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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Terror by Dan Simmons

Simmons, Dan. The Terror.

6 words: Engrossing. Cold. Starvation. Horror. History. Myth.

Based on the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845, The Terror is the name of the novel, the name of one of the ships, and a description of the experiences (both real and fictionalized) that the men who embarked on the search for the Northwest Passage endured in their arctic exploration.

The ships H.M.S. Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror, captained by Sir John Franklin and Francis Crozier and crewed by 126 men, are caught in an ice pack for two years. Temperatures reach as much as -100; the long Arctic night begins in August; food is dwindling, as is the coal supply, and much of their canned food is contaminated; many of the crew begin showing symptoms scurvy; and if those conditions aren't bad enough, there is a creature stalking and brutally killing the crew.

Dan Simmons has created an absolutely riveting novel with incredible historical detail. This is a novel that I will not forget. Thanks again to Stefanie of So Many Books whose review first caught my interest! I wrote a little about the novel here, as well.

Nova made a documentary of the expedition. This slide show gives some great background. Click on the small pictures above the slide show to continue through segments 2-5.

Dan Simmons has created an absolutely riveting novel with incredible historical detail. This is a novel that I will not forget.

Fiction. Historical Fiction. 2007. 766 pages.


  1. This does sound fabulous. I love the cover too. I think I forgot it was based on a real expedition.

  2. I've heard nothing but great things about this book. I can't wait to get to it.

  3. In Drood, Dan Simmons started referring to the Franklin Expedition as well, and whether there was cannibalism involved.

    I need to read The Terror. But only after Drood.

  4. iliana - The cover is based on a newspaper illustration from the time period. It makes you glad you can keep warm!

    Nymeth - It is definitely long, but since I didn't want it to end, that was a plus. And it read quickly, too.

    Orpheus - :) Simmons was cross-referencing! He talks about Dickens in The Terror and the Franklin Expedition in Drood!

    I picked up another of his books at the library, but I'm eager to get a hold of Drood.

  5. I really need to finish this book! I started it a while back and got busy and put it aside... I was loving it too. That's the second time I have done that with Simmons book. I think part of the problem is that his books are really long and they are like a trilogy in one book: The first 1/3sets things up, the second develops things, and then the last half picks back up again. I think I will dust this one off tonight, though. :)

  6. Kailana - I loved the detail that Simmons included from all of the primary sources; it helped make everything seem real! The last section takes a decided twist to the narrative.

  7. The first review of this that I read intrigued me. The Franklin Expedition was briefly mentioned in Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, so I'd heard of it before.

    Now that I've read your review, it's definitely going on the TBR list.

  8. I love stuff like this...sounds familiar -- is this one Nancy Pearl discussed?

  9. I've yet to hear of anyone not liking this book. I have it in cloth (and I bet it is out in paper now!), and I really need to read it. I think the sheer size (and carrying it to work) have put me off. But I must get to it soon!

  10. SuziQ - Funny...I've pondered about the kind of person who would volunteer for that 1845 expedition, and Krakaur certainly is that kind of person. I felt the same when I read Dark Summit, about that deadly year on Mt. Everist and the men who attempted the climb in such unbearable conditions. Still need to read Krakaur's Into Thin Air about that year.

    Bybee - I'm not sure if Nancy Pearl discussed it or not. I wasn't familiar with Dan Simmons until recently when I read about Drood and then read about The Terror on Stefanie's blog.

    Danielle - I haven't heard of anyone disliking it either--which I find a bit odd, as I don't think it will appeal to everyone. Maybe once they get into it, they just get hooked!

  11. I have an ARC of Simmons's other book, Drood, on my nightstand right now. I'm glad to see you like his work! I may have to read this myself.

  12. This book sounds really great. I wouldn't normally be interested in a book with such a title, but knowing the subject matter, I can see that's a mistake!

  13. Oooh, I still need to read this.

  14. So glad you liked the book! I definitely won't forget it either, the images just stick in your head. I am looking forward to reading Drood. Thanks for the link to the Nova slide show. I am going to have to see if Netflix has the entire show or some other documentary about the exhibition.

  15. I want to read this so much. I've always been interested in the Franklin Expedition and can never stand to look at that famous photo of one of the men they found frozen/mummified in his coffin.

    Luckily I have Drood on it's way to me as an ARE. Can't wait to read it either.

  16. Katherine - I'm eager to hear a review of Drood. Have yet to see one from a blogger!

    Dorothy - The title is deceptive, isn't it? Accurate, actually, in all senses of the word, and still misleading.

    Jordan - It is a page-turner!

    Stefanie - Oh, good idea about seeing if Netflix has the documentary! I didn't think of that.

    Nicola - I was completely unaware of the Franklin Expedition!

  17. Very, very slight spoilerish material below:

    Does anyone who read it have any info on the American woman referenced later in the book (as a girl giving the seance with her mother) and later evidently the lover of the "dr." person (..and who was that, by the way?)?

  18. Anonymous - The Fox sisters were American "spirtualists," and one of them married Elisha Kane, an American arctic explorer, who was involved in the search for the Franklin Expedition.