Amanda's Reviews > The Terror

The Terror by Dan Simmons
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Jun 08, 13

bookshelves: book-club-made-me-do-it, crap, blog
Read from August 08 to September 07, 2010

September 7, 2010: I don't want to talk about it right now. It's too soon and the pain is still too fresh. I shall review on another day.

September 17, 2010: It's been well over a week since my encounter with The Terror and the thought of writing a review still exhausts me, but here it goes.

I have read many glowing reviews of The Terror. That is, in fact, why I bought it. I mean, check out this kick ass plot:

Two British ships, the Terror and the Erebus, are frozen in the polar sea for years, waiting in vain for a summer thaw. This is, of course, based upon the doomed Franklin expedition, so we have some serious history going on here. Now, add to that a dash of the supernatural--something is out there on the ice. It terrorizes the men, seeming to materialize from nowhere. It's three times the size of a polar bear and has the vicious, bloodthirsty nature of a predator, as well as the keen intelligence of a man. It's like a giant cat toying with the two ships as if they were terrified mice in a corner. There's nowhere to go, guns don't faze the the thing the men dub "The Terror", and, now, the food supply is running out.

That's some frightening shit. It's the arctic. That alone is frightening. It can drive a man insane. It's the nothingness. The whiteness. The endless-ness. Howard Moon and Vince Noir knew not to take the tundra lightly.

And that's part of what ruined the book in the beginning. All I could think as I read the first few chapters was "ice floe, nowhere to go." I think that might have taken away from the tone a bit.

But here are some other more text-based reasons for the seething black pit of hatred that I have for this book:

a) History or supernatural, Simmons needs to pick a side because the two storylines always seemed to run parallel to one another and never quite came together. It was like, "Okay, for 100 pages, I'm going to have the men fearing for their lives as this thing attacks them. I'm going to build tension and suspense and have my readers empathetically shitting down both legs! And then I'm going to flashback for 50 pages to boring nautical talk amongst stuffy British types before the expedition and then spend 150 pages talking about Welsh Wigs and Goldner food tins and building sledges and maybe I'll even talk about buggering, but no mention whatsoever of the monster for another 50 pages!" Simmons was at his best when describing the encounters between the men and the thing on the ice, but these moments were so few and far between that I just got to the point where I didn't care anymore.

b) Too much historical minutiae. The book should have been 300 pages shorter. There were entire sections that didn't add anything to the narrative. I like my history like I like my men: short and concise.

c) Scurvy is some wicked bad shite. A slow death by scurvy is undoubtedly one of the worst ways to die. But do you know what's worse? A slow death by reading endless accounts of the symptoms of scurvy.

d) There are no likeable characters. In fact, there is little to differentiate one man from another. If you left out the dialogue tags, it would have sounded like one man having a conversation with himself. The only character I like is Pangle, who, alas, appears in just a chapter or two of this 766 page behemoth.

e) I was really pissed when I finally found out what the thing was. The main reason? THAT'S what I wanted to read more about. And it took roughly 700 pages to get to a point where I was actually interested and intrigued and it cut me off.

There were some bright spots. When Simmons wrote about the thing attacking the men, leaving bait for them and taunting them, he evoked moments that were truly terrifying and suspenseful. However, there just weren't enough of them. Sure, the attempts to survive against cold, hunger, and disease should have been compelling stuff, but they made for anemic reading when pitted against a terrifying adversary without name or shape. Also, the chapter in which the men throw a carnivale and erect tents that mirror the rooms in Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death is admittedly brilliant.

When it comes right down to it, though, The Mighty Boosh did a far superior job of capturing the terror of the arctic. When Howard admonishes Vince that "The arctic is no respecter of fashion," I still get chills. The same cannot be said of my reaction to The Terror.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
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Reading Progress

08/08/2010 page 1
0.0%
08/23/2010 page 139
18.0% "The real terror is that I have to finish this sumbitch by September 7. Bah."
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Comments (showing 1-46 of 46) (46 new)

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Kemper Great book but Simmons takes the story to some weird places.


Amanda Weird places? I'm game.


Kemper Oh no! Too weird?


Amanda Believe it or not, not weird enough. I found all the talk of Goldner's poisoned tin cans and scurvy to be snooze inducing. I'm hoping to find the time to write my review this week!


Kemper I find myself torn. While I always love it it when you rip into a book, I liked this one. I guess I'll just pretend I don't know it and enjoy the beatdown. (And Simmons does tend to get lost in the details. I usually enjoy it but his last book Black Hills left me completely exhausted.)


Amanda That's what irritated me the most, I think. There was a story in there that I was interested in, but I had to dig for it amongst all the historical detail. And I'm all for historical detail when relevant and judiciously applied, but there is a point when it becomes like an author emerging from months of research and saying "Wow, look at all the neat stuff I know!" If a lot of that had been whittled down, I would have enjoyed it much more.


message 7: by Gary (new)

Gary Love the review! I am glad that you have saved me from this fate worse than scurvey - thanks Amanda.


Alex I had assumed I was the only one singing "Ice Floe! Nowhere to go!" while reading this book. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. (Also, I agree that the carnivale scene was possibly the best in the book).


Amanda Alex wrote: "I had assumed I was the only one singing "Ice Floe! Nowhere to go!" while reading this book. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. (Also, I agree that the carnivale scene was possibly the best in t..."

Ha! I did, too! Gotta love a catchy crimp.


message 10: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie "Scurvy is some wicked bad shite. A slow death by scurvy is undoubtedly one of the worst ways to die. But do you know what's worse? A slow death by reading endless accounts of the symptoms of scurvy."

Nice.

Drood had me banging my head against the wall by the end of it.


Amanda Stephanie wrote: ""Scurvy is some wicked bad shite. A slow death by scurvy is undoubtedly one of the worst ways to die. But do you know what's worse? A slow death by reading endless accounts of the symptoms of scurv..."

Hallelujah, I'm not alone! I thought I was the only person in the world who had read and despised a Dan Simmons novel.


message 12: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie I felt the same way......no I didn't enjoy it....it kind of pissed me off.


message 13: by Red (new) - rated it 1 star

Red Heaven Yep - this is a terrible, TERRIBLE book. One of the absolute worst I've ever read. This and Drood prove he needs a firm editor.


Amanda Red wrote: "Yep - this is a terrible, TERRIBLE book. One of the absolute worst I've ever read. This and Drood prove he needs a firm editor."

The man does indeed love a good ramble.


message 15: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean I agree the book was too long long. I also thought the ice monster was awkward and really didnt fit into the story.


message 16: by Terry (new)

Terry Simmons has definitely contracted a case of the brain-eater disease in my opinion (he may soon be sharing a ward with George Lucas and Frank Miller). The first two Hyperion books were brilliant (the first admittedly moreso than the second), but the next two kind of, well...sucked. I barely forced myself to finish Ilium and refuse to touch the sequel. I wanted to give him another chance and started this book...as you said the story precis sounded brilliant. I'm not sure what page I was forced to stop, but it wasn't too far in.


Amanda Sean wrote: "I agree the book was too long long. I also thought the ice monster was awkward and really didnt fit into the story."

I think I would have preferred either straight non-fiction or a throw historical accuracy to the wind in favor of balls out fantasy. The two together just seemed, well, as you stated, awkward.


message 18: by Amanda (last edited Jul 05, 2012 03:32PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Amanda Terry wrote: "Simmons has definitely contracted a case of the brain-eater disease in my opinion (he may soon be sharing a ward with George Lucas and Frank Miller). The first two Hyperion books were brilliant (th..."

I've heard good things about Hyperion, but I've been scared after this experience. The only reason I read this entire book was because I was in a book club and this was the selection. Well, that, and I kept thinking that it must really kick ass by the end since so many people loved it. And it did kick ass----mine, unfortunately.


Cullan LOL! We both chose the magical number of 300 pages shorter :D


Amanda Cullan wrote: "LOL! We both chose the magical number of 300 pages shorter :D"

Ha! Yes, as fascinating as all the description of the contents of their ship's pantry was, I think I would have been willing to sacrifice that 300 pages.


message 21: by Sam (new)

Sam Quixote I don't think I'll ever read a Dan Simmons book, they all seem like big blocks of book cheese. I'll just get sick if I read one.


message 22: by Gary (new)

Gary I do love your one star reviews Amanda! Read more bad books...


Amanda Sam wrote: "I don't think I'll ever read a Dan Simmons book, they all seem like big blocks of book cheese. I'll just get sick if I read one."

I applaud your pragmatism--I developed literary indigestion while reading this. I have taken a sacred vow to never read another Dan Simmons book again. Many people love him, but I was not among those people.


Amanda Gary wrote: "I do love your one star reviews Amanda! Read more bad books..."

I try, but unfortunately there are so many good books out there!


message 25: by Lormac (new)

Lormac I like my history like I like my men: short and concise.


Don't you mean short and interesting?!!!


Amanda Lormac wrote: "I like my history like I like my men: short and concise.


Don't you mean short and interesting?!!!"


No, I prefer to be the interesting one. ;)


message 27: by Lormac (new)

Lormac Heh!


message 28: by Trudi (new)

Trudi LOL


message 29: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Thank you Amanda! I could not stand this book. I abandoned it at almost the half way part. I wanted to sue Simmons for my time. Boring, boring, boring.


Scott Rhee Great review, Amanda, even if I disagree with nearly 100% of it. And with all due respect to just about everyone on this thread, I personally loved the book, almost precisely for the very reasons most of you hated it. This was actually the first Simmons book I ever read. He actually got me hooked on reading more historical nonfiction because of "The Terror". I found his tangential bits of historical miscellania to be fascinating respites from the suspenseful bits rather than distractions. "Hyperion", by the way, is as different in style and tone from "The Terror" as night is from day, so you may still enjoy it despite not liking "The Terror".


Amanda Jeffrey wrote: "Thank you Amanda! I could not stand this book. I abandoned it at almost the half way part. I wanted to sue Simmons for my time. Boring, boring, boring."

I would join said lawsuit. If only I had the foresight to abandon ship!


message 32: by Amanda (last edited Jun 18, 2013 06:06PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Amanda Scott wrote: "Great review, Amanda, even if I disagree with nearly 100% of it. And with all due respect to just about everyone on this thread, I personally loved the book, almost precisely for the very reasons m..."

(Excuse me for a moment)

PEOPLE OF GOODREADS: This is how you respond to a review with which you disagree--civil discussion of book with respect for the fact that both sides are entitled to their opinion. That is all. As you were.

Sorry about that. But, seriously, thank you for a dissenting comment that is not a personal attack. So few of those seem to happen these days. That's one of the great things about books--the very things that turn one reader off are the very things that hook another reader. I readily admit that I like a bit of tangential history, as long as it's a period or place in which I'm interested. And I also readily admit that this is not one of those magical moments in history for me, so there's a bit of built in prejudice there. I'm glad you mention Hyperion because I pretty much wrote that one off after reading this, but knowing that it's the polar opposite of The Terror has me intrigued once more!


message 33: by Cj (new)

Cj I must say the first two Hyperion books, while a tad wordy at times, are really really good. The first story of the priest was way gripping. I started there, and recently bought this book. This review and subsequent thread has me staring at it accusingly now tho...


Amanda Cj wrote: "I must say the first two Hyperion books, while a tad wordy at times, are really really good. The first story of the priest was way gripping. I started there, and recently bought this book. This rev..."

I really think I'm going to give Hyperion a shot because it sounds like it's more up my alley than his historical stuff. In defense of The Terror, I have several friends who loved both of these books by Simmons, so if the time period isn't off-putting to you then you may end up enjoying it more than I did.


Peter Absolutely love both Hyperion and the Terror. Funnily enough I put off reading the Terror for years, as I thought it sounded precisely like what you've described in your review. Thankfully that wasn't the case for me. Hyperion is a world aay so definitely wouldn't write it off based on the Terror.


Amanda Peter wrote: "Absolutely love both Hyperion and the Terror. Funnily enough I put off reading the Terror for years, as I thought it sounded precisely like what you've described in your review. Thankfully that was..."

I may still give Hyperion a go. I've picked it up in the bookstore a few times recently, so I think I'm slowly building up to it! Glad you enjoyed The Terror. It wasn't for me, but that certainly doesn't mean that it's not for everybody. :)


Constable Reggie Funny, I loved the book, gave it five stars, and a lot of it was because I enjoyed the minutiae and the level of detail. At the same time, I could apply your review to Simmons' Drood, where I found too much unnecessary detail, as if he had done the research, and goldurn it, it was going to show! Anyway, I appreciate that you can appreciate some moments of brilliance in it, even if sadly you'll still only give it one measly star.


Amanda Hoophoop wrote: "Funny, I loved the book, gave it five stars, and a lot of it was because I enjoyed the minutiae and the level of detail. At the same time, I could apply your review to Simmons' Drood, where I foun..."

Yup. Only one measly star. A few moments of brilliance in what I found to be an otherwise tedious narrative deserves little more from me, but I'm glad you enjoyed the novel. To each his own.


message 39: by Red (new) - rated it 1 star

Red Heaven Amanda wrote: "Hoophoop wrote: "Funny, I loved the book, gave it five stars, and a lot of it was because I enjoyed the minutiae and the level of detail. At the same time, I could apply your review to Simmons' Dr..."

I wish we could rate books 0 or negative stars. This has killed any chance of me reading anything else by Simmons.


Amanda Red wrote: "I wish we could rate books 0 or negative stars. This has killed any chance of me reading anything else by Simmons."

I know that I shall never again brave a Simmons novel. I still have a nervous twitch when I walk by one of his books displayed on the "New Arrivals" shelf.


message 41: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa "Seething black pit of hatred I have for this book"...too funny! Love your review; I bailed on page 33. It was NOT what I was expecting at all and I was soooo bored by the tone. Now to list it on PaperBackSwap...


Amanda Lisa wrote: ""Seething black pit of hatred I have for this book"...too funny! Love your review; I bailed on page 33. It was NOT what I was expecting at all and I was soooo bored by the tone. Now to list it on P..."

Thanks! I wish I had been as wise as you and bailed early on. Unfortunately, I drug myself through every mind-numbing page.


message 43: by Red (new) - rated it 1 star

Red Heaven Drug as in pharmaceuticals? Because that's the only way it might become a worthwhile read.


Amanda Red wrote: "Drug as in pharmaceuticals? Because that's the only way it might become a worthwhile read."

Copious amounts of pharmaceuticals would have been helpful. Hell, I might have actually enjoyed it then!


message 45: by Red (new) - rated it 1 star

Red Heaven I wanted to write to his editor - and then discovered he doesn't have one.


Amanda Red wrote: "I wanted to write to his editor - and then discovered he doesn't have one."

Ha! I actually snorted in response to that one.


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