Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Billionaire Byron Trumbo (no, not Donald Trump although people used to mix those two a lot) wants to sell his posh Hawaiian resort to a Japanese investor. He must make it appear prosperous while the deal is being struck. Unfortunately, due to the high prices, guests have been scarce and they are becoming even scarcer as someone or something is kidnapping and murdering them. Still such a notoriety can also be a magnet for certain people. Drawn by the sketchy news accounts, Eleanor Perry has come to Mauna Pele on a sort of pilgrimage, using her aunt Kidder’s 1866 travel diary as a guidebook. The events Kidder chronicled-tales of demons conjured up to rid the island of missionaries-seem to parallel the current events. As volcanoes erupt and vengeful gods and demons become more violent, Eleanor and her fellow guest, the indomitable Cordie Stumpf, attempt to get to the bottom of things and the bottom might be unusually deep. Then arrive Trumbo’s last wife, and his two misstresses, the official and the secret one – demons beware!
First let me tell you this one was hard to pigeonhole. A horror? Nah, not scary enough. A thriller? Too tame, too predictable and too funny at the same time even if the humour wasn’t deliberate in some scenes. A sci-fi? Hardly. Fantasy? Yes, up to a point, providing you consider gods and monsters from the Hawaiian mythology fantastic. A romance? Yes, up to a point. Adventure? Maybe but with a dash of supernatural…
The narration was divided roughly into two parts – you follow two modern women, Eleanor Perry and Cordie Stumpf, who are visiting Mauna Pele, a posh resort situated close to two active volcanoes, and, at the same time, you get to know Eleanor’s aunt Kidders from excerpts of her 19th century diary written back when Americans knew Hawaii as the Sandwich Islands. Literary condiment is there as well – Lorena Steward a.k.a. aunt Kidders while traveling around the world was for some time accompanied by Mark Twain AND they were falling in love. An exotic location, interesting myths surrounding volcanoes, two female leads and a well-known American writer…so much goodness combined. The result? A surprisingly poor novel.
The diary was tedious but the contemporary narrative was in my opinion even worse – full of shark-jumping, flat characters who behaved like puppets… Cordie had so much potential but it was wasted by lackluster, meandering plot and the fact that, at one point, the author made her really jump the shark and save a kid – two mistakes I couldn’t swallow that gladly. Eleanor existed just because she had the precious diary; her budding romance was cut short for reason or reasons unknown – most likely because the author sucks at writing romance. The main baddie, Byron Trumbo, was cartoonishly greedy and vulgar for no good reason at all unless being obscenely rich means you are allowed any kind of stupid a behavior. Scenes with Hawaiian gods and demons I enjoyed the most as all those monsters were hilarious and scary at the same time. Still they weren’t enough to save the novel, not quite.
Unfortunately not one of better Dan Simmons’s novels I’ve had an opportunity to read. The research concerning mythological beasts was good, all the rest was definitely below par. Lower strata of meh.
Other books by Dan Simmons reviewed on this blog:
- Ilium (Ilium 01)
- Olympos (Ilium 02)
- Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos 01)
- Crook Factory (The)
- Song of Kali
- Hollow Man (The)
- Terror (The)
- Darwin’s Blade