December 23, 2009

The Terror, by Dan Simmons

I've been interested in the doomed Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage ever since I was young and the wax museum in Victoria put up an exhibit on it. So when I read a review of this book, which is a fictionalized retelling of the expedition, in an adventure travel magazine, I thought I might like it. I was a little dismayed when I went to pick it up at the library and a) it was an 800 page hardcover and b) the jacket told me the story featured a supernatural beast killing off the men. I was cynical, but thought I'd give it a shot.

I'd describe The Terror as historical fiction / thriller. It was extremely well researched, with details I remembered from the wax museum (like the lower jaw of a corpse being bound) and a long bibliography. It was also exciting and highly readable. I found myself wishing I could have saved it for a long plane ride. While I ended up quite liking it, and accepting the mythical killer beast, when Simmons threw in a psychic captain so he could work in other historical facts that the icebound sailors would have had no way of knowing, I thought that was going a bit far. But then...that plot point worked out in the end too.

Even though I went in knowing that everyone died, I still felt sad near the end when they started dying en masse. (Not a spoiler, that's just how it went down as time passed and everyone got sicker and hungrier.) Despite the slight hokiness, it was a good read and inspired me to read more about the true history of the Franklin Expedition.

The Terror: A Novel

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