The Terror

The Terror

by Dan Simmons

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316017459
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 12/10/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 784
Sales rank: 31,855
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Lexile: 1290L (what's this?)

About the Author

Dan Simmons is the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Award-winning author of several novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Olympos and The Terror. He lives in Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

The Terror

A Novel
By Dan Simmons

LITTLE, BROWN

Copyright © 2007 Dan Simmons
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-316-01744-2


Chapter One

CROZIER

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.

"Captain."

"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.

"Yes, Captain."

"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.

(Continues...)



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.

What People are Saying About This

Lincoln Child

THE TERROR is nothing less than a revelation. Dan Simmons is a giant among novelists, and I am in awe of his achievement.

Katherine A. Powers

The best and most unusual historical novel I have read in years.
— Boston Globe

Caroline Leavitt

THE TERROR is both dazzling history and a sparkling chiller.
— People

Customer Reviews

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The Terror 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 245 reviews.
Caravaggio More than 1 year ago
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.
magggs More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!)
TWTaz More than 1 year ago
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!
cmichaelcook More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Ron_H More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Eric_J_Guignard More than 1 year ago
REVIEWED: The Terror WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons PUBLISHED: 2009 Up until the ending, this book was flawless. Not to take anything away from the ending – it was okay – but just not as powerful as the rest of this book. And when I say powerful, I mean my-heart-was-racing-and-I-could-not–put-this-down sensational. This is really just one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, which is no small amount. The Terror is written from multiple points of view from the perspective of a crew of 126 sailors aboard two ships that are seeking the Northwest Passage in 1845. The ships become crushed by ice in an abnormally frigid ocean that keeps them prisoner for several years. Not only must the men fight the Arctic elements and starvation to remain alive, but an evil creature begins to attack the trapped vessels, picking off the sailors one-by-one. Imagine the movie ALIENS or John Carpenter’s THE THING if set aboard sinking ships in the mid-nineteenth century. Then add in cannibalism, rats, years-long misery, murder, mutiny, lots of rum, mysterious Eskimos, rich mythology, and a demonic creature that can apparently move through the ocean ice. Yes, my fingernails were gnawed to the quick. Dan Simmons has an amazing voice in his writing, able to transport the reader into the established rules and rigid beliefs of Victorian-era sailors. Not only that, but the author makes you feel the “cold” of the ice, the “hunger” of slowly starving to death, and the “fear” of being hunted by a creature that is only glimpsed. As I mentioned, the ending was my only issue. Not that it was bad, just… a “change” in the writing perspective which made sense to the story arc but still left me somewhat deflated. Warning for all: This book is tragic and depressing. It is an amazing story of exploration and survival, but readers who don’t like it regularly complain of its despondency. This is true – it is 765 pages of gut-wrenching despair although, also, told in such beautiful prose that it still covers the whole gambit of other human emotions. Six out of Five stars (see what I did there?) Midnight cheers, Eric
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
900 pages and it is still too short. Didn't want it to end. Great read !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the very few times where excessive detail was not only well done, but welcomed at every step of the author's tale. I've never been more interested in 1800s ship building and I probably will never be drawn into a novel so heavily laden with knowledge of that particular subject again. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was actually the AMC series that led me to this, I had no idea it was a book. I also had no idea it was based on a true story/actual polar expedition! The book is heart pounding at times and tugs at your heart strings at others. Loved the setting, loved the fact that that part was factual, the combo of myth and fact is perfect! What happened to these men is nightmare enough, add the supernatural element (and it's actual mythology) and it makes for the perfect storyline!! I read it in less than a wk ... all 739 pgs!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is definitely a tough read but I think it's totally worth it. After you read this book you might feel that someone manipulated your senses in a good way. Read it twice and was rewarded with two totally different reading experiences. That is what a great book does to you but you earn it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story about the Franklin expedition. This novel is overflowing with history; there is an enormous section of references for further reading that will enhance your understanding of the story. When I read this book, I could feel the cold, the hunger, and you find yourself thinking like the crewmembers. This is one of those stories that I still think about all the time. Seldom does a novel stick with you long after you read. I read this last winter and I can recall the week I tore through this book, remembering the experiemce as if I had left for the arctic myself. This will also show you the darker side of humanity, and how we might change when faced with evolving circumstamces. Highly recommended!
PrincessNook More than 1 year ago
I neglected my house, my husband, my children, and my sleep to stay immersed in the frigid, terrifying world of The Terror...a riveting blend of supernatural horror and historical fiction. The characters come alive in your mind and you can positively FEEL the freezing cold...and their fear.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Jaynee on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Very long book - with way too much supernatural stuff. At some point I wanted all that junk to go away and just focus on the "real" story (as real as anyone can know). I just can't give it more than 3 stars based on the 100-200 pages that were completely unnecessary.
etimme on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book was both very detailed and very slow. I enjoyed the high brow approach took to portraying the dangers of canned foods (lead poisoning, botulism) by not clubbing the reader over the head with what was happening - just reminding them that the sicknesses were linked with the food for a reason nobody knew.I thought the creature was an interesting addition. The book would not have suffered too much with it removed, just because the real horror wasn't the beast, but the environment they had to live in (and, of course, the weak and spiteful men that later turned to cannibalism). Having it and the (happy?) ending with the Captain made everything fit together, however, so I guess that I'm glad the thing was in it.
ChicGeekGirl21 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Dan Simmons' monstrosity of a book took me months to read (granted, I don't have unlimited free time on my hands), but was well worth the time and effort. Simmons re-imagines the story of the Franklin expeditions to the arctic north, combining factual history (the ships Terror and Erebus did, in fact, get stuck in the ice and the men all slowly died of starvation and scurvy) and supernatural horror. In Simmons' telling, the men on the ships are stalked by a terrifying "Thing" on the ice--a monster similar to a polar bear, only twice as large and much more intelligent and deadly. This combination of real terror and supernatural terror make for a gripping story that both frightens and fascinates the reader.
mrtall on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I thoroughly enjoyed the first three-quarters of this historical-cum-supernatural thriller. Dan Simmons immerses the reader in a white waste of a world, i.e. the far reaches of the Canadian Arctic, as he traces out the doomed journey of Sir John Franklin and his two ships, Erebus and Terror, in their search for the Northwest Passage in the 1840s. As if the brutal setting -- with its relentless cold, barren islands and endless waves of sea ice -- weren't bad enough, Simmons conjures up a foul beastie to hunt the hapless sailors. It's a nice touch, actually -- it allows Simmons to punctuate the tedium of the sailors' day-to-day slog dealing with the elements with intense shots of concentrated horror; this makes for immersive and exciting reading.I have two gripes with this novel, however. On the petty side, I have some doubts about the meteorological accuracy of Simmons's descriptions of the climate the expedition must endure. Yes, it's no doubt very, very cold in the region they sailed, but he suggests they regularly encountered temperatures of -80 to even -100 F, which seems impossible, as do the blizzards in which snowfall is measured in feet. As Simmons himself notes toward the end of the book, the Arctic is essentially a desert. Simmons also makes a sloppy error when he's describing one character's recollections of the tortures prisoners in Tasmania suffered: they are described as having been forced to labor in the 'tropical' heat of Van Diemen's land; Tasmania is in fact cool and very temperate. 19th century prisoners may well have suffered greatly there, but it wasn't likely due to heat. These inaccuracies cast some nagging doubt on the veracity of Simmons's other historical detail, although I don't know enough about the real Franklin expedition to comment on that.More seriously, Simmons ends the book with an extended Rousseauvian fantasy that rankled me quite deeply. Instead of celebrating at least the intrepid curiosity and ambitious drive that sent this expedition to its doom, Simmons mocks their sacrifice with page after page of rather naive and politically-correct admiration of the 'Esquimaux' and their mythos -- and their obvious superiority to the blundering Englishmen. Nevertheless, I'd recommend reading Terror. It's (mostly) time well-spent in a strange but compelling world most of us will never otherwise see.
kmaziarz on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Simmons¿ lengthy novel tells the hypothetical story of the lost Franklin Expedition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage in the late 1840s. The story is told on a rotating basis through the eyes of several of the expedition members, including the leader, Sir John Franklin; Franklin¿s second in command, Captain Francis Crozier; naïve young surgeon Dr. Harry D.S. Goodsir; Lieutenant Irving; and several others. Little is known about the actual fate of the Franklin Expedition, but Simmons¿ account is, for the most part, true to what little has been discovered. In Simmons¿ version of events, Sir John Franklin is an aging buffoon whose pride does not allow him to make decisions in the best interest of the survival of the crews of H.M.S. Terror and H.M.S. Erebus, but instead lead to the ships being trapped in the sea ice for years, waiting in vain for a thaw as their supplies slowly run out. The men¿s slow death by starvation, scurvy, lead poisoning and botulism from ill-soldered tinned foods, near-mutiny, outright murder, and injury from frostbite and hypothermia are bad enough (and described in lavish detail), but Simmons has injected an extra horror¿a huge white beast is stalking the ice-ridden ships, killing and eating men. Is it a white polar bear? Or is it something much, much worse?¿The Terror¿ is a book which demands patience. At times as glacial in pace as the ice in which the ships are trapped, it nevertheless builds inevitably toward the horror of the expedition¿s nightmarish fate. Worth the ride for the historical detail alone, the fantasy/horror addition of the strange white beast on the ice and a final few chapters delving deeply into Inuit legend and mysticism will not be for everyone. Enjoyable.
zugenia on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Fantastic interpretation of history and historical fiction--I gasped aloud several times as I tore through several hundred pages in a London pub last night.
Jennifertapir on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A brilliant and complex novel, historical fantasy based on the final exhibition of Sir John Franklin to the Artic. Told through the eyes of a number of the crew, it describes their doomed journey.The title hints at the horror they face; the name of one of their trappedd ships; the behaviour that human's can show; and of a supernatural or mythic monster that stalks and kills them. There are hints of The Thing and possibly of Frankstein. It is a long read, but really worth it! The historical research is excellent - and the novel bears arelationship with the same author's Drood,
noblechicken on LibraryThing 6 months ago
I was having a period of reading a lot of non-fiction about the Franklin Expedition and the Arctic. A fascinating and unfathomable period and place for exploration. This book is perhaps one of the most rewarding fact / fiction books I have ever read. Meticulous in the detail and research without bogging the reader down. Scenes are terrifying and beautiful, intense and foreboding, and all are well written. This book reminds me of a cross between Patrick O'Brian and Stephen King. Simmons' portrayal of many monsters in the book, whether it be the strange creature on the ice, the madmen that plot and connive, or even the horribly cruel Arctic conditions itself, are spectacular in their development and imagery. Over 700 pages of pure genius and highly recommend to those who are into the subject matter.
wortklauberlein on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Long after the Franklin Expedition left England in the mid-1840s to find the fabled Northwest Passage, the search for its members finally led to evidence of their cruel fates. In this novel, Dan Simmons builds on what was known about the expedition to create a cold, brutish environment -- and that's the one off the ice.Filled with fascinating detail of life aboard ships trapped in the ice, what it takes to outfit and crew a polar expedition, and how much better "primitive" people are at developing a symbiotic relationship with nature, this hefty 760-page novel hits a berg once Terror Capt. Francis Crozier begins tapping into his Second Sight to fill out the historical plot. It sinks quickly with its fanciful final chapters. Still, the pace of the book rarely lags as it heads toward the inexorable end to the expedition. Simmons masterfully shows that no matter the trials and hardships imposed by a harsh climate and dangerous animals, the true enemy is within the cruelest beast of all.