Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Listened to: "The Terror" by Dan Simmons

Listened to: The Terror by Dan Simmons, 2007, Books On Tape downloaded from Overdrive.

Excellent book with excellent narration by John Lee. A hell of a lot better than Simmons' Darwin's Blade crap. This was real long; total time was 28 hours and 18 minutes.

I started listening to Terror before I read Darwin's Blade. After Darwin's I started wondering if maybe Terror's greatness was due to John Lee's work. But, in retrospect the excellent characters, attention to detail, and pacing are all due to Simmons. Lee's work is icing.

British Navy expedition ships Terror and Erebus have been frozen into Arctic ice for two years while searching for a Northwest Passage north of Canada. The two crews are still doing okay even though both ships are running low on heating coal and their tinned food rations are spoiling. But, the unknown monster on the ice that makes an occasional meal of crew members is definitely making things worse.

Eventually both ships have to be abandoned and the heavy whaling boats (and other small boats) have to be dragged across the ice in an escape attempt. Bad things happen with scurvy killing some crew, the monster others, and treacherous scum killing some more. The evil Caulker's Mate Hickey was particularly well done by Simmons. Hickey's treachery to kill one of Terror's officer - which instigates the murder of a group of recently met Eskimo - seals the deaths of everyone.

At the end of the novel one crew member has survived with assistance of Eskimo. The Eskimo stay warm in furs and travel with lightweight sleds. They sleep in warm igloos or simple leather tents and can hunt for all the food they need. This is in sharp contrast to the English who wear cotton and wool and stay on the frozen ships - rarely above freezing on board - and are running low on the heating coal. The English would only leave their ships for a handful of hours a time and can find no game aside from occasional polar bear.

1 comment:

Stephen Burridge said...

I really liked "The Terror"; excellent accessible historical suspense. The supernatural elements in retrospect seem less interesting. After this I read Simmons's "Drood", a somewhat different Victorian horror/suspense novel, also absorbing. I also read a bunch of nonfiction on the Franklin expedition, and was pleased to see Landseer's related painting "Man Proposes, God Disposes" in Quebec City last summer. So "The Terror" served as a sort of gateway book for me.