I would like to introduce my partner and husband JD to you. He reads quite a few books that I other wise would not read or be interested in. Just for a bit of variety for you and fun for him he will be adding his thoughts about the books he reads here at Layers of Thought. Just some more books to potentially add to your “never ending to be read list”.
Here is his review of The Terror:
The Terror, by Dan Simmons
Pages 766; hardbound
Little, Brown and Company, 2007
The Terror is a work of fiction that is based on a real life story. And it is quite a story. The year is 1845 and two English naval ships depart on an expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Canadian Arctic. Of course, no-one is even sure if such a passage exists, and even if it does it will inevitably be iced over for the great majority of the year. For “iced over” the meaning is - ice that is many feet thick, constantly moving, and able to easily crush normal ships by the pressure it exerts. It is expected that the expedition will take 2-3 years, possibly longer, and that for much of that time the ships will be locked into the frozen seas during the horrendous winters when there is no daylight and temperatures often reach 80 degrees or more below freezing.
What happened to the expedition in real life or in the novel? Do they make it back safely or do they come to a terrible end? I won’t spoil it so you’ll either need to do some Googling on Sir John Franklin’s polar expedition on HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, or of course read the novel.
Simmons takes the basic facts of the expedition, adds a huge dollop of fantasy and fiction, and weaves a pretty neat story. It makes for some unrelenting reading – basically over 700 pages worth of “just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse, they do”. It’s a story of incredible hardship and human endurance, and while it is a work of fiction much of the detail is based on what really did happen on polar expeditions during the nineteenth century. The main dollop of fantasy that is added is the appearance of a huge and powerful unseen predator, which plagues the expedition and periodically makes their thoroughly miserable lives yet more miserable.
For me, I was immediately drawn to a book about a crazy expedition, the unknown, human hardships, the arctic, and a basis on real-life events. As if that wasn’t enough, inside the book cover was a neat map showing the course of the expedition through the Canadian Arctic; and I’m a total sucker for maps. I’m not entirely sure that bringing the monster into the story was a plus. For some this will enhance the read, but for others it may get in the way – after all it is a tremendous plot line without the appearance of a fantastic predator. I liked the notion that the basic story was believable and could have been true, so I kind of tripped over the monster aspects a bit. And the ending? Well, all I can say is that it headed off in a direction I didn’t see coming.
In summary a very well researched and written book, and one that is easy to read. It’s a long book, perhaps a little too long, but once I’d started it I pushed on through to the end and enjoyed it. I’d give it three and a half stars. Now, is there a similar book out there but without a monster?
Amazon purchasing information for US, UK, and Canada respectively:The Terror: A Novel The Terror The Terror: A Novel