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Excellent, but with weaknesses
I'm a huge fan of Dan Simmons' novels. I've read everything he's written some books more than once. There were elements of The Terror that I enjoyed very much, and consider to be far and away some of his best work. This is particularly true of the historical sections. Not only is the subject matter well-researched, but Simmons does a remarkable job of putting the reader right there on the ice with the ships' crews. From a purely historical fiction standpoint, I'd definitely give it five stars.
The Terror by Dan Simmons
Unfortunately, Simmons decided to include an element of the fantastic, and that part of the novel completely turned me off. I thought it was overly contrived and unnecessary. He should have had the confidence to allow the book to stand on its own as superior historical fiction; it would have been a stronger novel, in my opinion.
The Terror is a chilling take on Sit John Franklin's failed 1845 search for the Northwest Passage aboard the ships Erebus and Terror. The book focuses on a few characters in particular, and keeps each section (separated by character) short enough so as not to leave the reader bored, but ending each section with a cliffhanger. You just don't want to put this book down. The mixture of fact and fiction is awesome, and many historical details, names, and occurrences are in fact correct, so although very imagined and fantastic, the writing, setting, and mood somehow give the reader the feeling that this great white monster of the north could be very real. After all, how many of us have spent years frozen in on 19th century era ships on the frozen seas of the arctic? Overall, an awesome read, hard to put down, and immensely enjoyable.