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Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Terror - Dan Simmons


Wait. Let me back up. I received The Terror by Dan Simmons a while back from a friend who works in the publishing industry. It's quite a hefty tome and I really didn't know anything about it so it's been sitting on my shelf for about a year now.

But I recently read a few reviews on it and the subject matter is perfect for this month's R.I.P. III Challenge because boy is this a scary/horror book.

First of all, let me tell you I liked it. I really liked it. Four out of five stars. But let me warn you that I normally don't read scary/horror books. For instance, I've never read a Stephen King (gasp!) book. Ever. But since I liked this book, maybe I should read more of that genre. Who knows?!

Second, it's historical fiction as well. The characters are real characters who existed once upon a time and since I LOVE that genre...well...

Third, it takes place in the Arctic and since I used to live in Alaska I know a bit about how freakin' cold places can get and what it does to your body, mind, and spirit.

Moving's my synopsis:

The Terror and The Erebus are two ships led by Sir John Franklin which are sent on an expedition in the 1840s to find the Northwest Passage.

(Enter the historian in me-- the Northwest Passage exists but is highly impractical because of the ice and weather. So we already know something of what the characters in the story are going to go through. I also had to curb my curiosity and not Google The Terror, The Erebus or Sir John Franklin to see what history has to say because the expedition really happened).

Remember that this is the 1840s and the men leading these types of expeditions weren't too bright. They didn't try and learn from Natives living in the area, they made impractical decisions, and didn't know much about the diseases that often plagued sea voyages. And you would think they'd know better since many had been on expeditions in Antarctica.

For two years the two ships are trapped in ice. Food and morale is running low. Disease is becoming prevalent. Crew mates are losing fingers and toes to frost bite. Mutiny is a possibility.
On top of all this, a THING...a big THING...a THING worse than a polar bear (which are terrifying in of themselves) is stalking the ships and people and is picking them by one.

Ok, so I called it a THING. You'll have to read it for a better description. But it is scary. And the when people die it is gory with lots of details. The way Dan Simmons wrote I was squirming just reading and could really picture it. And you really get to know many of the crew members. I really felt for some of them and wanted them to survive and make it...and some I just hated and wanted the THING to pick them off.

But there are downsides to the book. At the beginning the book flip-flopped a lot time-wise. I know it was to give back story but sometimes it was a bit confusing. After that though, the rest of the book is pretty linear. Also...the book is LONG...784 pages to be exact. And while my attention did not flag, I wouldn't have minded if the book was a couple hundred pages shorter. And I have heard the some people don't like the ending. I thought it was ok...which is why (along with the length) I gave it four not five stars. It had to end somewhere...and explain some I thought it wrapped it up pretty well.

I am going to recommend this book to my brother and husband. But if you don't really like gory/horror books or historical-fiction...this might not be the book for you. But for me...I liked it.

And because I like photos, this first batch is taken from this article on

The Erebus and The Terror

Captain Crozier:

Commander Fitzjames:
Sir John Franklin (from this article on

This has been my second book for Carl's R.I.P. III Challenge

Also Reviewed by:

Bride of the Book God


  1. I really have to read this book! I've yet to see a single negative review of it.

  2. Hmm, I'm thinking this one is NOT for me. I love the historical part (I'm familiar with the story and find it fascinating - much like Shackleton's story at the other pole) but the THING and all the gory details are a bit much for me.

  3. Sounds like my kind of book! I'll have to pick it up.

  4. I've read enough great review of this book and I think it is well past time that I at least pick it up!!! Nicely done!


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