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Friday, March 2, 2007

"The Terror" by Dan Simmons


For years now, I’ve heard about the award-winning author Dan Simmons and such notable works as the Hyperion Cantos, Ilium, Olympos, etc., but have never ventured to undertake one of his creations, until now. I must admit, at first I was a bit wary of reading The Terror, partly because of its length (a rather robust 766 pages) and partly because I’m not really a fan of ‘historical fiction’.

Once I was able to overcome my initial hesitancy, I was treated to an epic story of survival, loyalty, betrayal, fear and awakening that skillfully interweaves elements of suspense, horror and fantasy around a central storyline that is based on the real-life, yet unknown exploits of the 1845 Franklin Expedition’s search for the Northwest Passage. In my opinion, this is the heart and strength of the novel, a very realistic narrative of two ship crews’ struggle to stay alive while behest by harsh artic conditions, starvation, mutiny and the threat of a supernatural entity, all of which is depicted through the eyes of several different characters both major (Captain Francis Crozier, Dr. Goodsir, etc.) and minor.

In addition to the rich characterization and the vividness of The Terror’s world brought to life, the storytelling is, as advertised by Dan Simmons’ reputation, engrossing & masterful, though I did find the pacing of the novel to be slow and meandering at times. Other than this minor quibble, the only other complaint I have is the last 100 pages or so, which finds the narrative veering off into more mystical territory, which I personally felt did not mesh well with the human aspect that dominates the majority of the book and, in my mind, makes the story so compelling in the first place.

As a whole though, I thought that The Terror was a thoughtfully crafted and engaging adventure that has made me add Mr. Simmons to my list of “must-read authors”, while also convincing me to explore his previous works…

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