The Terror (2007) – Dan Simmons

So I’ve perused a couple of lists of most terrifying and scary books and on almost all the lists I’ve checked, Dan Simmons appears on them for two books, Carrion Comfort and The Terror. I wasn’t quite ready for Carrion Comfort but the idea behind the story of The Terror is fascinating, as the basis of the story is based on a historical incident

In the 1840s the two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England to head to the Arctic and forge through it to discover the fabled North West Passage. Unfortunately, both ships became locked in the ice, and the crew, nor the ships, were ever seen again.

And while the crews struggle to survive in the sub-zero temperatures, and wait for the ice to thaw, or break up far enough for the ships to resume their journey, there is something, or some thing, out on the ice that is stalking them.

The book changes from captains, to crew members, and back again, as we delve into the nautical experience, the ship structure, and the personal lives and actions of the crew. On occasion the book meanders as we delve into the past, which works to fill out the back story of some of the characters, and as enjoyable as Simmons’ writing is, more often than not all I wanted to get back to was the thing stalking the crew, and the very realistic portrayal of fighting to survive in the Arctic.


And when the thing shows up, or you know an attack must be imminent, the sequences tend to get very unnerving, never defining what the creature is (until we get towards the end of the novel) and they are terrifying. I love those moments!

There’s a shift in the climax of the book as we follow the captain of the Terror, Crozier, after the crews have traveled across pack ice, starving, dying, and being hunted from within and without. This shift takes us into the culture that calls the Arctic its home, the Inuit, and we learn about them… and the thing.

We journey with Crozier, Magnus, Fitjzjames, Goodsir, Hickey, and the stalwart crews of both ships, knowing, even as we read, that none of these people were every seen alive again. That something happened to them, and Simmons’ version gives us one horrifying, supernaturally tinged option.

I like the way Simmons doles out his story, and there is lots to enjoy here, even if sometimes I felt the backstory stuff got a little in the way of the actual thrills of the novel.

Still, this was a great introduction (for me) to Simmons’ work, and I can’t wait to delve into another one. Any recommendations?



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