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The Terror    by Dan Simmons order for
by Dan Simmons
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Dan Simmons solidifies his reputation as one of the most versatile and imaginative fiction writers around in his latest, The Terror. He puts a fresh perspective on the Franklin expedition's doomed quest to force the North West Passage.

As the story opens in October of 1847, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two of the British Navy's most modern ships, are frozen for a second brutal winter in the unrelenting pack ice northwest of Baffin Island. Since reaching the Arctic seas, bad luck has plagued the expedition. The Erebus is damaged and no longer seaworthy due to poor judgment on the part of expedition leader John Franklin. Coal supplies are dwindling and tinned foodstuffs needed to fend off scurvy - and that should have lasted four years - are severely compromised due to shoddy manufacturing practices. An even greater threat is a creature the sailors call 'the thing on the ice', a cunning and voracious entity with black fathomless eyes, that stalks both ships and leaves behind either bloody and mangled corpses or nothing at all of its prey.

After John Franklin is slaughtered by the creature, Captain Francis Crozier assumes command. His career with the British Navy has been long and distinguished and he's a veteran of cold weather expeditions. Yet he's become a bitter alcoholic who's convinced he's been repeatedly passed over for promotion because of his common Irish background. Despite his disillusionment, he's dedicated to his crew and resolute that every man under his command will return home to England. His conviction never wanes even as their very survival becomes increasingly hopeless and more so once he gives the order to abandon ship and man haul their remaining supplies and the sick and dying off the ice. Once they leave their doomed ships behind they are at even greater risk as the thing on the ice continues stalking them, and as botulism, scurvy and murderous mutineers decimate the survivors.

Dan Simmons is one of those rare writers who move easily between various genres, whether horror, science fiction, or thrillers. His books and short story collections have never disappointed, yet when I read early reports of his latest project, I was skeptical. How could he put a fresh perspective on a well-documented and tragic part of history? He had me hooked after the first few pages and despite the book's hefty 765 page count, I didn't want the story to end. The Terror is beautifully written, intensely emotional and rich in imagery, historical detail and depth of character. It's also alternately exciting, horrifying and mystical - a story that stands alone as one of Simmons' best and most memorable works.

Audiobook Review by Lyn Seippel:

Simmons' historical novel depicts the true saga of Sir John Franklin's 1840s expedition as a chilling suspense with a blend of supernatural horror. Franklin along with a crew of 128 men and two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, set out into the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. He and the crew are never heard from again.

Franklin's arrogant belief that the exploration can be carried out in relative comfort leads to tragedy. The real leadership is provided by Captain Francis Cozier, a Irishman, whom the Royal British Navy largely ignores while utilizing his competence. Though they are threatened with disease, starvation, scurvy, and the possibility of freezing to death, it is the creature on the ice that terrifies the crew. The creature, too large to be a polar bear, stalks the men with evil cunning.

Most of the story is told from Cozier's point of view. Simon Vance, an award winning narrator and screen actor, does a wonderful job of portraying both the crew and their officers in distinct voices.

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