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The Terror

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The men on board The HMS Terror - part of the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition - are entering a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, stranded in a nightmarish landscape of ice and desolation. Endlessly cold, they struggle to survive with poisonous rations and a dwindling coal supply. But their real enemy is even more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror clawing to get in.

960 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 8, 2007

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About the author

Dan Simmons

298 books11.2k followers
Dan Simmons grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional "Elm Haven" in 1991's SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002's A WINTER HAUNTING. Dan received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art.

Dan received his Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years—2 years in Missouri, 2 years in Buffalo, New York—one year as a specially trained BOCES "resource teacher" and another as a sixth-grade teacher—and 14 years in Colorado.

Biographic Sketch

His last four years in teaching were spent creating, coordinating, and teaching in APEX, an extensive gifted/talented program serving 19 elementary schools and some 15,000 potential students. During his years of teaching, he won awards from the Colorado Education Association and was a finalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year. He also worked as a national language-arts consultant, sharing his own "Writing Well" curriculum which he had created for his own classroom. Eleven and twelve-year-old students in Simmons' regular 6th-grade class averaged junior-year in high school writing ability according to annual standardized and holistic writing assessments. Whenever someone says "writing can't be taught," Dan begs to differ and has the track record to prove it. Since becoming a full-time writer, Dan likes to visit college writing classes, has taught in New Hampshire's Odyssey writing program for adults, and is considering hosting his own Windwalker Writers' Workshop.

Dan's first published story appeared on Feb. 15, 1982, the day his daughter, Jane Kathryn, was born. He's always attributed that coincidence to "helping in keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life."

Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado—in the same town where he taught for 14 years—with his wife, Karen, his daughter, Jane, (when she's home from Hamilton College) and their Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Fergie. He does much of his writing at Windwalker—their mountain property and cabin at 8,400 feet of altitude at the base of the Continental Divide, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. An 8-ft.-tall sculpture of the Shrike—a thorned and frightening character from the four Hyperion/Endymion novels—was sculpted by an ex-student and friend, Clee Richeson, and the sculpture now stands guard near the isolated cabin.

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Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,102 followers
September 10, 2016
To: Mr. Dan Simmons
From: Associated Publishing Industries Unlimited, Ltd.
Subject: Your Recent Submission The Terror

Thank you for your recent submission. Unfortunately, at this time, we do not see a fit between your product and our company's goals.

Although our senior staff appreciated your technical ability, we noted several serious issues with your submission that need to be resolved prior to your product finding placement. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Extensive and Excessive Length. A common error made by both the reading public and the writing community is that the modern novel must exceed 700 plus pages. The success of the Harry Potter series has only contributed to this misunderstanding. What many fail to understand is that this is simply the result of spacing and font size; the truth of the matter is that novels like those written by Ms. Rowling are no larger than any given novel by Beatrix Potter. Despite the fixation on what are basically large-print serials, our focus groups more frequently maintain that "The Shorter, The Better" - particularly given their short attention spans and addiction to pop culture media e.g. Us Magazine, Jersey Shore, Charlie Sheen, and the like.

2. Lack of Genre. Your product appears to include traits from the Historical Novel, the Horror Novel (specifically its subset, the Monster Novel), and the Metaphysical Odyssey. Associated Publishing Industries Unlimited, Ltd. products must strictly adhere to our "One Novel, One Genre" company philosophy. The general reading public is a busy public, and have no time for the perplexing muddiness of genre mixing-and-matching.

3. (a) Lack of Traditional Romance;
(b) Negative AND Positive Depictions of Homosexual Activity;
(c) Interracial Sexuality Not Resulting in Punishment and/or Death of Non-White Character by Novel's End.

Please understand that our editorial staff has no personal issues with any of the above-noted items (in fact, our marketing department actively supports the targeting of the lucrative Gay/Homosexual demographic within our Ghettoized Associated Publishing Industries Unlimited, Ltd. subset label). However, the presence of all three alternative lifestyle choices/options within a single novel - one intended for mainstream consumption - can only yield confused, 'buy-shy' reactions from our reading public.

4. (a) Lack of Resolution. Your novel does not have a solid ending. It only offers questions, not answers. Additionally, the "dreamlike tone" of the final pages were off-puttingly "poetic" "ambiguous" and "transcendent"... three adjectives that our focus groups vehemently reject when considering reading options. this Lack of Resolution would not necessarily be problematic if your submission was intended to be the first in a multi-novel saga; however it is quite clear from your ending that another issue is
(b) Lack of Potential for Sequel or Series.

5. Too Many Details. oh, and 6. Too Many Big Words.

We sincerely thank you for your time/effort.


An Associated Publishing Industries Unlimited, Ltd. Representative
Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews315 followers
June 8, 2013
September 7, 2010: I don't want to talk about it right now. It's too soon and the pain is still too fresh. I shall review on another day.

September 17, 2010: It's been well over a week since my encounter with The Terror and the thought of writing a review still exhausts me, but here it goes.

I have read many glowing reviews of The Terror. That is, in fact, why I bought it. I mean, check out this kick ass plot:

Two British ships, the Terror and the Erebus, are frozen in the polar sea for years, waiting in vain for a summer thaw. This is, of course, based upon the doomed Franklin expedition, so we have some serious history going on here. Now, add to that a dash of the supernatural--something is out there on the ice. It terrorizes the men, seeming to materialize from nowhere. It's three times the size of a polar bear and has the vicious, bloodthirsty nature of a predator, as well as the keen intelligence of a man. It's like a giant cat toying with the two ships as if they were terrified mice in a corner. There's nowhere to go, guns don't faze the the thing the men dub "The Terror", and, now, the food supply is running out.

That's some frightening shit. It's the arctic. That alone is frightening. It can drive a man insane. It's the nothingness. The whiteness. The endless-ness. Howard Moon and Vince Noir knew not to take the tundra lightly.

And that's part of what ruined the book in the beginning. All I could think as I read the first few chapters was "ice floe, nowhere to go." I think that might have taken away from the tone a bit.

But here are some other more text-based reasons for the seething black pit of hatred that I have for this book:

a) History or supernatural, Simmons needs to pick a side because the two storylines always seemed to run parallel to one another and never quite came together. It was like, "Okay, for 100 pages, I'm going to have the men fearing for their lives as this thing attacks them. I'm going to build tension and suspense and have my readers empathetically shitting down both legs! And then I'm going to flashback for 50 pages to boring nautical talk amongst stuffy British types before the expedition and then spend 150 pages talking about Welsh Wigs and Goldner food tins and building sledges and maybe I'll even talk about buggering, but no mention whatsoever of the monster for another 50 pages!" Simmons was at his best when describing the encounters between the men and the thing on the ice, but these moments were so few and far between that I just got to the point where I didn't care anymore.

b) Too much historical minutiae. The book should have been 300 pages shorter. There were entire sections that didn't add anything to the narrative. I like my history like I like my men: short and concise.

c) Scurvy is some wicked bad shite. A slow death by scurvy is undoubtedly one of the worst ways to die. But do you know what's worse? A slow death by reading endless accounts of the symptoms of scurvy.

d) There are no likeable characters. In fact, there is little to differentiate one man from another. If you left out the dialogue tags, it would have sounded like one man having a conversation with himself. The only character I like is Pangle, who, alas, appears in just a chapter or two of this 766 page behemoth.

e) I was really pissed when I finally found out what the thing was. The main reason? THAT'S what I wanted to read more about. And it took roughly 700 pages to get to a point where I was actually interested and intrigued and it cut me off.

There were some bright spots. When Simmons wrote about the thing attacking the men, leaving bait for them and taunting them, he evoked moments that were truly terrifying and suspenseful. However, there just weren't enough of them. Sure, the attempts to survive against cold, hunger, and disease should have been compelling stuff, but they made for anemic reading when pitted against a terrifying adversary without name or shape. Also, the chapter in which the men throw a carnivale and erect tents that mirror the rooms in Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death is admittedly brilliant.

When it comes right down to it, though, The Mighty Boosh did a far superior job of capturing the terror of the arctic. When Howard admonishes Vince that "The arctic is no respecter of fashion," I still get chills. The same cannot be said of my reaction to The Terror.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 27, 2018
**lo! i have made a readalike list for this book over on riffle!**


oh my god, let me never get scurvy.

i am glad i am such a grad-school overachiever. for both the horror/sci-fi and mystery portions of my readers' advisory class, i have read one extra title from the selection list, and both times, i have liked the extra title best. (i did not choose to read an extra romance title, so we will never know how that would have turned out, alas)

this book is a rare combination of to the lighthouse, and the thing, with hardy-esque occurrences of misunderstanding and some cannibalism thrown in for the kiddies. plus boats and ice and monster.

like the descent, it is the supernatural elements of the story that end up being the least scary. nature is scary enough. cave-exploration, even for feisty extreme-sport doing, athletic-looking girls, becomes terrifying, even before any monsters show up. monsters are icing. for this book, scurvy, madness, murder, temperatures of 78 degrees below zero, starvation, frostbite, gangrene, botulism, did i mention scurvy??- i mean, isn't that enough without a giant monster stalking and eating your seamen?

but i am,to my great dismay, not easily scared.this, to me, was the most promising trailer in the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lm2hZ... but the movie was not scary, and in fact made me cross because of the ways in which it was not scary. i thought i had finally met my match, but i wound up being utterly disappointed. being scared is not too much to hope for, is it?? this book, while it is not going to keep me up tonight, has several really good "oh shit" moments. (and i hope that answers lori's question)

i love the cold, but this book made me pray for global warming to hurry up and save these poor men. (this feeling will last until one of you jokers sends me a picture of a sad polar bear - awwww) but seriously, shit is COLD!!

and i got so into the book that i took the wrong bus on monday and traveled a half hour in the wrong direction before looking up from the book to realize my mistake, and also skipped work (ostensibly because of residual bad-feeling from hellish customers yesterday and faulty alarm clock [both true:], but also because i wanted to finish this book before the ending could get ruined for me in class tonight)

it is an amazingly well-researched book, which may ruin it as horror genre-fiction for people who want their horror fast, cheap, and hard. there are tons of details about rigging and naval protocol and ice conditions and many repetitions of the survivor's names - there are echoes of moby dick here, in its dullish bits about whale anatomy that might be a staple of maritime fiction for all i know, but make the progress a little slower than the monstrous stephen king i read as the other horror title for this class. i think all the details add too much weight to the story to let it retain its status as genre fiction. for myself i would consider it historical fiction with some supernatural zazz.

but it remains totally absorbing, totally gripping, and despite all the questions i raised about the pacing, it is ultimately scarier than the king, whose characters remain cartoonish and too one-dimensional to be scary. except for large marge, cartoons are not scary. here, the danger seems imminent - there are incredible moments of tension and so many beloved characters having unfortunate things happen to them. do not become attached to any of them, because in the end, many seamen are swallowed, and several are spit out.

(that was unavoidable and you know it)

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Ginger.
753 reviews372 followers
April 13, 2022
Whew! I finished it. Wowza!
This is such a long book!!!!!!!

Don’t go into this one unless you enjoy big books, having the patience to let the story evolve and knowing that the pace can be slow at times.

I stuck in there from the beginning and the ending was well worth it! I was struggling in the beginning because the first 10 or so chapters in this book alternate between the present and the past when the Franklin expedition was started.
It also has different POV chapters with characters so know that going in as well. You'll figure out who everyone is if you just take the time to let the story develop.

While reading The Terror during winter, I always felt cold. This story sucks all the warmth from you from the below freezing temperatures in the book, the bleak surroundings, and the isolation that the Franklin expedition endured. The Arctic was its own character in this book with the constant darkness and freezing conditions.
Good grief, I now need to go on a vacation to a warm tropical island after reading this book!

This was a re-telling of the Franklin expedition from the details of the officers, seamen and the steps they took that got them stuck in the ice during the period of 1845-1848 near King William Island. The Royal Navy wanted to find a Northwest Passage from Britain to China and going through the Arctic was the steps they wanted to take to accomplish this.
In the Royal Navy’s mind, whether this expedition made it was another story.
Just keeping trying until they can get that Chinese tea and opium! It's gold I tell ya!

Dan Simmons not only used the real names of the crew from HMS Erebus and HMS Terror but he used historical details of the nautical life during that time and geographical locations to really give this book staying power. I kept thinking, is this non-fiction but then the white, monster-like Yeti would come into the next chapter and I would say, “Nope!”.

The best part of this book was finding out that men can be more of a monster then the "demonthing" monster. Simmons writes this well and I experienced such hatred and despair while reading the last 25% of this book!
Jesus, I wanted to turn into the white, monster-like Yeti myself and kill some people!

I’m still not sure how to categorize this book. I’m guessing its a main dish of historical fiction, a side dish of some horror with a dessert of magical realism.
I really enjoyed the ending. It ended on a high note and I was satisfied with slogging through the Arctic and the slow beginning to get there!
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,463 reviews9,619 followers
July 27, 2017
UPDATE: $2.99 on kindle US 7-27-17

People, just turn around and go home!

I probably shouldn't have went and read some facts about the history of this book because I might mess this review up. It's just so freaking interesting and I want to read about it. The author left a lot of resources for books at the end and there is one I'm going to try to get for sure.

The fact that Dan Simmons added an horror element to a historic novel is pretty awesome. And there are so many characters that I liked in the book and well. . . you know what happens if you read anything about the real story.

Some parts of the book had me confused because it would go back and forth at different times but I pretty much know what's going on. Captain Sir John Franklin and Captain Crozier take the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus out to try to go through the Northwest Passage, which was called the 1845 Franklin Expedition. And it's doomed!!!! Not only do they get stuck out there for a couple of years, they have some monster thing <---(I know what the monster thing is) killing them, along with scurvy, starvation, random stuff, etc.

I LOVE the cold weather and WINTER is my favorite, but not this kind of stuff. Not being stuck in the ice in the middle of no where land with minus a million degrees with food running out, disease running all around, oh and lets not forget the monster!

I liked Dr. Harry D. S. Goodsir, he is one of the surgeons on the ships and after awhile he has an epiphany:

•One reason that Dr. Harry D. S. Goodsir had insisted on coming along on this exploration party was to prove that he was as strong and able a man as most of his crewmates. He soon realized that he wasn't.•

He's a very good man and does all he can for the crew members. He also keeps a diary which I enjoyed reading because it gave his point of view on things.

There is an Esquimaux lady that is on the Terror. They call her Silence because something chewed off her tongue. Yeah! She was brought there with her father or husband, they are not sure and I will let you read about that little mystery. I was freaked out by Silence the whole book. But there was a lot more going on there than meets the eye.

One of my favorite crew members was Irving, he was such a nice guy and he was told by Captain Crozier to watch over Silence because he didn't trust her. Boy did he see some crazy stuff going on with her.

I also liked Captain Crozier, Fitzjams who took over for Sir John, Mr. Diggle and Blanky. I loathed a man named Hickey. He was more evil than the monster I do believe and I wish he would have had some great torture befall him! Trust me, you won't like him either!

The story isn't just about the monster, this is a big tome of a book at almost 1000 pages but the monster isn't in it a whole lot. The story is about other horrible things that happen. The worries of what the crew is going to do when they are running out of food and find out that food is tainted (true story about the tainted food), running low on coal, people catching scurvy and dying a slow horrendous death, the cold, don't forget the cold. Some really nasty stuff happens that had to do with the cold.

But that monster does some crazy stuff. It's almost like he has a sick sense of humor!

•"It?" snaps Crozier. "One body? Back on the ship?" This makes no sense at all to the Terror's captain. "I thought you said both Strong and Evans were back."
Third Lieutenant Irving's entire face is frostbite white now. "They are, Captain. Or at least half of them. When we went to look at the body propped up there at the stern, it fell over and . . . well . . . came apart. As best we can tell, it's Billy Strong from the waist up. Tommy Evans from the waist down."
Crozier and Fitzjames can only look at each other.•

You never know what you will find in the never ending night!

•On a Tuesday dogwatch in the third week of November, the thing from the ice came aboard the Erebus and took the well-liked bosun, Mr. Thomas Terry, snatching him from his post near the stern, leaving only the man's head on the railing.•

I thought this was a really good book. I did think it was a bit long as a few parts dragged for me. And that's not because it's a tome, I have a few favorite tomes that are bigger than this one. Either way, I still very much enjoyed it and the ending and finding things out was so cool. Of course at one part you start to get an idea of what it's going to be about. And it took a turn I didn't see coming!

I will leave you with a picture of the Erebus they found in 2014/2015, I forget what the article said now but you can google it. They still haven't found Terror. They also found mummified corpses and stuff so be prepared when you google!


MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews856 followers
April 8, 2021
In 1845 Sir John Franklin lead an exhibition of two big ships and crews in search of the Arctic's fabled North West Passage - this splendidly created and surprisingly subversively horrific book is Dan Simmons' very detailed, and very believable, fictionalised version of what happened to the 129 men of this expedition; and it's a doozy of a story, another epic Simmons' piece of work. The killer thing is though, if you read about what has since been found from the Arctic and the wrecks, nearly all of Simmons' story is based on actual facts! 8.5 out of 12.

And just to add... this is easily one of the most informative and interesting historical fiction books I have ever read! (It's the horror content that stops this getting Five Stars!)
Profile Image for Debra .
2,287 reviews35k followers
November 17, 2019
This is so good!!!!!!!! What took me so long to read this?????

The men aboard the HHS Terror believe they will be the ones to successfully search for the Northwest Passage. The year is 1845 and the Franklin Expedition is steam-powered and after spending another a second summer in the arctic circle, their rations begin to dwindle, men's spirits begin to plummet and there is no end to the ice, cold and darkness. As the men begin to show signs of scurvy, they also are confronted by poisonous food, crushing ice, and an unseen "terror" on the ice which seems to be plucking them off one by one.

Plus, there is the Inuit/Esquimaux woman who cannot speak but who has survival skills that leave the men in awe and frightened at the same time. She seems to be able to hunt and thrive in a harsh environment. Is she a witch? Can she be trusted? and how is she able to slip away without notice?

When Sir John Franklin meets a gruesome death, Captain Francais Crozier takes charge and leads the men on a last-ditch effort to take their chances and flee on the ice. Will they survive? Will they starve to death? Will scurvy be their downfall or will the real "terror" on the ice be the death of them all?

This is a monster of a book. It's HUGE and cannot be read fast. It is to be savored and read slowly. There are many characters with stories to tell. The first 5--70 pages were a little slow for me but as the story builds, I found my heart racing in fear for the characters (especially when Blanky was desperately trying to get away by climbing higher and higher through the ropes to survive).

Profile Image for Darth Fierce.
331 reviews23 followers
September 30, 2018

The Terror is a fictional tale based on the real life experience of the notoriously doomed John Franklin Expedition.

These brave men journeyed hundreds of miles by sea voyage in the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, part of the British Naval fleet sent to the Arctic to force the Northwest Passage in 1845–1848, and then travelled the rest on foot into the desolate, below-freezing temperatures of the Arctic wasteland.

All died or were never seen or heard from ever again.


Dan Simmons imaginative story explains how and why.

The Terror is a book drawn from a historical background so deep and so thoroughly well-researched that I'm quite sure I've never heard of any other writer of fiction attempting to do so at this level ever before.

For those that like to pick apart every bit of a story with a goal in mind to repute the validity of the facts given, you won't find much to work with here.

Set in the harshest conditions, with handfuls of men that may be hard to discern not only which side of the fence they're on, but just who is who for a ways, these characters aren't so much as enjoyable as they are absorbing. As their living conditions become more severe and their hardships grow more intense, good decision-making is made less and less often. Way below freezing temperatures, sparse food supplies, sickness, soreness, etc., would be tragic for even the most stalwart of men.


The Terror, providentially, is more than all this. What is it exactly? ~ This is a horror book, right? Yes. Even though it didn't have to be. Dan Simmons could have left out all the fantastical elements in his historical tale and it would've been enough to cringe to and have nightmares about and be fascinated by all the same. But, he didn't stop there, thankfully.


So what is The Terror exactly? Is it a man? Is it natural, man-made, myth or legend? The word Tuunbaq comes up. Is it a living creature, a guardian spirit, or an evil elder monster from eons past, or maybe something from another world?

   ~ Is it the Wendigo? Or possibly a Yeti? ~
   ~ A Polar Bear gone mad with frenzy? ~

   ~ Is it the mythical Tuunbaq, maybe? ~ 

I can't say.

The story itself is very long, a bit heavy, hopeless, and as can only be expected, if you don't stay on it you will probably confuse a few of the officers with eachother which could result in you wanting to forget the whole thing altogether.

This book cannot be compared to Simmons previous novels in any shape or form. This book is not science-fiction nor does it have the framework or set-up of a traditional horror tale either.

For anyone fascinated with historical adventures and cryptid horror and for readers who crave oldschool antiquated storytelling.

It takes an investment of time and patience beyond the norm that should be very rewarding if you stay with it until the end. I thought it was truly great and really enjoyed all the finer details that breached to the surface.


If you are a modern reader and you only like *page-turners*, this is certainly not for you. If you have a million and one things going on at once, just say no for now. If you are into comic book type action of super-heroic proportions, not for you. If you like quick answers and are impatient in any way I suggest reading something else. If you are somebody who needs happy American-style endings to your movie, where you finally get the girl and there's a big smooch in the end with sunlight or fireworks streaming in the background, don't even touch this book for fear you might be infected by the dreadful truth of reality.

There are many reasons why you should want to read this though. In this book you will share and feel the experience the crew are feeling: the cold, the despair, the loneliness, the dread and terror of the unknown, unstoppable creature, and the tragic understanding of, what inevitably feels to be, a hopeless outcome. You might feel the need to put on layers and layers of clothing, and stand so close to a fire you may be tempted to put your hands and feet right into it. You will feel like you are living this book.


I believe it is Dan Simmons magnum opus. I give it 5 stars not because I'm necesarily going to return and re-read it again anytime soon but because, other than being a tad too long, it is flawless. It doesn't fall into modern traps or pitfalls of always trying to please the reader nor does it have the feeling of a Hollywood movie where you know your main characters are going to survive to the end, regardless of any other surprises.

This is the real deal. Live it. Experience it. Draw from it.

Then pick up some fluffy fun read you can rollercoaster through for 2 days straight to a walloping climax so you can recuperate and recover.

* For fans of the book, you will be glad to know AMC is bringing it to television in the form of a tv series and if that news isn't good enough, Ridley Scott is purportedly producing it and my guess is he may even direct an episode or two.

** There have been several releases of this book, even a few just recently. I prefer the standard-sized 2009 paperback release. It has a little better cover art than some of the others, having distinct yellow and white embossed lettering, and inside and on the back, a lot of cool quotes and kudo's by reviewers and other notable authors.

Kind of fun to read what others have to say about this extraordinary novel.

Highly recommended!!!!!

Profile Image for Matt.
918 reviews28.3k followers
July 17, 2022
“They crossed the Great Ice Barrier separating the pack ice from land sometime after 1:00 a.m. The wind stayed low but the temperature continued to drop. During one pause to rerig ropes for the lifting of the sledges over a thirty-foot wall of ice…Lieutenant Little took another temperature reading. It was –82 degrees. [Captain] Crozier had been working and giving commands from within a deep trench of exhaustion for many hours. At sunset, when he'd last looked to the south at the distant creature loping ahead of them now – it was already crossing the sea ice barrier in easy leaps – he had made the mistake of taking his mittens and gloves off for a moment so as to write some position notes in his log. He had forgotten to don the gloves before lifting the telescope again and his fingertips and one palm had instantly frozen to the metal. In pulling his hands away quickly, he had ripped a layer of skin and some flesh off his right thumb and three fingers on one hand, and lifted a swath off his left palm…”
- Dan Simmons, The Terror

The first time I read Dan Simmons’s The Terror, it was during the worst breakup of my life. It was one of those breakups that completely re-alter your perceptions, so that all sense of balance and scope is gone. It was a breakup like the one Jack Kerouac wrote about at the beginning of On the Road, and it left me with the “feeling that everything was dead.” Fifteen years, one marriage, and four kids later, the whipsawing emotional lability I experienced as a young adult is a distant memory, barely kept alive by some truly embarrassing journal entries I really should destroy.

In any event, as I pushed through those unforgiving days, when minutes felt like hours, and each week an eternity, I sought something to take my mind off my troubles. The Terror perked my interest because it was about unimaginable suffering. In my hyperemotional state, this greatly appealed to me.

The suffering in The Terror comes from a multitude of sources. There is the cold weather, the dark nights, and a ship locked in the ice. There is poisoned food, scurvy, and potentially mutinous shipmates. Above all, casting a shapeless shadow, is a voracious, mythical-seeming creature that is tearing men apart out on the ice.

By the end, my original need had been satisfied. Love – as they say – hurts, but no more than your teeth falling from your gums, or your limbs turning black with frostbite, or some nameless land shark ripping out your intestines for no apparent purpose.


Despite its supernatural horror roots, The Terror is actually based upon historical events. Indeed, as far as the record exists – and to be honest, there’s not much record to speak of – it is pretty accurate.

The nonfiction baseline is John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to the Arctic Circle to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a water route that is only now being revealed by a warming earth. Franklin was a famed explorer in his day, and had survived earlier brushes with death by eating his shoes. This expedition was the first with steam-powered ships. Even with that extra oomph, however, his two vessels – the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus – got themselves stuck fast in the ice.


Simmons actually starts things in 1847, two years into the expedition. The opening scene hauntingly captures the beauty, wonder, and severity of the far north, with Captain Francis Crozier, the commander of HMS Terror, coming out on deck in –50 degree weather to see the Northern Lights reaching toward him.

Though being icebound is not ideal, the Expedition had been provisioned for this eventuality. Unfortunately, due to unscrupulous merchants, most of their tinned food has gone bad, a real-life theory that has both supporters and detractors in the robust literature surrounding Franklin’s mission.

The hunger and the scurvy would be bad enough, accentuated by the cold and darkness, but Simmons’s clever twist is to add another lethal variable in the guise of a murderous bear-thing.


One of my life principles is that history is not a spoiler. The events of the past, often involving the deaths of real people, should not be treated as though they are a last-act reveal or a narrative twist. I have learned, of course, that not everyone on the internet agrees with this premise. Accordingly, if you don’t know about the Franklin Expedition, and prefer to learn its specifics elsewhere, please skip the next two paragraphs.

For those still here, I will note that no member of the historical Franklin Expedition ever returned home. Rescue ships pieced together some of the mystery. Two different messages – both on the same piece of paper, and tucked into a rock cairn – provide tantalizing clues, but no full account. There is also some Inuit testimony of white men trying to cross the ice. This has led to a consensus that a portion of the crew tried to escape the ships and travel over-ice, pulling heavy sledges behind them. This proved incredibly difficult, as the ice was not slippery and flat, but a semi-mountainous terrain created by pack ice crashing together and forming jagged up-flows. Within the past few years, both Terror and Erebus have been found underwater, though they’ve been slow to disclose any secrets.

In any event, Simmons has chosen a marvelously spooky canvas upon which to paint his tale, cleverly interspersing the known with the unknown, the spare facts and his informed speculation, and then adding a relentless, unknowable killer to the mix.


Simmons tells the story in alternating third-person chapters told from the points-of-view of a handful of different characters. Chief among them is Captain Crozier, an alcoholic running out of booze, and mourning the lingering remnants of a failed romance. Other chapters center on overall expedition leader Sir John Franklin himself, shipmates Blanky and Peglar, and Dr. Goodsir, whose chapters mainly consist of journal excerpts, which give Simmons the opportunity to unload historical information without trying to interweave it into the main storylines. In a bit of tongue-in-cheek verisimilitude, each chapter heading includes the latitude, longitude, and date.

This is not really a character study. Aside from Crozier, none of the crew leaps out as a great literary creation. For the most part, they are sturdy archetypes, which frankly works just fine. The addition of Silence, an Inuit woman without a tongue, is a bit more unfortunate, approaching as she does the mystical indigenous stereotype.


At 766 pages, this is a long, dense novel, filled with details. The plot itself is not important, save for Simmons’s ability to use it to modulate tension. Ultimately, B-story elements such as a burgeoning mutiny feel a bit like filler, but they serve the purpose of marking time till the freaky-scary thing out on the ice attacks again.

And boy, does Simmons nail those scenes. There is some truly taut moments of waiting, thrilling chases through the odd moonscapes of the ice, and brutal collisions of man and teeth.

At times, The Terror can be exhausting, repetitively hitting the same notes over and over. Perhaps that is partially the point, a way of demonstrating – in a very minor way – what it would have been like to be trapped for so long. The climax is debatable. Depending on your mood, it can be either silly or disappointing or creepy or provoking. I’m not sure I liked it, but I didn’t forget it, because it is a bit bonkers.


We are in a spot right now, and not a good one. There is a pandemic that keeps flaring, even though we are trying to pretend it’s over. The actual temperature of the United States is rising, while the figurative temperatures of the body politic are past boiling. The economy looks ready to collapse, along with democracy, and if you are thinking of escaping, you should avoid Eastern Europe, because there’s a war.

In trying moments, it is nice to plunge into a book that takes you away from your troubles. A book where everyone is good looking, the income is disposable, and every problem can be solved by the time the sun sets on the beach.

Or you can read The Terror and simply embrace the suck.
Profile Image for Wil Wheaton.
Author 89 books198k followers
February 5, 2011
Without getting into any spoilers: this is a fictionalized account of the doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845. It is about hubris, greed, strength during unspeakable adversity, and possibly redemption.

Oh, there's also a terrifying monster that they call The Thing on The Ice which is slowly killing everyone aboard the two ships.

It's Dan Simmons, so he takes his time getting into the meat of the story (my dad said that he was telling three stories when he could have told one) but I consider that to be a feature of his writing, rather than a bug.

I absolutely loved this novel. In fact, I loved it so much, I read most of it during JoCoCruiseCrazy in the beginning of 2011, because I just couldn't put it down, even though I was in the middle of the Caribbean on an amazing cruise.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
December 16, 2018
Dan Simmons is an author's author.

Every time I read something by him that is either A: not quite in my interest zone, or B: reads workmanlike but nothing particularly brilliant, he SQUASHES my expectations.

HMS Terror and Erebus are out to find the Northwest Passage. In the meantime, I am tricked into caring about every one of the men on the ships. This is not a Darwin Award I'm reading, even though a few characters WERE on the Beagle.

This is a harrowing and perfectly period descent into an icy hell. Enjoy murder, scurvy, madness, a monster on the ice, wicked dreams, withdrawal, and... of course... SOYLENT GREEN.

Oh, wait, wrong book.

I'll leave it for posterity. :)

At least I never ate human flesh. At least I never ate human flesh.

Just keep telling yourself that, buddy.

I was lukewarm going into this, but it turned out to be one hell of a brilliant frozen horror. :)

Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,341 followers
January 10, 2018
Why am I reading so many books about the cold? Maybe because it's freezing here in Chicago!

This is a buddy read with Cristina, and I'll review as I go.

The first couple of hundred pages were surprisingly slow-going. There was very little propulsion about the plot--just occasional glimpses of the "terror" along with long passages of backstory that I didn't really find compelling. I don't know why I reacted like that. Maybe it was because I'd just read Crime and Punishment, another (and very different) tome that managed to be fascinating throughout. Or maybe it was the prose, which isn't terribly stylish. I'm always a sucker for great prose, and I miss it when it isn't there. At that point, I would have given the book two or maybe three stars.

Then, at some point, things brightened up--the plot started shifting into gear, with all the various elements (the terror, the ice, scurvy, boredom, and inter-character conflict) starting to come together. I still think it took too long for that to happen, but boy, I'm glad it did!

[Some spoilers follow]


I love the scene of the Carnival, no doubt because it self-consciously replicates Poe's The Masque of the Red Death. You just knew, given that setup, that the creature would strike, but it was quite well-done all the same. And the scene where Irving watches the creature and Lady Silence together was just magical. It deepened the sense of the creature as not merely being a source of terror, but also perhaps something more.

Of course, against the backdrop of the creature striking, we have the "ticking clock" in the form of scurvy and running out of food. The sailors need to do something to escape, and their ice-bound ships will not suffice. What can they do? It's a terrific source of tension.


In the end they make an ill-fated attempt to cross the ice by foot, and here is where the interpersonal tensions come to a head. It's also where we see, in shocking terms, just what the cold does to a human body. The creature recedes somewhat into the background as the elements take over. I may have wished for more of a confrontation with the creature, as it seems to emerge at times conveniently, only to fade away when its presence is inconvenient, but this is a minor quibble.

In the end, the group splinters, and a new source of evil in the form of Cornelius Hickey comes to the front of the stage. The pages here are quite gripping, even as the moral valence isn't terribly complicated.

What does become complicated, and what ultimately elevates this book, is the relationship between Captain Crozier and "Lady Silence" that emerges after Crozier is left for dead by Hickey and his band. What's interesting is how Crozier changes and becomes like an Eskimo himself--how he becomes a different person. The climax is when the creature emerges and cuts out his tongue just as it had Lady Silence's, and while this is never really explained, I took it as a metaphor for the limits of language itself--how they had to free themselves from language to see beyond its obscuring haze of words. In the end, much of the final part of the book is interwoven with songs and language taken from the Eskimo, and while I couldn't understand it, it nonetheless had a certain power. Like a Latin Mass, the sounds themselves conveyed a certain meaning beyond the rational, which may have been part of the point--that all that British rationalism only got the men killed, while the liturgical melding of Crozier and Lady Silence and the landscape itself was what saved him.
June 4, 2022
The words that immediately come to mind in regards to Dan Simmons' The Terror are 'Horrendously overrated' and 'Incredibly repetitive'. Unfortunately, this book for me is the equivalent to how I feel about aubergines, and for the majority of this reading experience, I was willing for it to come to an end, and as a prior warning fellow readers, I'm definitely not going to hold back here.

After reading SO many positive reviews about this, I was expecting to be completely bowled over. (That doesn't happen to me often around here) and before buying this, I did my adequate research. I already knew that this book was based on the fascinating "John Franklin Arctic expedition" which personally interests me, and that is probably the primary reason for me purchasing this. I wanted history, and plenty of it, but instead, I was met with the unrealistic theme of the supernatural. I was obviously aware of this, but I found it completely swallowed any enjoyment that could be had from the historic side of things.

That was one of the prominent issues with this book; the two themes that never really gelled together. For a couple of chapters there was a monster out there to devour the men on the ice, then we abruptly jump back years to another scene, that has no real impact on the plot. It caused a detached feeling, and really, it knackered up my mind. I like to think I have patience, but this, this was abysmal.

I quickly discovered that scurvy is one of the main culprits for a long, painful death in "The Terror" and fair enough, I appreciated the detailed description of this, but when it is repeated constantly throughout the book, it becomes painstakingly tiring. Dan Simmons likes his scurvy, I guess.

I can't say I liked any of the characters, as all of them were kind of lifeless beings, and sometimes it was difficult to differentiate who Simmons was referring to.

I think the only notable scene which brought a smirk and and a swift eye roll from me, was the sex scene that occurred in the water. The fact that the male in question had no idea that his sexual partner was able to orgasm (due to being female, obviously) humoured me somewhat. We're all just in it for the male pleasure, you see.

This book might have been better if say, 400 pages were knocked off, which means I would have finished it quicker, and therefore, that would have enabled me to get on with my life at haste.
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews552 followers
April 8, 2018
See this review and more like it at www.bookbastion.net!

I'm late to the party with this read, I know, but The Terror just came onto my radar when I realized that AMC was turning it into a television show. I'm a book-over-movie/tv adaptation purist. So many details end up falling to the wayside in an adaptation - for example, I've watched one episode of the show, and already spotted a major difference from the book. I knew I'd want to experience this story as Dan Simmons originally told it, so I ran out and got myself a copy.

I knew going in that this would be a book that would challenge me on a number of fronts. I enjoy horror, but historical fiction is not exactly my purview so to a mix of both is definitely something I'd not experienced before. I'm happy to report that this book far and away exceeded my expectations. This book is as dark and desolate as its setting, packed with perfect atmospheric horror at its greatest.

Inspired by real events, The Terror is a fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin's lost expedition of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror into the artic seas in 1845-1848, to force the Northwest Passage. Dan Simmons weaves together a fictionalized possible explanation to what happened to the men aboard both these sister ships, incorporating both real and supernatural horrors that fill the story with a limitless supply of dread.

Some of the best horror is borne out of that same sense of isolation that proliferates this novel. Trapped on the artic ice, in sub-zero temperatures, with a murderous beast hot on their trail, the men of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror already had enough on their plate for me to feel disturbed by. Couple all that with failing food supplies and the gloomy prospect of what must come next when the food runs out, things get even scarier.

I spent pretty much the entire second half of the story aghast at the levels certain characters are forced to sink to. Make no mistake about it, when people say this book is dark, it is seriously dark. Just when you think things cannot get worse for these characters, they do. Horror fans in general are curtained to be delighted by it, so if you enjoy bleak and existential dread in your horror, you must give this a try.

One other aspect I really enjoyed about this was the characters. I went into this novel hoping to be impressed by the supernatural bear-demon hunting a trapped crew in the artic and came away feeling like the depth and actions of certain characters really blew that out of the water. I was more compelled by a desire to see how certain characters stories would turn out than I was in the supernatural elements by the end of the novel.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of characters here. You've got a cast of 100+ characters counting all the men on both ships, and though many cycle to the forefront of the story only to be excised by death, a few frontrunners who stick around for the long count ended up really capturing my heart. Crozier, Irving, Peglar and Bridgens in particular were three side characters that are so well developed and written that I found myself the most greatly invested in their outcomes.

The level of detail and attention paid to historical accuracy is staggering, though perhaps a little overwhelming to readers who aren't expecting it. I was never bored for a moment and was very pleasantly surprised to encounter a properly scary and well written adventure encapsulated in this horror novel.

4.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads!

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Profile Image for A.E. Chandler.
Author 3 books167 followers
June 23, 2022
This book hit oddly a little close to home. I was re-cataloguing for the military collection at a museum for several years before someone discovered that the large wooden block sitting at the edge of the collection was actually the long lost anvil block from either the Erebus or the Terror. It was placed by the military collection because it had been augmented with a variety of metal nails and other objects, including a spearpoint jammed in its top. It looks like as the survivors had set out they hauled it with them (for dubious reasons, as they were probably fairly ill by then and a large wooden block meant to elevate a heavy anvil for blacksmithing wasn’t likely to be terribly useful) and then abandoned it along the way. It was an odd feeling to find out that this mystery artefact I’d spent so much time around was actually a lost piece of the Franklin Expedition. If anyone is interested in seeing the anvil block, here is a brief look: Long Lost Anvil Block
Profile Image for Rachel Bea.
358 reviews112 followers
February 7, 2017

I absolutely loved this book.

Don't let the page length stop you from reading it! Despite its length, the story moves quickly and there's incredible tension throughout. There are a ton of characters to keep you interested (but not too many that you lose track) and who you'll want to scream at for doing the wrong thing or an incredibly awful thing. Some parts were breathtakingly tense and some parts were frightening. Don't think of this as a horror book with a monster... This is so much more. The last 200 pages were a triumph IMO...

Simply one of the best books I have ever read!

PS: The actual ship was just found this past September. SO COOL! http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/h...
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,136 followers
March 17, 2019
WOW! This historic tale of a doomed arctic expedition set in 1845 aboard the HMS TERROR is based on true events and one horrific adventure complete with unbelievably brutal sub-zero temperatures, and a terrifying monster from hell. Loaded with great characters including the mysterious 'Lady Silence' and a unique and surprising ending to say the least. While sometimes descriptively gruesome, an engaging story and thrilling read!
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
643 reviews4,263 followers
June 1, 2020
“We are all eaters of souls.”

You know those books that you absolutely love, yet wouldn’t blindly recommend them to everyone? That’s me with The Terror. Absolutely LOVED it, but I don’t think it’s suited to every reader.

Incase you didn’t know, The Terror is based on the Franklin Expedition, when two steam-powered vessels set out in 1845 on a mission to traverse the Northwest Passage. So think big ships and lots of snow and ice. But of course, Simmons puts his own spin on it and also throws in another threat that is hunting and killing the men. As if the threat of scurvy and hunger isn’t enough!

It is clear from the outset that this book is impeccably researched and so it became a learning experience for me as well as being a damn good story! However this is also where I would warn to proceed with caution, as not everyone will enjoy the extreme level of detail given. Some parts of the story are so bloody engrossing and you simply cannot stop turning the pages, but equally you get the lulls where there’s a lot of discussion over how the mission should proceed and so forth. But hey, I loved it all!

I truly felt like I embarked on a journey with these men and, boy, was it an emotionally exhausting one. The cast of characters is huge, but you quickly learn who to cheer on, and those you should wish a painful death for. It was horrifying, exhilarating and gut-wrenching. All of the adjectives!!

My one minor qualm is the ending - I obviously won’t give away much, but the last 70 pages were so beyond what I was expecting. But this book is all about the journey, so it really didn’t hamper my experience that much! Oh, and some of the detailed descriptions of pubic hair was just... ick.

However, I LOOOOOOOVED this! But again, it’s not gonna be for everyone! 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Stephen Robert Collins.
564 reviews48 followers
August 8, 2018
A perfect book for the hot weather as it's -50 set in Antarctica circle near Baffin Island & on King William Land in 1845-1848 in locked ships The Terror & The Erebus this has been made into AMC TV series From Sir Ridley Scott of Alien fame .
Set in between 1843-48 this book about two ships locked in the ice & it's also about man's fight with the cold but worse still there is something in the dark hunting them, something from old times pure evil.
What makes this so good is the descriptions 'His pale , lumpy face & stubbled jowls remind Crozier of a rotten white peeled potato stuffed under a Welsh wig' p57 if that doesn't sum up fantastic image I don't know what does .He has all craft of Dickens.
Made into a Ten part TV series
This book is difficult to explain it has the haunting atmosphere of John Carpenter's The Fog with its unexpected ghostly eeriness & The Monkey's Paw twists it is really Bloody horrible in parts .The things people will eat when you are starving .Even Polar bears but not as book says their liver as it's deadly; I have heard that before .But even eating shoes or boiled Leather but worst of all each other.
If want book that give the willies this it. The most interesting person is Lady Silence the Eskimo with no tongue she is classed by the crew as a witch & a Johan because the all the trouble starts is the day she arrives she is young erotic sexual haunting & mystic .She gives the story an extra twist.
This the paperback version with TV cover & is more pages 936 & really good print .Also the map at front of this book helps to make it easier to read because see where they are.
I had relies that the ordinary Sailor of low ranks are £60 a year,the Carpenter's £70 & Skilled Blacksmiths & the engineers at £80 over per years over 3-4 that's huge amount & it's puree profit as it's full board & lodgings as they are on the ships. Wow ! in 1840s is hell of a wage no wonder they went & then all the huge amounts of food, coal & ships were hell did get all that money they must been very very rich into it would. be like Richard Branson doing a Virgin tour.
An erotic love flashback also to brake up the ice .This what makes this book so good it's not just the The Leviathan but it also has other thinks in it like the disgusting Opium Wars in China which lot of people may not know was not about stopping Opium been sold but selling it. The British wanted Chinese Tea but to buy tea we need something to Trade with but the Chinese had Gunpowder, silks,spices & lot more but only thing we had to Trade was Opium but when The Emperor saw what did to his people he tried to ban it so we went to war over Tea & selling Opium to make people into druggies .We won
.At same time the green tea plants were rare & explores classed as spy's under pain of Death if caught got the rare Tea plants out to India & they created the Black tea thus the East India Tea company was founded. A cup PG tea is founded with the blood of the Chinese Opium druggies. Bet did not know that sad is not that that's what Britain great in the early Victorian times Opium .
This book also talks about Naughty naked swimming & it gives a glims of sex in 1840s .It also talks about religion but most of its the Terror make you wet your self as cold shivers creep down as read & more erotica. An extra even a juice murder
The biggest thing about this book is that it is like Melmoth The Wander, Moby Dick, Poe it has both Lovecraft & other classical fiction influence but is a modern horror like It by. Stephen King, Savage or UK authors such as Shaun Hutson or Kim Newman this the sort of book 20years from now you will remember it its like Lord of the Ring or as said Moby Dick because they are sort of books that stand out also because of it been a historical book it never date even 1000 years from now.
Some books are to good to forget this one of them.
TOP HORROR MALE BOOK 2018 TOP BOOK 2018✳✳✳✳✳✳✳✳✳✳
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
262 reviews56 followers
May 9, 2021

"Why does our species always have to take our full measure of God-given misery and terror and mortality and then make it worse?"

The Terror by Dan Simmons. A fantastic and quite frankly breathtaking feat of writing that takes the historical events of the ill-fated Franklin expedition into the Arctic and adds a unique horror spin. The amount of research that must have went into this one is staggering.

But how does it actually read? Well I've read three books by Dan Simmons so far and they have all been comfortable five star reads. He is without doubt a consummate story teller and up there alongside the very best in the business. I'm talking Robert McCammon and Stephen King. This one however is the pick of the bunch. For such a huge novel, it moves very well. Definitely a lot better than the HMS Terror from which this book takes it's name.

Theres some fantastic characters on show in this one and the turn of events are truly harrowing as the limits of human endeavour are pushed to the very limit. Each character is very realistic, likeable yet fantastically flawed or just downright nasty pieces of work. All are placed in the most dire of circumstances and we get to see just how human they actually are. The reader is constantly pondering what the true horror is in this one. Is it the supernatural, the harsh environment our heroes find themselves in or each other.

"Francis Crozier believes in nothing. Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. It has no plan, no point, no hidden mysteries that make up for the oh-so-obvious miseries and banalities."

The way Simmons packages and presents this story is fantastic with a narrative stream, mixed with journal and diary entries. Word of warning though. The timeline jumps about a bit at the beginning so remember to check them dates. The story is initially slow-moving, with many scenes heavy on exposition and detail. But this all helps to build the picture and tension, while heightening the realism. If you can hang in there you reap the reward as the story unfolds.

All in all I was left in awe of this one and it's going down as the number one horror novel I've tackled in 2020. Dan Simmons, take a bow. Not to be confused with the bow of a ship...I'm now fully informed of all those nautical terms. So I've gained an education to boot!

Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews907 followers
October 17, 2019
Just re-read this deeply atmospheric gem of a novel and loved it just as much as the first time I read it! Probably even more since I have been thinking about this book for more than a year and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it again. I am absolutely gobsmacked by this riveting blend of historical fiction, adventure, horror and the folklore/myths of the Inuit people of the arctic circle. This was especially interesting to me since the long lost Northwest Passage expedition ship The Terror was just recently found in pristine condition under the freezing waters off Northern Canada - not even ten years after this book was written. This is one of those books that has you falling down all sorts of fascinating rabbit holes, researching and sorting fact from fiction. Simmons really did his homework on this spooky maritime tale.

It’s a door stopper at almost 800 pages, but you’re not going to be able to put it down. Grab a blanket, a cup of steaming hot tea and settle down in front of that fireplace for the journey of a lifetime. What a story! Highly recommend, one of my all-time favorite books ever.

Link to a recent article about the discovery of The Terror:

This was awesome! (April 2018)
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,687 followers
May 13, 2011
Is the Terror a mythical beast in the Arctic? The Tuunbaq?
Is the Terror Her Majesty’s Ship of the same name?
Is the Terror nights that never end?
Is the Terror a Ripper style murderer and his penchant for mutilation?
Is the Terror knowledge?
Is the Terror sodomy?
Is the Terror a silent Esqimaux?
Is the Terror scurvy?
Is the Terror unrelenting ice floes?
Is the Terror belief?
Is the Terror remembrance?
Is the Terror dreams?
Is the Terror the past?
Is the Terror cannibalism?
Is the Terror doubt?
Is the Terror hope?
Is the Terror ignorance?
Is the Terror magic?
Is the Terror misunderstanding?
Is the Terror fire?
Is the Terror interminable cycles?
Is the Terror hubris?
Is the Terror hate?
Is the Terror capitalism?
Is the Terror “civilization”?
Is the Terror humanity?
Is the Terror the unknown?
Is the Terror failure?
Is the Terror duty?
Is the Terror ego?
Is the Terror alcohol?
Is the Terror visions and hallucinations?
Is the Terror death?
Is the Terror suffering?
Is the Terror starvation?
Is the Terror ice?
Is the Terror morality?
Is the Terror shame?
Is the Terror foolishness?
Is the Terror delusion?
Is the Terror love?
Is the Terror life?
Is the Terror solitude?
Profile Image for Michael || TheNeverendingTBR.
467 reviews161 followers
October 14, 2021
This one is a fictionalized account of Captain John Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus & HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to locate the Northwest Passage.

In the novel, Franklin and his crew are plagued by starvation and illness, and forced to contend with mutiny, cannibalism and they're stalked across the Arctic landscape by a monster.

A long book, maybe not for the impatient, lots of character building, very atmospheric and the writing is just incredible.

My first Dan Simmons read and I loved it!

A good book to read in an igloo during winter lol! :O
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,304 reviews299 followers
April 5, 2023
Review on English, followed by the Bulgarian one. Ревюто на английски е първо, следва това на български.

I don't know if you will ever read this but anyway - thank you for the great book Mr. Simmons!!!

What a novel -simply epic!

With a smooth, almost somnolent start, a surprise rise of the tension to the finish that far exceeded my expectations!

Simmons is familiar to us mainly with his science fiction books, but this is pure adventurous novel with unheard-of scope, at least for me.

The atmosphere and the problems of a lost arctic expedition have been skillfully recreated. But the real treasure in this book are the all of the expedition memebers, through Hickey and Manson, Dr. Goodsir, Captain of the Foretop Harry Pegler and Subordinate Officers' Steward John Bridges, ice boson Thomas Blanks, Captain Crosier and Lady Silence. Their fates and actions made me a direct participant in the events and brought me an incredible emotion.

And it is not granted to anyone that he will remain a human by the end!

Descriptions of the lives, customs, and beliefs of the Inuit were very interesting for me I will look for other sources in order to learn more.

Those who grew up like me with the novels and stories of Jack London will probably like this book very much. To the others I say - give it a chance. It’s worthy, and I strongly recommend it.

Is Tuunbaq still wandering through the melting Arctic ice in search of souls to swallow...?

Какъв роман!!!

С плавно, почти приспивно начало, стремително покачване на напрежението и финал, далеч надминал очакванията ми!

Симънс е познат у нас основно с фантастиката си, но това е приключенски роман с нечуван поне за мен размах.

Умело са пресъздадени атмосферата и проблемите на една изгубена арктическа експедиция. Но истинското съкровище в тази книга са героите ѝ, от простите моряци, споменати само тук там, през Хики и Мансън, доктор Гудсър, стюардите Хари Пеглър и Джон Бриджес, ледовия боцман Томас Бланки, та до капитан Крозиър и естествено Безмълвната дама. Съдбите и действията им ме направиха пряк участник в събитията и ми донесоха невероятна емоция.

И не е гарантирано на никой, че ще остане човек до края!

Описанията на живота, обичаите и вярванията на инуитите бяха много интересни за мен, ще потърся и други източници описващи ги.

На тези, израснали като мен с романите и разказите на Джек Лондон, тази книга най-вероятно много ще се хареса. На останалите казвам - дайте и шанс. Струва си и аз горещо я препоръчвам.

Дали и до днес Туунбак скита през топящия се арктически лед, в търсене на души за поглъщане?

Profile Image for Labijose.
958 reviews415 followers
May 10, 2018
Dan Simmons nos ofrece un relato de ficción basado en la fallida expedición de los buques de la Royal Navy HMS Terror y HMS Erebus, en busca del llamado paso del Noroeste, en la Antártida, entre los años 1845 y 1848. Esta expedición fracasó en su empeño, y de los barcos nunca más se supo. Por supuesto no hubo supervivientes, y desaparecieron 129 almas. Recientemente la marina Canadiense ha encontrado los restos del Terror, y parece ser que también los del Erebus, a unos 100 kms de donde se suponían que habían quedado encallados.

La novela, de casi 800 páginas, me ha parecido magnífica, aunque yo no la consideraría de terror, (el nombre del barco se aprovecha para el título). Es una historia de aventuras, de desgracias sin cuento, de desesperanza, de traición, de supervivencia, y sobre todo, de mucho, mucho, mucho frío.

AMC acaba de estrenar la serie basada en esta novela, con Jared Harris y Ciarán Hinds de protagonistas. Veremos si está a la altura.
Profile Image for Michelle .
256 reviews78 followers
January 20, 2022
Wow, what an epic tale!
The Terror is a horror re-telling of the lost Franklin Expedition in the 1840s. The audiobook was 28 hours long but I wasn't bored for one second of it. Part was due to the amazing writing and storytelling by Dan Simmons; while the other part was due to the excellent narration by Tom Sellwood. I can't recommend enough!
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,429 reviews1,062 followers
May 16, 2021
“Why does our species always have to take our full measure of God-given misery and terror and mortality and then make it worse?”

The Terror. What to say about it?

It's long. It's well-researched. It's inventive. It's creepy. It's brutal. It makes you feel the cold.

If it weren't for the end, I may have gone with 4. It's not easy to rate. So much of it is worth 5 star, a few pushes it back, I'll be uncertain again and settle with 4.5

Embarrassingly, I had no idea this was based on a true story until I read it. Reminds me of a co-worker, who used to be a history teacher, telling me the story of a young girl in line pissed at him for spoiling the "ending" of Titanic when they were in line waiting for the movie.

I do think, as I often do with long books, that some trimming would have helped it. That said, the slow pacing is well suited to the historical horror tale where the ambience of the freezing winter is as important to the story as the story itself. You can't rush through the ice.

For a lengthy tome with many, many characters, Simmons did the right thing by limiting the point of view. Having it first point of view would have made no sense at all and would have been lesser quality, but focusing in the minds of a few important characters - and a few who were smaller but played important roles after all - was the right thing. None of the characters were perfect, but they were all intriguing in their way.

There are scenes that pissed me off, of course. The Eskimo scene, how utterly depressing this book was, some of the circumstances that befall favorites. Scurvy = *shivers*. Still, this isn't supposed to be an uplifting book after all. The author throws us a bone with the last two hundred pages at least.

This long book is available in different page counts, some bizarrely different, in all forms - I was delighted to finally open my Hardcover of this one, but also have the kindle version AND the brilliant audiobook I supplemented it with. I finally cleaned some listening to it, yay for my house. It was getting scary in here. Tom Sellwood does an excellent job. I read reviews that his whispering annoyed people, but I found hardly any whispering. Really, it's a well-done audio. Have patience for the long trip since this is a long journey that needs a lot of pages, but really the narrator was an exceptional choice. Bravo.

The Esquimaux lady was one of my favorites, but Captain Crozier wins in the male department, despite me thinking he was wrong with a particular whipping scene.

Dr. Harry D. S. Goodsir was a much-needed softer touch who tales a lot of the story through his journal writing, starting with excited and jubilant hope like a small boy about to go on a big trip. He keeps up the heart of his character by wanting to help the men as best as he could, although I could have slapped him with an amputation scene - let some die in peace, already!

“I wish I could help him. I wish I could help the dozens of other Sufferers - all the victims of wounds, maulings, burns, diseases, incipient malnutrition, and melancholic despair - aboard this entrapped ship and her sister ship. I wish I could help myself, for already I am showing the early signs of Nostalgia and Debility. But there is little that I - or any surgeon in the Year of Our Lord 1848 - can do. God help us all.”

Franklin...there's surprises - he's not a favorite but his chapters are well done and interesting in getting into the head of the character of the man's mind and giving all this disaster a plausible starting point. It was pretty hard not to love the Ice Master.

Then there's the monster. Sometimes I don't think we even needed a monster. It comes together at at the end to fit legend and lore and more layers than a general adventure story, though. Just keep reading.

In 2014 we found the remains of the Erebus, and 2016 we have finally found the remains of the Terror. To name a ship that in the first place almost seems to be an omen of impending doom and disaster.

The book works well with ambience and characters that I've covered, but the horrors of scurvy are also well done, as is the freezing with breaking teeth (yikes) and the effects of starvation. Men turning on each other is inevitable. The author didn't have this happen as brutally as it could have -- sure, we get some true horrible villains, but most of the honor and bonding of the men stayed in force besides one particular group.

“Trust me. I’ve seen it in London and I’ve seen it with shipwreck. Death by scurvy is worse. It would be better if the Thing took us all tonight."

The Terror is too large to be defined by genre. There's horror, but there's a survival story, there's drama, there's intensity of legend and fantasy. A creative play on a real-life disaster, Simmons beautiful writing brings the haunting story to new depths with an almost mystical landing.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,889 reviews428 followers
March 4, 2018
‘The Terror’can be shelved under several genres: historical fiction, horror, adventure. Wherever it is shelved, it is a fantastic read. However, it is long, with horrifying and graphic descriptions of illnesses, injuries and violent attacks. Since it is a fictionalized story about people who really existed (it is based on a real English explorer, Captain Franklin, and his last voyage to the Arctic), it has a lot of interesting details about what it was like to be a ship-based explorer in the mid-1800's from actual diaries and stories.

‘The Terror' never falls apart in its story of relentless frights, but you as the reader might if you tend to empathize with its likable characters.

I loved the book. I think it was very meta, so most things in it were both symbolic as well as describing actual physical objects and scenes.

A book this relentlessly awful and depressing HAD to have a Hollywood ending for me, otherwise I would have felt too horrified by it to like it. I'm glad for my sake it wasn't more sad than it is. I realize that the real life explorers very likely died horribly of starvation, and accident, and scurvy, but 900+ pages of fictional death death death death would have been too much for me eventually to finish. There is some closure (I know that word is overused, but it fits) at the end.

Since the subject of cannibalism is explored in the novel, I thought about what I'd do. If I'm in my full senses, I could NEVER keep such meat down. But if I was feverish and half insane with scurvy and food poisoning and exhaustion? Walking for ten hours hauling fully loaded sleds in -60 F temperatures and doing it on two moldy biscuits and a slice of salted beef a day, with my skin and body rotting while I lived? I don't know. Perhaps, gentle reader, you must never test me...

Sounds of arctic ice: https://youtu.be/vjtX4GJPFRc

Youtube link to a history about the real Franklin expedition: https://youtu.be/7-c2EFFGBww

Youtube link to an AMC series trailer about a series based on this book: https://youtu.be/OPuYei9cbaw
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews527 followers
February 12, 2021
'If a man in a smoking jacket in a coal-fire-heated library in his manor house in London can understand that life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, then how can it be denied by a man pulling a sledge stacked with frozen meat and furs across an unnamed island, through the arctic night under a sky gone mad, toward a frozen sea a thousand miles and more from any civilized hearth?'

Review to follow.
Profile Image for Christy.
Author 5 books389 followers
March 27, 2008
Dan Simmons' The Terror may be one of the few novels I've read that makes me grateful to live in Texas. This imaginative re-telling of the doomed Franklin expedition of 1845 to find the Northwest Passage is overwhelming in its details of life and death in the Arctic north. The cold is constant, the dark is depressing, and the wind, snow, ice, fog, and (when it appears) water are life-threatening. These are things Texans don't have to worry about. I must remember this book when I want to complain about 110 degree temperature in August. I must remember temperatures of 70 below zero with wind and wet and blindness on top of that.

The two ships of the expedition, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, sail from England in 1845 and explore the area around Beechey Island and Cornwallis Island before attempting to sail south between Prince of Wales Island and Boothia Peninsula to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Circle to the Pacific Ocean. However, they press on southward along this path in the face of glaciers, oncoming winter, and dwindling supplies, only to become stuck, frozen in the ice for two years along the west coast of King William Island. They press on at the insistence of the expedition leader, Sir John Franklin, and against the advice of other seasoned explorers and naval officers, including Francis Crozier, the book's central character. Eventually, the men have to abandon ship and take off on foot across King William Island to try to find a passage south and, hopefully, rescue.

The men die slowly from disease, starvation, and exposure as time wears on, and sometimes they also die suddenly as the land or its inhabitants betray them and their expectations. The Terror is a long novel at 766 pages, and it is long for this very reason. The slow death of over a hundred men cannot be represented quickly. It is also a surprisingly suspenseful novel, given the facts of the case. We know, with the assistance of some quick internet research, that there were no survivors, there was no rescue. To this day, no one really knows exactly what happened to this expedition. Yet we read on, willing the men to survive, to find a way out of this awful mess.

There are fanciful (less than strictly factual) elements to the story, too, including a large creature that stalks the ships and kills men easily, a creature that is not merely physical, but spirit. And the final chapters of the book turn from realist representations of attempts at survival in the fatal north to mythic representations of Inuit culture and finally to a synthesis between the two.

I haven't fully decided yet how to feel about these inclusions. Do they weaken the very vivid realism of the novel and diminish the terror of the terrain itself as well as the terror of the evil that grows in some men in such situations? Or do they reinforce these elements, standing in as metaphors for the dangers of the north and the dangers of some humans?

One thing these inclusions certainly do is reveal the stark contrast between the European expedition's goals and methods (and the madness of these goals and methods) with the knowledge and skill the native people have in this land. The Englishmen carried with them, from England and then from their ships, cutlery, books, jewelry, trinkets. They did not know how to survive and yet they thought they would conquer this frozen world. Franklin's very insistence on pushing forward, his insistence that any day now the pack ice would melt away from the ships and reveal the Northwest Passage is, in this context, nothing short of insanity. The things that are described in the Inuit culture (communion with spirits, communion between humans that requires no speech, etc.) may seem like insanity to outsiders, but no more so than the European methods of exploration and survival seem like insanity when seen from the perspective of those who survive the severity of the Arctic circle.

The Terror is about the terror of the Other, the terror borne of a lack of understanding. The Terror is also about how we deal with that terror. Do we flail against it, try to beat it into submission, as did the Englishmen? Or do we learn to live with it, learn to appease it and live alongside it, as did the Inuit?
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