Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Terror, by Dan Simmons

I checked out Dan Simmons' The Terror from the library as an audio book. I had my hopes set on a story of intrigue and courage, with more than a splash of horror and the macabre. The cover to the book is beautiful and does so much for the imagination, and I confess that this was what initially attracted me to the book a few months ago.

The reader was British, which I thought was fitting for the setting of the novel. The Terror is based very loosely on Captain John Franklin's doomed expedition of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror into the Arctic. Technically, the book is classified as historical fiction with a tinge of fantasy/horror. The ships are searching for the Northwest Passage. While out at sea, their ships freeze up in the ice for an unusually long winter. No one is ever seen alive again. This ends the historicity of the book. Everything else is creative freedom. Soon superstitions are running wild on board the two ships. To add to their fear, some sort of monster always lurks out in the ice and snow.

Each chapter alternates between the present (1848) and the past, varying with different characters and giving some background to them. I suppose the reason for this is to build character, but I did not care much for this style.

It is the style that is the biggest problem with the book. Simmons dives in to a pit of historical research and bombards the reader with agonizing descriptions and details. Because of this, there doesn't seem to be much of anything happening, and the reader struggles to understand a time scheme. Thus, progress is painfully slow.

I was eager to hear about the struggles the crew faced, how they fought with scurvy and malnutrition. How they faced the brutal, freezing deathlands of the Arctic. Heck, I was even interested in the monster. Instead I felt that I was given brief samples of the struggles and an overwhelming amount of useless banter.

The Terror is the first book that I've put down in a long time. I made it over a third of the way through and didn't feel like there was any weight to it. Maybe the last two-thirds were great, but I just couldn't bring myself to go on anymore. I was minutely interested at the most, and so I decided to abandon the read. I'm not sure what became of the crew, but I'll wager that they sank into madness and turned on each other. Perhaps one day I'll grab an actual book and read it myself, but I wouldn't bet my life on it.

7 comments:

Jessica (BookLover) said...

I agree - the cover is beautiful. If I saw this book sitting on a shelf, I would probably pick it up too. However, after reading your review, I think I'll skip this one.
Thanks for an honest review. :)

Krista said...

Oh, yes the cover is really wonderful! I'm sorry the inside wasn't as good, I hate when that happens! Thanks for the honest reveiw.

David Wagner said...

Good review - I don't often read an unflattering review... it was oddly refreshing. I've only ever tried non-fiction books as audio books (and then, only twice that I recall)... do you prefer fiction as audio, rather than hard copy? I bet each has its advantages over the other, somehow. Do you think having it be audio enhanced your boredom with the book?

Guess I should give one a go and find out, eh...

Krista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krista said...

I just wanted to stop by and give you this site of one of Ken Scholes short stories, because if you enjoy it then you'll definitely enjoy his Lamentation! A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon <--- Here you can either listen to it or read it. I read and listened to it and it was fantastic! I loved it! If/when you do read or listen to it I'd love to know what you thought. There's also another awesome illustration by Gregory Manchess!

Brandon said...

Good review Logan. I also loved your review of JS & MN. Alas, I let that book slip through my fingers a while back...I saw it for $1 at my library bookstore...arg...

logankstewart said...

@Jessica: You're welcome, and thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope you come back again.

@Krista: Maybe it'll get better with time. This seems like something I might like when I'm an old grandpa.

@David: I typically abstain from audio books, but since I was going to be on the road I thought I'd try it out. I love the dialect that an audio book can offer, and the pronunciation, but it's hard to endure if the reader is slooooow. I probably would like this more if I read it myself, which I may do one day...

@Krista (again): Thank you! I'll check it out soon.

@Brandon: Thanks, Brandon, and sorry that you let the book slip away from you. JS & MN was truly one of a kind brilliant.