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My Review of THE TERROR by Dan Simmons
Dan Simmons has written a well-researched historical fiction novel, that can in fact actually also be classified as a supernatural horror story, based on the true story of Sir John Franklin’s expedition in 1845 in which he hoped to find the Northwest Passage. To this day, this remains one of the greatest mysteries in Arctic history. There were two ships, the H.M.S. Terror and H.M.S. Erebus, well stocked with ample amounts of canned goods, salt pork, and coal to keep them heated and warm. What they didn’t expect was to be caught in the pack ice with no apparent way out. Thinking time would improve their situation, they did not panic at first for surely they thought ice would start to melt and they could then finish their search and take themselves on to
The ships were trapped for an unbelievable time of three years and with supplies obviously running out and a crew not well after all that time, things looked grim. Food became scarce, men became ill and the resulting food situation was described as it may have happened with such desperation that even cannibalism took place. The temperatures were unbearable and one would think that they had seen the worse they would face. Their greatest problems and fears were yet to be realized as they were suddenly faced with a violently clever creature that appeared and was bent on attacking the crew members one or two at a time. Commander Sir John Franklin himself was attacked and killed by this beast even as temperatures fell to 50 degrees below zero. The command was then turned over to Captain James Fitzjames and Francis Crozier with Crozier being the dominant leader due to his natural will to live and survive. Crozier also was a good leader because he had good command over the men. They decided that the only way to escape would be to walk back on the ice all the while being aware that there was a monster pursuing them over hundreds of miles of solid ice. It is only mere conjecture that can realistically tell what happened to the 126 men who left on this expedition and so Simmons has full rein to develop the most horrific story one can imagine. On the edge of your seat, reading with a book you can’t put down, Dan Simmons tells the tale with nobody leaving before they see what happens. I wondered while reading this long 700+ page novel, if anyone was tempted to peek ahead at what might happen only to find they are too frightened to look!
Dan Simmons portrays in his spine tingling, nail biting, haunting tale a story based on extensive research and from an imagination beyond most. His descriptions of the conditions, as well as the setting, make the reader feel as if they are right there on that frozen ice. One can barely even begin to imagine the fear these men experienced. The physical details of sights and sounds are expressed to the nth degree, making for an oh-so-believable tale. Readers will feel the fear these men felt as they were stalked by a vicious monster that one can only imagine in their worst nightmares. The fear of freezing, in the dark and cold, and hearing shrieks and screams so horrific, it makes ones blood run cold! The author gives such depth to the characters that you know and feel for them. Unlike many a horror story or mystery where characters are often shallow because the plot and action is the starring event, THE TERROR makes you feel what these men felt and thus the fear seems very real. I found times when I had to keep the lights on as I read.
The story takes the reader to another level when Eskimo lore and mythology enter into the story to add mysticism to the horror already there. Does this myth help to explain what happened to these men and what the beast really was and what happened to it? Will the author give readers a chance to breathe or does the horror in the novel prevail and never lighten the load of these travelers? This story is a brand of historical fiction I have yet to read as it mixes supernatural, horror, mysticism, and mythology into a persuasive narrative. One will not long forget nor will anyone who reads this book not be seeking others to discuss it with. THE TERROR by Dan Simmons will surely make for a ‘great conversation of books’!