Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Terror by Dan Simmons - R.I.P. VII


I wanted to buy a non-fiction book on Mary Celeste (I don't remember its name) when I came across this one. If there is one thing I have always been scared of, it's water and oceans and sea life and such and the premise of this book, a lost expedition, seemed fascinating. 

It was snowing during the burial. The wind was blowing hard, as it always does here on this godforsaken Arctic Waste. Just north of the burial site rose Sheer Black Cliffs, as inaccessible as the Mountains of the Moon. The lanterns lit on Erebus and Terror were only the dimmest of glows through the blowing snow. Occasionally a fragment of Cold Moon would appear from between quickly moving clouds, but even this thin, pale moonlight was quickly lost in the snow and dark. Dear God, this is truly a Stygian bleakness.

Summary: The Terror by Dan Simmons is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin's Expedition to the Arctic to find the Northwest Passage. As the two ships, Erebus and Terror are stuck in the ice, the crew is stalked by a monster, that is killing them off one by one. Almost all the characters in the book are based on actual members of the expedition, including Franklin, captain of Erebus, Captain Crozier, captain of Terror, Fitzjames and Dr. Goodsir.

My thoughts: This was supposed to be my first read for the R.I.P Challenge. I have to admit, it took me much longer than I had expected to finish reading this book. There were times when I felt absolutely bored, but trudged on, determined to complete the book, and I am very glad I did. The book is massive, but entirely worth it. If I'd written a review halfway through the book: I would have said that I didn't like the book, which is why this review is going to seem haphazard. I don't know what else to say, but, all the boring details in the first half of the book are thoroughly redeemed by the immense excitement in the last few hundred pages. 

For those of you who want to read the book to actually find out what happened to the Franklin expedition, here's a fair warning: it's historical fiction, you won't get anything that seems remotely plausible. Then again, when someone is lost in the Arctic and never heard of again, who's to say, what can be possible. If you read the book for the horror fiction and not for the history lesson, you will love it (Okay, I can't guarantee love, but I'm sure you'll at least like it.)

Very few authors can master as many different voices as Simmons has in one book! I especially liked Crozier's point of view and sometimes, Dr. Goodsir's. The shifts in the points of view and time took some getting used to, but the book was so long that I did have enough time to get fully accustomed to the writing style. The characters are really wonderful and so is their desperation, you almost experience the dreary atmosphere in the air. The book is tastefully gruesome, if there is such a thing as that, and the writer knows exactly how to shock, scare and amuse you. 

Crozier enjoys his walk in spite of the creeping cold that has made his face, fingers, legs, and feet feel like they are on fire. He knows that this is preferable to them being numb. And he enjoys the walk in spite of the fact that between the slow moanings and sudden shrieks of the ice moving under and around him in the dark and the constant moan of the wind, he is certain that he is being stalked.

I'm going to end this clumsy review-rant by saying that, if not anything else, this book is definitely unlike anything I have read before. It is a haunting mixture of the eerie feelings that history and fate bring on, freaky descriptions of ice and being lost at sea, not to mention, we do get a glimpse of Eskimo mythology, again very tastefully managed. Even without the haunted mansions, pale white ghosts or vampires and zombies, it still does scare. So if you have some time on your hands and seem to like horror fiction, spend this Halloween experiencing The Terror! 

9 comments:

Bookworm Belle said...

I've read about the trip to find the NW Passage, this book sounds like it's right up my alley! Lovely review, as always :)

logankstewart said...

Unlike you, I gave in to my boredom and abandoned the book. Way too slow for my liking. Glad to see that you ultimately enjoyed it, though.

DesLily said...

I gave up on it also... but I wizzed through Dan Simmons book "Drood"! So it must be the "subject" that took my interest.

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

Thanks! You should give it a try, if you don't mind the size of the book!

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

Actually, the last couple of hundred pages are very fast-paced, though I guess it could have been more balanced. I'm just happy I didn't stop halfway through, but I can definitely imagine wanting to!

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

I liked The Terror, but I don't see myself taking on any other book by Simmons any time soon. They are all so big. When I do, I'll remember to pick up Drood! Thanks for stopping by :)

Fence said...

Simmons is a bit hit and miss for me. Loved Drood, and Black Hills. But some of his others seem a bit overly preachy for me. This is one I am interested in reading though.

fourthstreetreview.com said...

This is one I wanted to read for RIP VII, but my hold at the library just came in yesterday, I do like horror fiction (and history) - so it sounds like I might like this one!

chasingbawa.com said...

I loved Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos and am always impressed by his vision. I haven't heard of this one but will definitely try it. Talking about arctic ghost stories, have you tried Michelle Paver's Dark Matter? Very spooky.

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