four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
27-Mar-Apr-2007
By: 
Dan Simmons
user_rating: 
0

A-The TerrorIn the mid-1840s, two British ships, Terror and Erebus, set out for the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. Despite a spotting in 1845 and numerous rescue expeditions, the 129 crewmen aboard the ships were never seen again. Journals found years later showed that the ships had been trapped in the polar ice for three years before madness, mutiny, infection, cannibalism, and death prevailed. Dan Simmons reimagines the horror experienced by those involved—the foolhardy Sir John Franklin, leader of the expedition; Terror Captain Francis Crozier, a resentful alcoholic; Lady Silence, a mute Eskimo woman; the ship’s surgeon; and others—as a ferocious Thing threatens them at every step.
Little, Brown. 784 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 0316017442

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The Terror comes off like a collaboration between Charles Dickens and John Campbell, the author of Who Goes There, later filmed as The Thing. With its mix of the familiar and the unknown, it’s plopping down in a cozy, cushioned-covered 19th-century settee, only to find that the comfy piece of furniture has been placed in an Arctic cave surrounded by bloodthirsty beasts." Dorman T. Shindler

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Simmons shows how Crozier’s roots as an Irish commoner who rose through the ranks make him a superior leader. … Readers will be anxious to know whether the beast or the cold will be responsible for the deaths of the sailors, men they have learned to care about or despise." Mark Graham

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] sort of Patrick O’Brian meets Edgar Allan Poe against the backdrop of a J. M. W. Turner icescape. Meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined, The Terror won’t satisfy historians or even Franklin buffs, but as a literary hybrid, the novel presents a dramatic and mythic argument for how and why Franklin and his men met their demise." David Masiel

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Dan Simmons’ new novel, The Terror, may be the best thing he’s ever written: a deeply absorbing story that combines awe-inspiring myth, grinding horror and historically accurate adventure." Nisi Shawl

Critical Summary

Dan Simmons, the award-winning author of the Hyperion and Endymion series, imbues The Terror with elements that have made his previous books great successes. Based on the true story of John Franklin’s failed expedition and the ships’ mysterious disappearances, The Terror incorporates historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, gothic horror, mythology, and adventure. Simmons had critics on the edge of their seats with chilling descriptions of the unforgiving landscape, backstories of 19th-century Arctic exploration, and gruesome portrayals of starvation, fear, and death. The different perspectives lead to some repetition, but reviewers agreed that, overall, The Terror is an unsettling, suspenseful read.