Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Terror (Dan Simmons)

I don't know if you've noticed (because I'm pretty good at hiding this fact) but I've been on an immense horror binge the past year or so.
The Terror by Dan Simmons

I used to be HUGE into historical fiction, especially the Tudor period. I read the Henry VIII series' by Alison Weir, Jean Plaidy, and Phillipa Gregory. I also read the Cousin's War series by Gregory. After all of that (probably fifty books in all) I was a TAD tapped out on historical fiction of any kind. My brain couldn't learn about new times or cultures anymore without going "UGH". No indoor plumbing? Strange names? The SAME name? Gag me.

So, I kicked around in New Releases and Popular Fiction for a while before falling into this Horror hole.

But, "The Terror" by Dan Simmons was an excellent way to segue myself back towards historical fiction, while keeping that thriller atmosphere.

Basic premise: Fictionalized account of the Franklin Expedition of 1845, based on diary entries and what little evidence was preserved on the arctic tundra. We already learned in school that they were stuck in the ice for years and eventually froze/starved to death.

Or. Did. They?

Simmons answers that question for you. He also teaches you a lot about arctic expeditions, and all of the shit that goes into making that happen. Here's a spoiler for you: there is not enough money in the world to get me on one of those tiny ass ships with 60 other people, sleeping in a hammock, unable to feel my toes for several years.

I'll be honest, when I first opened the book and saw a quote from Moby Dick (a quote from one of my least favorite chapters, no less), I was afraid. I absolutely cannot stand Moby Dick with a passion. Such a large passion, in fact, my teacher and I spent so much of the class time arguing that probably a third of my AP Lit/Comp class didn't even have to read the goddamn tome.

But, I'm a fair reader; Dan Simmons, after all, is not Hermen Melville, so maybe this would turn out alright. Lucky for Mr. Simmons, that was correct. Unlucky for everyone in my life, now I cannot stop talking about this fucking book. I was captured not only by the terror (get it?) of The Thing on the Ice, but also by the care with which Simmons teaches the history of the event. Unlike Moby Dick, which felt like Melville desperately longing to write a book about how to whale, the facts of arctic ship life were interwoven naturally into the flow of the story. He waited until it was appropriate for me to understand how a double walled ship's bow would be reinforced to plow through ice and withstand the pressure of ice forming around it, in the context of the story. (Sorry to tell you, Herman, no one needs a whole chapter on different ropes. That's why I joined the Scouts.)

This book isn't exactly a light read. The copy I got was 766 pages of straight up story (not including the acknowledgements). It took a full week, because I didn't want to rush through the thing and miss any of the suspense.

Bottom line: read this effing book. My sister also says the show is incredible, but I haven't started that (had to read the book first, duh). It is an incredible tale of courage, bravery, cowardice, hubris, compassion, humanity, survival, and failure.

The breakdown:

The Book
Solid five enchanted roses here. I recommend this book to LITERALLY anyone who will listen.

The Writing
Deducted one Lumiere simply because the subject matter is tough and you can find yourself bogged down in the specificities of ship life.

If I could give a half of a Cogsworth I would (but that would be cruel), but because of the areas where the writing bogs up, I couldn't give a full five here.

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