The men on board Her Britannic Majesty's Ships Terror and Erebus had every expectation of triumph.
They were part of Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition - as scientifically advanced an enterprise as had ever set forth - and theirs were the first steam-driven vessels to go in search of the fabled North-West Passage.
But the ships have now been trapped in the Arctic ice for nearly two years.
Coal and provisions are running low. Yet the real threat isn't the constantly shifting landscape of white or the flesh-numbing temperatures, dwindling supplies or the vessels being slowly crushed by the unyielding grip of the frozen ocean.
No, the real threat is far more terrifying. There is something out there that haunts the frigid darkness, which stalks the ships, snatching one man at a time - mutilating, devouring.
A nameless thing, at once nowhere and everywhere, this terror has become the expedition's nemesis.
When Franklin meets a terrible death, it falls to Captain Francis Crozier of HMS Terror to take command and lead the remaining crew on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice.
With them travels an Eskimo woman who cannot speak. She may be the key to survival - or the harbinger of their deaths. And as scurvy, starvation and madness take their toll, as the Terror on the ice become evermore bold, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape...
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 944 pages
- Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
- Publication Date: 01/01/2008
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9780553818208
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by dudara
I picked The Terror up ages ago in Waterstones, but didn't get around to reading it until recently. It was billed as a horror story in the store, which isn't a genre I normally read, but the premise sounded quite interesting and I am a fan of author Dan Simmons' other books including Hyperion.The Terror is based on the true story of the ill-fasted Franklin expedition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. Two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, set sail to find the passage and their fates were never known. Graves and artefacts were found by other explorers but the story of the hundred plus men will never be fully known.Simmons cleverly uses this true story as the base for this fantastically thrilling novel. The dark nature of the human psyche is the true monster in this tale, not the huge beast that is methodically slaughtering crew members. The decline of the human body and the human mind is brilliantly explored and proves to be more chilling than the brutal attacks of the white beast. The story is well researched and it's all too easy to imagine yourself there in the dark and the cold, wrapped in clothes that never fully dry out. The invasion of the white Europeans into the lands of the native Inuit is also introduced in this book through the use of Inuit mythology.This is a large book and the pace is somewhat glacial, if you'll pardon the pun. However, it's well worth the read. Just wrap up warm as you read.
Review by eleanor_eader
The Franklin expedition – one hundred and thirty men aboard the flagship <i>Erebus</i> and the <i>Terror</i> - become stuck in unrelenting arctic ice while questing for the North-West Passage; for two consecutive winters, they wait for a summer warm enough to thaw them an escape route south before their dwindling and badly degrading supplies fail them. History tells us that they did not make it, and no rescue launched was successful. From this initial premise, Dan Simmons plunges the reader into their tremendous struggle and applies pressure from yet another angle… something is watching and stalking the crew, taking members singly or in groups with brutal, deadly ease.I’ll state this up front: I felt uncomfortable, for some unnameable reason, about Simmons taking the doomed Franklin expedition, whose men doubtless experienced precisely the desperation he so vividly portrays, in the face of below-freezing conditions, starvation, disease, hopelessness (and its near-neighbour in despair, the hope that is repeatedly dashed) and adding a supernatural element. Those men, I felt, had been through enough in reality – were certainly going through enough in the book – that to add a gigantic terror in the form of a spirit-made-flesh bear seemed, well, an affront. But it’s not good horror unless it disturbs you. If you’re sitting in your chair saying ‘for god’s sake, let them be’, then the author is probably sitting in another chair, somewhere, chuckling. Perhaps evilly, but I won’t presume.The other somewhat jarring factor is that Simmons writes beautiful historical fiction; the research seamlessly <i>becomes</i> the story, into which he then injects the endless tension inherent in the plight of the officers and crew aboard the <i>Erebus</i> and <i>Terror</i>, keeping it sustained from the point of view of various characters; all this works so well together that it becomes more far more an intimate history than a fiction – and for a long while I’d settle into this, sharing Captain Francis Crozier’s immediate concerns for his men, forgetting the far stranger peril lurking underneath it all; and then there would be amongst them this rampaging bear-thing destroying whatever slim chance they’d managed to carve out of none at all. I think that’s one large element in the successful pairing of the two seemingly disparate sides of this novel – that the shock and disbelief of the men under siege from this thing is instilled in the reader.For me, though, the ultimate proof of this book’s excellence is that for 900+ pages, Dan Simmons made me care about characters who I knew were doomed on page one.<b>[spoiler warning]</b> I wasn’t altogether convinced with the about-turn in Crozier’s character towards the end; whatever second-sight he shared with Silence, whatever rebirth he had been though, I could not see him treating with the spirit-bear that killed his men. Simmons did too good a job of selling his character in the first place, for me to be quite sold on that. Otherwise I enjoyed the shift to the Esquimaux culture and finally learning more about Lady Silence, and since Crozier was my favourite character, I wasn’t sorry that Dan Simmons had given the reader a survivor after all.