The Terrorby Dan Simmons
"Dan Simmons writes with the salty grace and precision of Patrick O'Brian. But in piling supernatural nightmare upon historical nightmare, layering mystery upon mystery, he has produced a turbocharged vision of popular doom." -Men's Journal
Greeted with excited critical praise, this extraordinary novel-inspired by the true story of two ice ships that/i>… See more details below
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"Dan Simmons writes with the salty grace and precision of Patrick O'Brian. But in piling supernatural nightmare upon historical nightmare, layering mystery upon mystery, he has produced a turbocharged vision of popular doom." -Men's Journal
Greeted with excited critical praise, this extraordinary novel-inspired by the true story of two ice ships that disappeared in the Arctic Circle during an 1845 expedition-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-Intelligencer). THE TERROR chills readers to the core."
Brutal, relentless, yet oddly uplifting, THE TERROR is a masterfully chilling work." -Entertainment Weekly"
In the hands of a lesser writer than Dan Simmons, THE TERROR might well have dissolved into a series of frigid days and three-dog nights. But Simmons is too good a writer to ignore the real gold in his story-its beleaguered cast." -Bookpage"
Guaranteed to have readers pulling their covers up to their noses, THE TERROR will make for a blood-freezing, bedtime read this winter-and any season thereafter." -Pages
The Washington Post
Simmons's lumbering seafaring adventure-cum-ghost story is solidly manned by Vance, who invests his reading with a vinegary tang perfectly suitable for the nautical setting. Vance derives special pleasure from the opportunity to dive into the book's mixture of King's English, Cockney, Scottish and Irish accents, delivering each with brio and panache. Working with characters who express themselves lustily, Vance avails himself of the opportunity to chew the scenery and makes the most of it. Simmons's novel mingles genres, alternating between horror and maritime action, and Vance uses tone and pitch to indicate the story's joints and digressions. Vance enjoys declaiming Simmons's characters' speeches in booming voices, as would be appropriate for the book's setting, but those listeners residing in apartments, or with babies, would be advised to keep the sound turned firmly down to avoid any potential noise complaints. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 6). (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The best and most unusual historical novel I have read in years."Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe
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The TerrorA Novel
By Dan Simmons
LITTLE, BROWNCopyright © 2007 Dan Simmons
All right reserved.
Lat. 70º;-05'N., Long. 98º;-23' W. October, 1847
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 colourful arms of aggressive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to grasp, and pull back.
The temperature is -50 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping fast. Because of the fog that came through earlier, during the single hour of weak twilight now passing for their day, the foreshortened masts - the three topmasts, topgallants, upper rigging, and highest spars have been removed and stored to cut down on the danger of falling ice and to reduce the chances of the ship capsizing because of the weight of ice on them - stand now like rudely pruned and topless trees reflecting the aurora that dances from one dimly seen horizon to the other. As Crozier watches, the jagged ice fields around the ship turn blue, then bleed violet, then glow as green as the hills of his childhood in northern Ireland. Almost a mile off the starboard bow, the gigantic floating ice mountain that hides Terror's sister ship, Erebus, from view seems for a brief, false moment to radiate colour from within, glowing from its own cold, internal fires.
Pulling up his collar and tilting his head back, out of forty years' habit of checking the status of masts and rigging, Crozier notices that the stars overhead burn cold and steady but those near the horizon not only flicker but shift when stared at, moving in short spurts to the left, then to the right, then jiggling up and down. Crozier has seen this before - in the far south with Ross as well as in these waters on earlier expeditions. A scientist on that south polar trip, a man who spent the first winter in the ice there grinding and polishing lenses for his own telescope, had told Crozier that the perturbation of the stars was probably due to rapidly shifting refraction in the cold air lying heavy but uneasy over the ice-covered seas and unseen frozen landmasses. In other words, over new continents never before seen by the eyes of man. Or at least, Crozier thinks, in this northern arctic, by the eyes of white men.
Crozier and his friend and then-commander James Ross had found just such a previously undiscovered continent - Antarctica - less than five years earlier. They named the sea, inlets, and landmass after Ross. They named mountains after their sponsors and friends. They named the two volcanoes they could see on the horizon after their two ships - these same two ships - calling the smoking mountains Erebus and Terror. Crozier was surprised they hadn't named some major piece of geography after the ship's cat.
They named nothing after him. There is, on this October winter's dark-day evening in 1847, no arctic or antarctic continent, island, bay, inlet, range of mountains, ice shelf, volcano, or fucking floeberg which bears the name of Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier.
Crozier doesn't give the slightest God-damn. Even as he thinks this, he realizes that he's a little bit drunk. Well, he thinks, automatically adjusting his balance to the icy deck now canted twelve degrees to starboard and down eight degrees by the bow, I've been drunk more often than not now for three years, haven't I? Drunk ever since Sophia. But I'm still a better sailor and captain drunk than that poor, unlucky bastard Franklin ever was sober. Or his rosy-cheeked lisping pet poodle Fitzjames, for that matter.
Crozier shakes his head and walks down the icy deck forward to the bow and toward the only man on watch he can make out in the flickering light from the aurora.
It is short, rat-faced Cornelius Hickey, caulker's mate. The men look all the same out here on watch in the dark, since they're all issued the same cold-weather slops: layers of flannel and wool covered with a heavy waterproof greatcoat, bulbous mittens protruding from voluminous sleeves, their Welsh wigs - heavy watch caps with floppy ears - pulled tight, often with long comforters - scarves - wrapped around their heads until only the tips of their frostbitten noses are visible. But each man layers or wears his cold-weather slops slightly differently - adding a comforter from home, perhaps, or an extra Welsh wig tugged down over the first, or perhaps colorful gloves lovingly knit by a mother or wife or sweetheart peeking out from under the Royal Navy outer mittens - and Crozier has learned to tell all fifty-nine of his surviving officers and men apart, even at a distance outside and in the dark.
Hickey is staring fixedly out beyond the icicle-sheathed bowsprit, the foremost ten feet of which are now embedded in a ridge of sea ice, as HMS Terror's stern has been forced up by the ice pressure and the bow is pushed lower. Hickey is so lost in thought or cold that the caulker's mate doesn't notice his captain's approach until Crozier joins him at a railing that has become an altar of ice and snow. The lookout's shotgun is propped against that altar. No man wants to touch metal out here in the cold, not even through mittens.
Hickey starts slightly as Crozier leans close to him at the railing. Terror's captain can't see the twenty-six-year-old's face, but a puff of his breath - instantly turning into a cloud of ice crystals reflecting the aurora - appears beyond the thick circle of the smaller man's multiple comforters and Welsh wig.
Men traditionally don't salute during the winter in the ice, not even the casual knuckling of the forehead an officer receives at sea, but the thick-clad Hickey does that odd little shuffle and shrug and head dip by which the men acknowledge their captain's presence while outside. Because of the cold, the watches have been cut down from four hours to two - God knows, thinks Crozier, we have enough men for that on this overcrowded ship, even with the lookouts doubled - and he can tell just by Hickey's slow movements that he's half-frozen. As many times as he's told the lookouts that they have to keep moving on deck - walk, run in place, jump up and down if they have to, all the while keeping their attention on the ice - they still tend to stand immobile for the majority of their watch, just as if they were in the South Seas wearing their tropical cotton and watching for mermaids.
"Mr. Hickey. Anything?"
"Nothing since them shots ... that one shot ... almost two hours ago, sir. Just a while ago I heard, I think I heard ... maybe a scream, something, Captain ... from out beyond the ice mountain. I reported it to Lieutenant Irving, but he said it was probably just the ice acting up."
Crozier had been told about the sound of the shot from the direction of Erebus and had quickly come up on deck two hours ago, but there'd been no repetition of the sound and he'd sent no messenger to the other ship nor anyone out on the ice to investigate. 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. Messages were passed between the ships now only during those dwindling minutes of half-light around noon. In a few days, there would be no real day at all, only arctic night. Round-the-clock night. One hundred days of night.
"Perhaps it was the ice," says Crozier, wondering why Irving hadn't reported the possible scream. "The shot as well. Only the ice."
"Yes, Captain. The ice it is, sir."
Neither man believes it - a musket shot or shotgun blast has a distinctive sound, even from a mile away, and sound travels almost supernaturally far and clearly this far north - but it's true that the ice pack squeezing ever more tightly against Terror is always rumbling, moaning, cracking, snapping, roaring, or screaming.
The screams bother Crozier the most, waking him from his hour or so of sound sleep each night. They sound too much like his mother's crying in her last days ... of that and his old aunt's tales of banshees wailing in the night, predicting the death of someone in the house. Both had kept him awake as a boy.
Crozier turns slowly. His eyelashes are already rimmed with ice, and his upper lip is crusted with frozen breath and snot. The men have learned to keep their beards tucked far under their comforters and sweaters, but frequently they must resort to hacking away hair that has frozen to their clothing. Crozier, like most of the officers, continues to shave every morning, although, in the effort to conserve coal, the "hot water" his steward brings him tends to be just barely melted ice, and shaving can be a painful business.
"Is Lady Silence still on deck?" asks Crozier.
"Oh, yes, Captain, she's almost always up here," says Hickey, whispering now as if it made a difference. Even if Silence could hear them, she couldn't understand their English. But the men believe - more and more every day the thing on the ice stalks them - that the young Esquimaux woman is a witch with secret powers.
"She's at the port station with Lieutenant Irving," adds Hickey.
"Lieutenant Irving? His watch should have been over an hour ago."
"Aye, sir. But wherever Lady Silence is these days, there's the lieutenant, sir, if you don't mind me mentioning it. She don't go below, he don't go below. Until he has to, I mean.... None of us can stay out here as long as that wi- ... that woman."
"Keep your eyes on the ice, and your mind on your job, Mr. Hickey."
Crozier's gruff voice makes the caulker's mate start again, but he shuffles his shrug salute and turns his white nose back toward the darkness beyond the bow.
Crozier strides up the deck toward the port lookout post. The previous month, he prepared the ship for winter after three weeks of false hope of escape in August. Crozier had once again ordered the lower spars to be swung around along the parallel axis of the ship, using them as a ridgepole. Then they had reconstructed the tent pyramid to cover most of the main deck, rebuilding the wooden rafters that had been stowed below during their few weeks of optimism. But even though the men work hours every day shoveling avenues through the foot or so of snow left for insulation on deck, hacking away ice with picks and chisels, clearing out the spindrift that has come under the canvas roof, and finally putting lines of sand down for traction, there always remains a glaze of ice. Crozier's movement up the tilted and canted deck is sometimes more a graceful half-skating motion than a stride.
The appointed port lookout for this watch, midshipman Tommy Evans - Crozier identifies the youngest man on board by the absurd green stocking cap, obviously made by the boy's mother, that Evans always pulls down over his bulky Welsh wig - has moved ten paces astern to allow Third Lieutenant Irving and Silence some privacy.
This makes Captain Crozier want to kick someone - everyone - in the arse.
The Esquimaux woman looks like a short round bear in her furry parka, hood, and pants. She has her back half turned to the tall lieutenant. But Irving is crowded close to her along the rail - not quite touching, but closer than an officer and gentleman would stand to a lady at a garden party or on a pleasure yacht.
"Lieutenant Irving." Crozier didn't mean to put quite so much bark into the greeting, but he's not unhappy when the young man levitates as if poked by the point of a sharp blade, almost loses his balance, grabs the iced railing with his left hand, and - as he insists on doing despite now knowing the proper protocol of a ship in the ice - salutes with his right hand.
It's a pathetic salute, thinks Crozier, and not just because the bulky mittens, Welsh wig, and layers of cold-weather slops make young Irving look something like a saluting walrus, but also because the lad has let his comforter fall away from his clean-shaven face - perhaps to show Silence how handsome he is - and now two long icicles dangle below his nostrils, making him look even more like a walrus.
"As you were," snaps Crozier. God-damn fool, he mentally adds.
Irving stands rigid, glances at Silence - or at least at the back of her hairy hood - and opens his mouth to speak. Evidently he can think of nothing to say. He closes his mouth. His lips are as white as his frozen skin.
"This isn't your watch, Lieutenant," says Crozier, hearing the whip-crack in his voice again.
"Aye, aye, sir. I mean, no, sir. I mean, the captain is correct, sir. I mean ..." Irving clamps his mouth shut again, but the effect is ruined somewhat by the chattering of his teeth. 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. Sometimes, Crozier knows from experience, you can hear the enamel cracking just before the teeth explode.
"Why are you still out here, John?"
Irving tries to blink, but his eyelids are literally frozen open. "You ordered me to watch over our guest ... to look out for ... to take care of Silence, Captain."
Crozier's sigh emerges as ice crystals that hang in the air for a second and then fall to the deck like so many minuscule diamonds. "I didn't mean every minute, Lieutenant. I told you to watch her, report to me on what she does, to keep her out of mischief and harm's way on the ship, and to see that none of the men do anything to ... compromise her. Do you think she's in danger of being compromised out here on deck, Lieutenant?"
"No, Captain." Irving's sentence sounds more like a question than an answer.
"Do you know how long it takes for exposed flesh to freeze out here, Lieutenant?"
"No, Captain. I mean, yes, Captain. Rather quickly, sir, I think."
"You should know, Lieutenant Irving. You've had frostbite six times already, and it's not even officially winter yet."
Lieutenant Irving nods dolefully.
"It takes less than a minute for an exposed finger or thumb - or any fleshy appendage - to freeze solid," continues Crozier, who knows that this is a load of horse cobblers. It takes much longer than that at a mere fifty below, but he hopes that Irving doesn't know this. "After that, the exposed member will snap off like an icicle," adds Crozier.
"So do you really think there's any chance that our visitor might be ... compromised ... out here on deck, Mr. Irving?"
Irving seems to be thinking about this before replying. It's possible, Crozier realizes, that the third lieutenant has put far too much thought into this equation already.
"Go below, John," says Crozier. "And see Dr. McDonald about your face and fingers. I swear to God that if you've gotten seriously frostbitten again, I'll dock you a month's Discovery Service pay and write your mother to boot."
"Yes, Captain. Thank you, sir." Irving starts to salute again, thinks better of it, and ducks under the canvas toward the main ladderway with one hand still half raised. He does not look back at Silence.
Crozier sighs again. He likes John Irving. The lad had volunteered - along with two of his mates from the HMS Excellent, Second Lieutenant Hodgson and First Mate Hornby - but the Excellent was a damned three-decker that was old before Noah had fuzz around his dongle. The ship had been mastless and permanently moored in Portsmouth, Crozier knew, for more than fifteen years, serving as a training vessel for the Royal Navy's most promising gunners. Unfortunately, gentlemen, Crozier had told the boys during their first day aboard - the captain had been more than usually drunk that day - if you look around, you'll notice that while Terror and Erebus were both built as bombardment ships, gentlemen, neither has a single gun between them. We are, young volunteers from Excellent - unless one counts the Marines' muskets and the shotguns secured in the Spirit Room - as gunless as a newborn babe. As gunless as fucking Adam in his fucking birthday suit. In other words, gentlemen, you gunnery experts are about as useful to this expedition as teats would be on a boar.
Excerpted from The Terror by Dan Simmons Copyright © 2007 by Dan Simmons. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Dan Simmons is a recipient of a Hugo Award and the author of critically acclaimed suspense and science fiction novels. He makes his home in Colorado.
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I first picked this book up because the cover caught my eye and so did the unbelievable price at $5.98. After reading about the book I could not stop thinking about it, so one day I started reading it and could not put it down! It jumps you right into the story of the Franklin Expedition and the two boats that get lost in the frozen seas. However, starvation, disease, and mutiny are not the crew's only enemy, the bigger threat is the intelligent beast that lives out on the ice that seems intent on the destruction of all living things aboard these two vessels.
I originally bought this book for my husband and only read it as a fluke, but once I opened it up, I couldn't put it down, even though at times I had to actually go outside and sit in the bright daylight to get the images of cold and death out of my mind. Character development, plot and even the rather inexplicable supernatural element all were handled masterfully, and added up to a novel that truly makes the reader not only examine the essence of evil but absorb it to the point of actual fear. The well-crafted prose style and references to Hobbes' Leviathon and Poe's Masque of the Red Death add a period authenticity to what might otherwise be something of a Stephen King knock-off. I give this book my highest recommendation.
The story of John Franklin's ill-fated expedition to search for the Northwest Passage is one of those rare books you will put off your job, your favorite TV show, your dinner, your life in general, to read! It is 700+ well written pages of harrowing, exciting, undistilled adventure. If you like stories of man against the elements--explorers going to uncharted areas of extreme climes, mountain climbers clinging to the faces of Everest and K-2, fishermen facing giant seas, etc. you will LOVE this book. Not only does the reader have this high excitement to enjoy, there are supernatural and spiritual elements as well. Or are there? the characters are wonderfully well fleshed, from the dour, often drunk, Captain Crozier, an irritable Irishman who knows he will not be promoted futher in Her Majesty's Navy to Dr Goodsir, ships surgeon, who, unsure of himself at first, at last remains utterly true to the self he has found. THE TERROR shows mankind at its best as well, of course, at its worst. There is death in abundance, noble deaths abound-- as do the ignoble, the stoic and cowardly--and the mysterious. Dan Simmons, always a good writer, has really outdone himself with this one and I hope he reprises himself with at least one other failed expedition. I can hear the ca-chiiig at the box office now! Spielberg gets my vote. And who is that dead man in the bed anyway? Bravo Dan! (I'd have given it 10 stars if I were able!)
What a great book! I purchased it for the supernatural aspect, but ended up enjoying it much more for the wonderful characters, great descriptive writing, and endless suspense. I will admit that the first 100 or so pages weren't that gripping, but after that hump...wow. I couldn't put it down. A great book that also reminds us that sometimes human beings are more of a monster than the unknown entity in this story. At 700+ pages, don't let the size put you off. It's well worth the time you invest in reading it!
Interesting experience reading this book -- I was a bit bored at times but almost always compelled to keep reading. It's difficult to describe. I felt like there were passages of the book that weren't essential, but the sailors' predicament was so suspenseful I had to keep reading. (In fact, I found myself pursuing this book much more enthusiastically than many I've recently read.) At the end, Dan Simmons pulled it all off, bringing together those events that seemed inconsequential at first. As I was finishing it, I found myself thinking, "I should read this again some time," but at almost 700 pages it will probably be a while. Recommended for someone who really wants to lose themselves in a page-turner with substance.
Dan Simmons's multi-genre expertise spins an engrossing historical tale into a white knuckle thriller. I found I couldn't sit down to read this book without a warming fire and comfortable quilt. While mastering the nautical language of the mid-1800s, Simmons touches all the senses; the touch of bitter cold, the scents of unwashed human beings and spoiled 'victuals', the pain of foot long claws, snow blindness offset by months of near-total darkness, and the sounds of men fleeing from the unknown thing on the ice. Simmons uses substantial research and his talent for epic world-building to pull the reader onto the slippery decks and treacherous pack ice of the Arctic.
I read a review of this book and form that review i decided to buy it. I am only half way through but i already love this book. The fact that the main sotry is based on actual events is really interesting, i find myself reading everything i can find now on the true story of the Franklin Expedition. The characters in the novel very likeable or hateable whatever the case may be but i enjoy taking this crazy journey with them.
It's rare that i get a hold of a book that doesn't let me go, but this is one of those books. I read it every available second i had, could not put it down. Some of the characters became my friends and some became my worst enemies. In the end, I wanted to slow down so as not to lose my friends, but couldn't because I HAD to know what happened to everyone. It was sad and creepy and thrilling and satisfying all at once. Dan Simmons makes you FEEL the cold of the Arctic and the terror the men experience from not only 'the thing on the ice' but from everything they must face. I highly recommend this book!
900 pages and it is still too short. Didn't want it to end. Great read !
I eagerly waited for this book's release. However, after getting halfway through the story and finding the plot dragging along, I put it down. Simmons has thrilled with other works (including my favorite book, The Crook Factory) but here gets bogged down. for example, count how many times the word 'serac' is used throughout the book. When Simmons slowed the narrative to describe the advantages and drawbacks of a multitude of different types of boats, I stopped reading. The 'terror' in the story is a lot like the monster on the ABC TV show Lost - after a certain point, we just want to know what it is. Simmons delivery, however, disappoints.
Enjoyed from start to finish. Maybe slightly drawn out to some, but to me that's the whole point of a novel using historial information. Put the reader in the person's shoes. Very interesting the depth Dan Simmons put into this novel. I am now reading his "Abominable".
This was a very well researched historical novel with extensive character development and a compelling plot line. Unlike some reviewers, I did not mind the length of the book,was never bored with the narrative or detailed descriptions of the Arctic landscape. I would have given Terror 5 stars except for the last part of the book,which I had to deduct a full star.Given the deep and descriptive insight into the personality of the lead character, Captain Crozier' I found his actions at the end of the book. disappointing and implausible. Maybe I could buy his reltionship with Lady Silence,; But how Crozier could willingly submit to the evil Arctic spirit beast that had maimed and killed so many of his men, sacrifice his tongue and become sort of apale skinned shaman in its honor, was preposterous. It would have been truer to the Captains character and much more satisfying . if he had gone to his death, fighting the creature.It was still a very good book,;, but it could have been a great one.
Another historical fiction from Dan Simmons. A great, but long, read about the Franklin Expedition to the north pole. Nice supernatural touches added to the storyline.
The Terror,both the Title of the book and the name of the ill-fated ice-breaker from a late 1800's polar expedition is a multi-dimensional classic It combines historical fiction,horror,and .thrilling adventure all in one very long but never boring epic saga. Once again,Dan Simmons creates characters both unforgettable and real.The story is of two ice breakers from the late 1800's on an expedition at the North Pole to find a way through the NorthWest Passage.The plot is thick with mythos,horror,strife and human struggles. Dan Simmons captures the culture,attitudes and practices of the 19th Century .The "terror" out in the frozen dark icy North Pole stalking the men stuck for years in the ice is nothing compared to the horror of mere survival,both physically and mentally.The men aboard the two ice breakers in the years trapped in the ice are alive and real and you will find yourself experiencing their trials and miseries with them .It grips you and does not release you even after having finished the book. This classic has everything-mystery, drama,horror,exquisite detail,emotion,sorrow,thrill,and edge of your seat,nail biting suspense.This novel is not for readers with short attention spans or the faint of heart.It is written in a style reminiscent of the classics that actually were written in that time period,lending a further sense of being there....You don't have to be high brow to read The Terror....but it has elements of mastery that are found in true literature.
I really liked the way Simmons combined historical elements and research on Eskimo tribes to craft a superb story with elements of human and other horrors the crew may have experienced. This book also left me intrigued about the arctic and the famed Northwest Passage. It also made me feel lucky that although this has been a cold winter, it is all relative! ;-)
Fantastic Book! Dan Simmons takes history and puts a new spin on it.
Not the story I thought I was buying but mesmerizing nonetheless. I could not put it down. Didn't even got bed last night as I was finishing up this amazing journey. Loved the ending.
At first I wasn't sure I could get into the book because of the way it was written, but I never gave up and it was really a good read. I was completely happy the way it ended.