Jennifer's Reviews > The Terror

The Terror by Dan Simmons
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's review
Sep 11, 2009

it was amazing

This novel grabbed me like a New England cold from the very start. I'd bought it some months ago with some background on the real Sir John Franklin expedition mystery in mind, but only started reading it as I found myself constantly distracted from the other 3 currently readings on my plate. This one has definitely steamed ahead of the competition for the time being.

What's so fascinating to me about this novel is how its constructed. I'm impressed that the author is able to keep a story dramatic and interesting when really nothing moves in the story very far. Two expedition ships are literally trapped in Arctic ice and will be for over 3 years. The men of both Erebus and Terror live aboard their individual ships separated by about an hour or two walk between each ship. The ships are slowly being crushed from the ice pressure on the hulls. So how can an author make 2 years of boat dwelling interesting? Dialogue for one and great character development. The language of the sailors is exactly how anyone would imagine 19th century seaman to speak. Descriptive writing giving us all the minute details of the ship from the three different kinds of wood composing the hull to the sounds of rats eating bodies in the "dead area" an area on ship designated for bodies of natural and unnatural deaths. Simmons really makes you feel you're there in the lashing cold with the men and experiencing what it's like to sledge what you hope will be back up supplies to land should you have to suddenly abandon ship or having 1/2 of your remaining supplies deemed unfit to consume. The story gets even better once the men decide to abandon ship...

And then of course there's this half real-half demon of a monster/creation mythical thingy that's just making a game of picking off the seaman one by one and displaying their remains cleverly stacked with torso on top of someone else's legs for instance to shake things up a bit. You're never certain when this creature will strike or where. No one, not even the rankiest of ranks is immune. It's just time and opportunity really. You'll follow a sailor up the remains of the sail lines left on the boat over the side of the ship and on a dead run from a monster which essentially has just buried the below deck sailors in sails and lines and canvas. You'll smell the foul meat eater's breath. You'll constantly wonder what it is that's lurking around the edges.

All in all an excellent read of the likes I haven't seen in a long time. A good break in to the real story as well.

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