The Costner movie based on this book is one of my favorite movies ever, so it was only natural for me to pick this book when I saw it. As most would agree, the movie is NEVER as good as the book, so I quickly surmised that, since the movie was fabulous, the book must reach vast unknown limits of greatness, right? Well, not exactly. Michael Blake's writing of DANCES WITH WOLVES is certainly a good book and a wonderful story, it is Costner's ability to turn this story into such a brilliant production that is the real achievement here.
I have found that normally, if I like a movie and read the book afterwards, it serves to enhance what I saw on film. In this case, however, the book had somewhat the opposite effect for me. There are differences between the two that only seem to diminish Costner's work. A couple of things I knew already, such as Costner's use of the Indian Chief, Ten Bears, who I knew to have been a great Comanche, not a Sioux.
Well, as it turns out, the book is written to that effect. The Indians befriended by Lt. Dunbar and portrayed in the movie as Sioux, are actually Comanche. Now I can understand the alteration here, for a couple of reasons. First of all, though most Americans are notoriously ignorant of our rich history, for the most part, people do know the Comanche were the badest of the bad and it would be an increased degree of difficulty to portray the Comanche in a positive light as being rather passive and wanting only to be left alone to live in peace. Though the Sioux were hardly any more docile, their reputation is certainly not nearly as notorious. Also, for cinematic reasons, it's certainly understandable that the domain of the northern Sioux is a more picturesque backdrop that the barren plains of the Southern Comanche. Also, the Sioux language of the movie has a more poetic feel to it and is somewhat more widely recognized than the rather obscure Shoshonean spoken by the Comanche.
I hope I haven't given the wrong impression here. This is a very enjoyable read, though it is a rare occasion where the book was not nearly as enjoyable, for me at least, as was the movie.
AMAZON.COM READER'S REVIEW
Set in 1863, the novel follows Lieutenant John Dunbar on a magical and unpredictable journey from the ravages of the Civil War to the far reaches of the imperiled American frontier, a frontier he naively wants to see "before it's gone".
His posting to a desolate and deserted outpost is the springboard for contact with the lords of the southern plains...the Comanches.
Though he does not speak their language, has no knowledge of their customs and is considered a trespasser, Lieutenant Dunbar finds himself intrigued by the exotic and alien culture of the buffalo-hunting people of the plains.
A simple desire to know more about his wild neighbors ignites a great adventure of transformation that culminates with the emergence of a different kind of man...a man called Dances With Wolves.
Dances With Wolves has appeared in hardcover only once in the United States. That edition has been out of print for more than ten years.
When a drunken major ordered Lieutenant John Dunbar to an abandoned army post, the war-weary soldier suddenly found hinself alone, beyond the edge of civilization, with only a wolf and some roving Comanches for company.
Thievery and survival soon forced Dunbar into the Indian camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever. Each day in the wilderness, Dunbar became more Indian, learning the ways of a proud and glorious people. But when his past came back to haunt him and he was faced with the greatest decision of his life, Dunbar discovered who the real savages were and where his loyalty lay...
Great book! A lot to think about as you read about how a life of solitude in a strange land caused a soldier to learn the ways of native americans he encountered and how he came to understand and respect them.
Oh Gosh, how often do you say, the movie was so much better than the book! I did not like this book at all! I seem to recall I didn't care for the characters, and if you don't like the people, there is no liking the story, good or bad. And just for info here, this book was not about the Sioux like in the movie, and don't expect any of the movie characters. Costner really performed a miracle turning this into such a beautiful movie.
When a drunken major ordered Lieutenant John Dunbar to an abandoned army post, the war-weary soldier suddenly found himself alone, beyond the edge of civilization, with only a wolf and some roving Comanches for company.
Thievery and survival soon forced Dunbar into the Indian camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever. Each day in the wilderness, Dunbar became more Indian, learning the ways of a proud and glorious people. But when his past came back to haunt him he was faced with the greatest decision of his live, Dunbar discovered who the real savages were and where his lobalty lay.....
I hope these reviews aren't keeping people from reading this great western. I loved this book so much. Usually after seeing a movie I'm not interested in the book but this book adds more depth to the movie. I even ordered the sequel, which was good too.
The original novel upon which the outstanding Academy Award winning film was based. Not as good as the film -- but a wonderful read for fans of the best and most inspirational movie about Native Americans ever made.