmons, happily, is too expert to fall into the trap of "I suffered for my research and now the reader will too.") This spy- like riff, along with the Nazi theme, brings to mind our old friend Indiana Jones in his first outing. While not a professional adventurer, the Deacon shares some of Indiana's fictional genetics, and envisioning this book on the big screen as helmed by Spielberg & Lucas becomes irresistible.

When our trio arrives at Darjeeling, more surprises await. Cousin Reggie proves to be Lady Katherine Christina Regina Bromley- Montfort, an ultra-capable and alluring widowed Amazon with definite ideas about the expedition, and some suspicions about Percy's death. With Reggie taking charge, along with her native right-hand man, Dr. Pasang, the ascent of Everest will prove most stimulating — especially since it turns into a life-or-death struggle, not just with the elements and terrain but with opponents determined to keep hidden the details surrounding the death of Percy Bromley.

It is only at the end of a massive cat-and-mouse game across the unforgiving slopes of Everest that the fantastical elements of the tale fully emerge, performing their essential role. And then, in a satisfyingly retro move, a longish coda and epilogue explicate the fallout of the expedition and bring the tale right back to Jake Perry in his nursing home, circa 1991.

What Simmons's book is ultimately all about — besides its corker of a tale about the battle between good and evil, humanism and barbarism, a contest that summons up thoughts of Kipling and London and Stevenson, as well as their homage-paying descendant, Philip José Farmer — is the sheer intractable majesty and beauty and unforgiving physics of mountain climbing, especially in opposition to the frailness of the human body. The book is full to brimming with a variety of suspenseful set pieces in which the mountain poses challenges and the humans must respond, or die. Simmons — via the easygoing but perceptive voice of Jake Perry — conjures up graphic and vivid mental movies so that the reader feels present through every frostbitten moment.

Here is Perry, down a crevasse, trying to deal with the gelatinous corpse of a crushed and battered enemy.
My movement and slight shifting of position, or perhaps some settling in the glacier itself, jogged the body slightly so that in mere seconds the man's boots folded up over his shoulders and he slipped and slid and squeezed down through a gap less than a foot wide, his body with its snapped spine and collapsed ribs folding like some obscene accordion.

Then he was gone, and for a terrible few seconds the toe points of my crampons slipped out of the opposing wall — the body must have grazed me when it fell away, but it felt more like the dead man had gripped my ankles and tried to pull me down with him.
Of such creepy and exalting carnal frissons is The Abominable cunningly composed. But Simmons does not neglect the soul or the spirit of his actors; he leaves the reader with the sense that only a thin membrane separates Himalayan heights from a more numinous heaven.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

Publishers Weekly
Even Jake Perry, the fictional travelogue author Dan Simmons “meets” in his latest novel, jokes that his reader may not make it through this “endless stack of notebooks.” But lovers of Simmons’s blend of alternate history, mystery, and myth will appreciate this three-act thriller set in the interwar years. Young American alpine climber Jake is invited on a “recovery” mission to find Percival Bromley, a British lord who vanished on Mt. Everest. Much of the novel is devoted to the strategies and techniques of mountain climbing as it was developing in the 1920s, and Jake, his friend Jean-Claude, and team leader Deacon spend a lot of time rubbing elbows and comparing gear with real alpinists of the era. But amid the wash of detail, Simmons plants crucial facts and conjectures about early-20th-century Europe that won’t pay off until Jake and his party are nearing the top of the world. Can murder and carnage be fully explained by the evil of men? Is a supernatural threat looming over the expedition? As usual, Simmons doesn’t answer all the questions he’s raised when the mysteries surrounding the loss of Percy Bromley are resolved, but his fans, like Jake, are sure to enjoy the journey. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"It has taken a great American writer to tell the most extraordinary story about Everest that I have ever read."—Nives Meroi"

I am in awe of Dan Simmons."—Stephen King"

Dan Simmons is a giant among novelists."—Lincoln Child

Nives Meroi
"It has taken a great American writer to tell the most extraordinary story about Everest that I have ever read."
Stephen King
"I am in awe of Dan Simmons."
Lincoln Child
"Dan Simmons is a giant among novelists."

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Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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2 MB

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The Abominable 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Eric_J_Guignard More than 1 year ago
REVIEWED: The Abominable WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons PUBLISHED: October, 2013 I find that one of the greatest indications of talent in authors is the ability to write in entirely different styles and voices, and this Dan Simmons possesses in excess. He has the ability to weave tight narrative, to fill dialogue with humor and insight and fear, has the ability to create worlds set in the future, present, or past. Quite simply, he outputs vast diversity amongst his many stories. The downside of this talent is that the reader doesn’t know what to expect when beginning one of his new works. Perhaps my mind just had expectations of heart-pounding action or of supernatural mayhem, but reading ‘The Abominable’ was somewhat boring. I love historic genre fiction, and I think Simmons is one of the absolute best in this field. His prose is beautiful and carefully crafted to convey the spirit of the era he’s writing in. Simmons knows every detail of every manufacturer, every geographic element, every slang in vernacular that his characters encounter. But in this latest book, he simply takes it too far. Tens of pages go into the detailed explanation of climbing shoes and chapters of description explain the ins-and-outs of scaling every type of ice, differences in toeholds, variations of granite, distribution practices of pack suppliers, etc. The author has done his research and he seems to want to cram every footnote of those studies upon you. The story itself is a well-crafted drama, written in memoir fashion, but Simmons could have cut out half of it and the novel would have succeeded twice as well. Overall, it’s a rich and magnificent book, but entirely too slow-moving for my subjective taste. Four out of Five stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. I've never climbed mountains and never will, but I feel I got a true taste of the experience. Incredible, far-reaching story, across time, nations, and, of course, mountains. Nothing was easy here, and certainly not the core of the story, which took place during Hitler's time. Wonderful complexity and insight, all taking place in a precarious world,... locally in the mountains, and with global repercussions. I'm grateful to the author for the experience. The hero, Jake Perry was both a simple and remarkable man, and his story will stay with me.
TimothyRook More than 1 year ago
As a writer you are taught a few things right off the bat. Things that publishers and editors will never deal with. Things such as too much exposition and a plot that moves too slowly to engage the reader. Also, you are taught that if you promise the reader something you had better make good on your promise. It is the idea of Chekov’s gun, “If you put a gun on the mantle piece in act 1, you better fire it at some point.” I would like to submit to you, my fine reader; that Dan Simmons has actually made every single one of these mistakes as well as a few more in Abominable. An aptly titled work, not for the story but for the quality of it. I will begin by telling you that under no circumstances would I recommend reading this book and I was not furnished with it by the publisher. So I’m $12 in the hole here. I’m hoping to make sure you aren’t. There will be SPOILERS and I try not to do this but in this case it is necessary so. If you don’t want to be spoiled, then STOP READING THIS REVIEW NOW! But if you are going to follow my advice and not read the book or you don’t care about spoilers please continue. The first problem I have with this book is simple. It is TERRIBLY BORINGLY LONG! The book wears out it’s welcome while talking about Alpine style mountain climbing circa 1925 for the first 400 pages! Yes, you get to read about how they did it in old days for 400 glorious pages. Thanks Mr.Simmons, but no thanks. This I might have been able to muster if the work then, around 429 didn’t tantalize you with stories about yetis only to drop the subject completely only a couple of pages later. Obviously trying to foreshadow future events… But not really… Second, the author decides that the characters in it are so interesting and exciting that every time we learn some new fact about one particular character named, Deacon. The entire conversation and paragraph should stop as if to say, “Dun, dun, dun…” There is an entire section near the end of the book where there are people hunting our four main characters and we find out that Deacon is a Buddhist and the entire book stops while he talks about why and how he became one. Making us think this is somehow important or interesting. I could have left Deacon completely alone considering how poorly characterized he was and he certainly fails in his mentorship of Jake Perry our main character so I’m not entirely sure why as a reader we should have cared one iota about Deacon. But Dan Simmons obviously loved him to death. Third, the entire book is told in limited 3rd person until we reach Part 3 which is around 500 pages in and then the author switches to first person. The problem is that the author’s conceit about the book is that it’s a found journal. I’ve never known anyone to write a journal in third person and the author even highlights this himself in the introduction to part 3 by trying to explain why 2/3 of the book was written that way. It was sloppy and the book’s story up until that point was so unnecessary that it could have and probably should have started with Part 3 Fourth, the book breaks a fundamental promise to the reader. This book is a horror book where there will be yetis. Many reviews have talked about the reader feeling as if, for some reason this should have been a horror book and it wasn’t. That’s because the author basically plays a Scooby Doo on the reader. Except that in Scooby Doo you are EXPECTING the monsters not to be real. It is supposed to be a mystery. This book’s lead up was framed in such a way that it made the mystery be the excuse for the story not the reason for it. Unfortunately, the author was actually trying to make you believe that the mystery was the book. He acknowledges this many times in Part 3. And the worst part about this is that the reader never sees this coming. Part 3 begins on page 444 of a 663 page book. Which means that by the time the reader realizes that he/she has been duped they figure they might as well read through the rest of the book. Finally, I would like to say that this book is the most unimaginative drivel that I’ve ever had to waste 663 pages of reading on. It was like watching a bad made for TV movie, where there wasn’t the budget for monsters so they had to make them imaginary. And better still, in made for TV movie style the villains were Nazis. The actual text and plot of this book don’t even pertain to the subject of this blog but I was reviewing it because other publications had the book in their best of October 2013 features. It isn’t horror, science fiction, or fantasy. It’s historical adventure fiction and horrible adventure fiction at that. I’ve read worse books this year, but none from award winning authors and none that were so terribly long!
JamesS More than 1 year ago
To quote the cover blurb this is "...the most extraordinary story about Everest that I have ever read."  The book reads like the journal (which it perports to be) of one who actually climbed Everest in the 20's and is based on the life of a real person, Jake Perry.  Fascinating reading about the development of Jumar ascenders, 12 pt crampons, and ice tools.  Th e real life story of George Mallory and Sandy Irwin was nicely integrated into this adventure also.  The "Abominable" wasn't introduced into the story until about 500 pages in but it was a monster of epic proportions.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent with this book and was sorry it ended.  
Rynigma More than 1 year ago
The plot twist was unoriginal and boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story will resonate with me for years to come. I was so moved by this book I bought one as soon as I finished the wonderful audiobook @ my public library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Impossible to put dow, this brilliant, epic, macabre adventure has a bit of everything, and Simmons blends it all together perfectly. Don't miss!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Just did not like the certain climax. Ended well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. Well written and very interesting for amateur mountaineers who follow Mt Everest expeditions. Believeable and likeable characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long but fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book about climbing and the early Everest attempts in the 20s. Heavy reading but very exciting and challenging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First, I say save your money and time and go for the vastly superior "The Yeti" by Mike Miller, which is a great page-turner about treasure-hunters battling this monster in non-stop action. I found it at his site and is much better than this book. While I'm a big fan of "The Terror," and both stories are extremely similar - epic historical adventure/suspense stories in frozen climates with supernatural creatures - this one just falls flat. It's almost 700 pages long, and takes over 200 pages before they even start the climbing. Simmons has alotta neat details and history about mountain-climbing technology and the Himalayan region, but I'd rather read a travelogue for that stuff. The back ending finally picks up with the excitement, but then ends with one his typically obtuse finales. While I tolerated the one in "The Terror," I couldn't stand the conclusion of the "The Abominable." Perhaps if I read them in the other order or had more patience for scientific exposition, I would've liked "The Abominable" more, but the whole book was a weak retread of his previous work. This is only recommended for his diehard completist fans, and for those who enjoy insufferably long passages about the history, science and culture of the early 20th-century. Again, you should really read Mike Miller's "The Yeti" instead for a "'King Solomon's Mines' meets HP Lovecraft" adventure/horror book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Simmons, but come on! A monster that does not appear for over half the book? Read "The Terror" instead. You won't be disappointed.
Cthulhu99 More than 1 year ago
I think the Terror is his best book,but this one is his second best book