Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Terror

The Terror by Dan Simmons was originally published in 2007. My hardcover copy is 769 pages. This is not a history lesson or even a historical novel; it is a fictional novel loosely based on a few historical facts mixed with horror elements. While there are many historical facts and details woven into the story, it is basically a novel that combines mythology and gothic horror with historical facts. Based on the details Simmons has included in The Terror, it really needs it's own classification as a "historical horror novel." It is also a real chunkster, but the story is compelling enough that you will find yourself reading it quickly. A case could be made that portions of The Terror could have easily been edited out without causing the whole scope of the story to suffer. (There are some gratuitous sex scenes that don't really push the story forward and seem to be there simply for the titillation value.) While the ending is satisfying on some level, it's also feels a bit forced and contrived. All in all, I highly recommend The Terror. This could be a great summer vacation book. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:
The men aboard the HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported as enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.

When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival - or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape.

The Terror swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as "a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them" (Seattle Post-Intelligence). With a haunting and constantly surprising story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.
First two sentences "Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts. Above him - above Terror - shimmering folds of light lunge but then quickly withdraw like the colorful arms of aggressive but ultimately uncertain spectres." pg. 1

"To go out on the frozen sea in the dark now with that...thing...waiting in the jumble of pressure ridges and tall sastrugi was certain death." pg. 6

"In this cold, teeth can shatter after two or three hours - actually explode - sending shrapnel of bone and enamel flying inside the cavern of one's clenched jaws." pg. 8-9

"While it remained a Mystery how the consumption or pneumonia or a combination of the two had been able to kill the able bodied seaman so quickly, it was at least obvious that we had nothing to fear from some Plaguelike Disease." pg. 68

"[B]ut he knew something that the men did not; namely that the Devil trying to kill them up here in the Devil's Kingdom was not just the white-furred thing killing and eating them one by one, but everything here - the unrelenting cold, the squeezing ice, the electrical storms, the uncanny lack of seals and whales and birds and walruses and land animals, the endless encroachment of the pack ice, the bergs that plowed their way through the solid white sea not even leaving a single ship's length lee of open water behind them, the sudden white-earthquake up-=eruption of pressure ridges, the dancing stars, the shoddily tinned cans of food now turned to poison, the summers that did not come, the leads that did not open - everything." pg. 189

"Death by starvation is a terrible thing, Goodsir, continued Stanley. Trust me. I've seen it in London and I've seen it with shipwreck. Death by scurvy is worse. It would be better if the Thing took us all tonight." pg. 236

"Maybe reading is a sort of curse is all I mean, concluded Fowler. Maybe it's better for a man to stay inside his own mind." pg. 340

"The problem with a student-teacher relationship was, he realized not for the first time, that it never changes while everything around it does." pg. 369

"Crozier....had seen this phenomenon many times before - false things in the sky....[I]n the spring of 1847, Crozier had come on deck to find black spheres floating in the southern sky." pg. 434

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