The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.
When the expeditions leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival, or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape.
The Terror swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). With a haunting and constantly surprising story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.
Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts. Above him above Terror shimmering folds of light lunge but then quickly withdraw like the colourful arms of aggressive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to grasp, and pull back.
The temperature is ?50 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping fast. Because of the fog that came through earlier, during the single hour of weak twilight now passing for their day, the foreshortened masts the three topmasts, topgallants, upper rigging, and highest spars have been removed and stored to cut down on the danger of falling ice and to reduce the chances of the ship capsizing because of the weight of ice on them stand now like rudely pruned and topless trees reflecting the aurora that dances from one dimly seen horizon to the other. As Crozier watches, the jagged ice fields around the ship turn blue, then bleed ...
The Terror is not perfect - the changes of narrator and tense, from third-person to first-person, can be jarring, and takes some time to get used to. The creature does increase tension, but its predations are often left vague, and its appearance in the story is sometimes inconsistent. Even so, The Terror is a strong and complex tale, rich in atmosphere, with a surprising and yet satisfying denouement.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (989 words).
The mythical North-West Passage held the imagination of Britain for most of the 19th century. At that time, before the great canals of Panama and Suez were built, trade with the lucrative markets in Asia was perilous and slow, with trade routes either flowing past the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, across to India, and thereby to the Far East; or taking the dangerous passage South around Cape Horn in South America, and then across the Pacific. What Britain sought was a shortcut: The fabled North-West Passage, a sea-route North past Canada, through to Alaska and the ...
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