Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review of "Hardcase" by Dan Simmons

Readers of Dan Simmons have been spoiled by his numerous great works: the Hyperion Cantos, Song of Kali, and The Terror, for example, selling well around the world and in many languages.  Hardcase, unfortunately, finds the author returning to earth from the heights of this success.  The book is run of the mill action –  well told, but still average.

Before buying the book, I noted that many reviewers enjoyed Simmons’ delving into detective noir to tell the story of hardened private eye Joe Kurtz, solving a mystery while just trying to stay alive, killers on his trail.  Having now read the book, I’m at a loss to see where the spirit of Raymond Chandler can be seen glowing in the text.  Certainly some of the elements speak to the noir genre – Kurtz’s office below a porno shop, his moral position outside the law but fighting for justice, the colorful thugs and assassins giving chase to name a few.  But sadly, the overall feel was more like Lethal Weapon than Chinatown.  Hood gangsters, drugs and guns, and mafia princesses were in fact the plot devices which moved the storyline.

As Simmons is such a great stylist, it was a bit of a disappointment not to read of dark alleys and cigarette smoke, red lipstick and .44 magnums emerging from trenchcoats, the echoes crashing through the pouring rain.  I expected something more artistic than the blase action story I was presented with.  Simmons’ usual storytelling bravado and vivid descriptions are present, but it just wasn’t enough to deepen the story.  If P.I. stories with smooth prose are your gig, by all means have a a go.  Otherwise, nothing special here.

(This review has also been posted at

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