• Black Hills by Dan Simmons

      Fiction and history combine to create a most interesting story about a young Lakota Sioux boy who was not only a witness to the Battle of Little Big Horn, but who worked on the construction of Mt. Rushmore. In this extensive coverage of the people and events of the time, the legends of the Lakota Sioux people as well as the original plans for sculpting presidents' heads on Mt. Rushmore are revealed. (One amazing fact is that dynamite was the major tool used in the work. ) The story begins in 1876 immediately after the Battle of Little Big Horn, with a 10 year old Lakota boy walking among the dead and dying soldiers of General George Armstrong Custer's defeated regiment. Wanting to show his bravery, by "counting coup" the boy touches Custer's chest and as he does, he feels that something is travelling into his body as Custer dies. It was believed by the elders of the tribe that the ghost of Custer was in the boy's body. In the beginning, the boy would merely hear the rumbling of the ghost, but in later years they would communicate with each other. The boy becomes a man and works on the creation of the Mt. Rushmore sculptures. Although he uses an English name, his real name is Paha Sapa, which means Black Hills. Paha Sapa hates the sculptures on the sacred ground of the Black Hills and intends to dynamite them when President Teddy Roosevelt is present during an unveiling of the last sculpture. The events that take place from that point on do not go according to Paha Sapa's plan, and he continues to live out his long years with Custer's ghost, with them sharing each other's company for 60 years.

      Written as historical fiction with a paranormal twist, Black Hills is a fascinating treatment of Western Expansion and its impact on Native American culture. Dan Simmons demonstrate that his research was far-reaching and thorough as he describes Lakota Sioux traditions, historical figures and events and the development of modern technology. In using letters written by Custer's wife, Elizabeth, Simmons is able to reveal the erotic nature of their relationship, humanizing the general who has previously been regarded more as a fighter than a lover. Although this is a work of fiction, the extensive and detailed treatment of actual events and historical figures, along with the revealing personal commentary cause the listener to ponder where truth ends and fantasy begins. This book is both informative and enjoyable and well worth every minute spent listening to it.

      Black Hills
      Black Hills by Dan Simmons
      Read by Erik Davies and Michael McConnohie
      Hachette Audio, unabridged: 21 hours on 18 CDs

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