Let me start out by saying that I picked up this audiobook because it was heralded as one of the most disturbing books of all time. Even my favorite author, Stephen King, sang its praises. And it was extremely disturbing, on many levels. Dan Simmons is pretty messed up. Still, I'm not sure that it was as disturbing as some of the books I've read. I reserve the title of most disturbing for books about real life horrors, like the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and anything written by Ann Coulter. It seems only fair that true tragedy should be much, much more disturbing to us than that which is fictional.
Still, this book was not a disappointment, as far as horror fiction is concerned. The idea of mind vampires - creatures who lived immortal lives and grew younger the more they fed upon their victims - was absolutely terrifying. Their ability to control normal human beings like real-life puppets, even after those humans were clinically dead, was an awful idea for me to entertain.
What begins as an odd series of murders in Charleston ends up being more than that by far, as the book's human characters discover the foul existence of creatures who competed with each other by killing as many people as possible, in the most public manner. They used regular people to carry out their will, making anyone a deadly threat, even a sweet old grandmother or a six-year-old boy.
I enjoyed Simmons' character development, because it made me care so much and hope they would survive. I was heartbroken to lose some of the book's best characters, and I was happy to see those who were evil get their due. Simmons also has a knack for throwing curve balls at his writers; while I was preparing for one outcome, another came out of nowhere. There was not a single boring moment in Carrion Comfort. No character's fate was neatly foreshadowed.
Carrion Comfort was full of surprises and twists to keep you guessing the whole time. I highly recommend this book for those who can take some pretty grisly writing, but I would skip it if you're looking for something you can read in a weekend. After finishing this book, I look forward to experiencing it again, to see what clues I might have missed.