Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Terror

The lost Franklin expedition set off in May of 1845 to find that elusive Northwest Passage, was seen by a whaling ship in July of that same year, and then was never seen again. The Terror is a 2007 historical fiction horror novel which tells what happened to them. Author Dan Simmons, whose Hyperion Cantos is a modern science fiction classic, writes a compelling page-turner here.

from the back of the book:
The men on board the HMS Terror -part of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition- are entering a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, stranded in a nightmarish landscape of ice and desolation. Endlessly cold, they struggle to survive with poisonous rations and a dwindling coal supply. But their real enemy is even more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror clawing to get in.
There's mention of a Tasmanian Devil on page 251.

favorite quote:
In a particular moment of rare calm, everything strangely quiet except for his labored breathing, Crozier suddenly recalls a resonant instance from when he was a young boy returning home late one winter evening from an afternoon in the wintry hills with his friends. At first he rushed headlong alone across the frost-rimmed heather, but then he paused half a mile or so from his house. He remembers standing there watching the lighted windows in the village as the last of the winter twilight faded from the sky and the surrounding hills became vague, black featureless shapes, unfamiliar to a boy so young, until even his own house, visible at the edge of town, lost all definition and three-dimensionality in the dying light. Crozier remembers the snow beginning to fall and himself standing there alone in the darkness beyond the stone sheep pens, knowing that he would be cuffed for his tardiness, knowing that arriving later would only make the cuffing worse, but having no will nor want to walk toward the light of home yet. He enjoyed the soft sound of night wind and the knowledge that he was the only boy -perhaps the only human being- out there in the dark on the windy, frozen-grass meadows on this night that smelled of coming snow, alienated from the lighted windows and the warm hearths, very aware that he was of the village but not part of it at that moment. It was a thrilling, almost erotic feeling -an illicit discovery of self separated from everyone and everything else in the cold and dark- and he feels it again now, as he has more than a few times during his years of arctic service at opposite poles of the earth.
Kirkus Reviews describes it as "One of Simmons’ best." The Guardian calls it "A chilling speculation on the fate of Franklin's ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Passage, with added horror to thoroughly freeze your blood". Strange Horizons says, "what a tremendous example of popular fiction this novel is: gripping, vivid, exciting, dream haunting. It's hard to imagine this sort of book being much better written." Horror Novel Reviews reports, "I have it listed in my top five horror novels of all time and believe me, this is a horror novel." The Washington Post says,
The fate of Sir John Franklin's last expedition remains one of the great mysteries of Arctic exploration. What we know, more or less, is this: In the balmy days of May 1845, 129 officers and men aboard two ships -- Erebus and Terror -- departed from England for the Canadian Arctic in search of a Northwest Passage to the Pacific. They were never heard from again. Between 1847 and 1859, Franklin's wife pushed for and funded various relief missions, even as the expectation of finding survivors was replaced by the slim hope for answers.
the novel presents a dramatic and mythic argument for how and why Franklin and his men met their demise.
The Wertzone says,
The Terror is a meticulously researched novel. ... The details of shipboard life are fascinating, and Simmons is painstaking in ensuring that the reader understands at all times the options and problems facing the expedition's leaders, ... The characters - virtually all of whom are given the names of the real Franklin Expedition crewmen - are vividly drawn, ... Simmons also nails the biting, freezing atmosphere of the Arctic and imbues the story with some very atmospheric descriptions of the frozen ice landscapes.


  1. I like stories set aboard ships, for some reason, and I remember loving this. The fact that I couldn't exactly place your that wonderful quote means it's time for a re-read.

    1. i will definitely re-read this at some point