A common thread throughout all Simmons's novels are references to classic literature, either directly or metaphorically. (Simmons was once a middle-school English teacher).
Works by Dan Simmons include:
- Carrion Comfort
- The Further Adventures of Batman — he contributed "Dying Is Easy Comedy Is Hard", with Edward Bryant
- Hardcase — A hard-boiled detective novel about Joe Kurtz, an unlicensed P.I. who investigates a series of truck hijackings for the mafia. It had two sequels, titled Hard Freeze and Hard as Nails respectively.
- The Hollow Man — A Magical Realism novel about a man who's helplessly telepathic, and how he copes with life after his long-time wife passes away and he's forced to deal with the world at large.
- Song Of Kali — A Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane Psychological Horror about a journalist who encounters a cult in Calcutta.
- Summer of Night — A Stephen King-esque horror novel about a group of young boys living in a small town facing off against an eldritch supernatural terror.
- The Terror — A Historical Fantasy that depicts the Real Life British lost expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage around Canada's northern shore. After getting stuck in the polar ice, horror ensues when a supernatural beast starts picking off the survivors one by one.
Tropes in his other works:
- Author Appeal:
- Greek Mythology and the works of William Shakespeare appear prominently in his books.
- A strong fear of Islam taking over globally, with most people letting it happen, can be found in his work.
- The Dreaded: The Dane in the Joe Kurtz series is this, with a heaping of Shrouded in Myth on the side. An unassuming elderly gentleman in appearance, he is apparently responsible for every significant death and disappearance in the latter half of the 20th century, including Princess Diana, Jimmy Hoffa, and Roberto Calvi; when Kurtz learns that the Dane is involved in the plot of Hardcase he is quite uncharacteristically unnerved and concludes that at least he can be sure the Dane isn't after him since if that was the case he'd already be dead. Despite all the tensions, the Dane is quite cordial towards Kurtz in their interactions and ends up helping him crack the cases in which he takes part. He likely would have no qualms with killing Kurtz if he was paid for it but it never comes to that.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Jeremy Bremen from The Hollow Man suffers this as soon as his wife dies, who was the only other telepath he had met. Being around large crowds of people makes him suffer horrible migraines, considering his ability is the equivalent of watching thousands of television shows at once in 3D at full volume with no way to turn it off. The only people who he can be around with no negative effects to him are those who are mentally deficient or psychotic.
- The Topic of Cancer: The story "Metastasis" is built heavily around this trope. Apparently cancer is caused by a parasitic race that uses humans as breeding grounds. In effect each tumor is actually a larvae that devours humans from the inside as it reproduces wildly until there is nothing left. The parents then come back and devour their offspring for nourishment occasionally leaving one or two to germinate into an adult.