The research into the the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin's 1845 journey into the Arctic fascinated me the first time I heard of it in 1981. I have read books about the graves of the sailors and explorers that were found on subsequent exploration. Then in 2014 the discovery of the missing ships Erebus, and Terror in 2016, concluded the mystery. The Terror is the fictionalised story.
The book is a huge investment of intricate research and historical detail. At almost a thousand pages this is no light read in any context. From my own knowledge I know of many of the men and what happened to them, as much as evidence allows. This novel accurately portrays them. More than that, life about these nineteenth century ships is described with such depth it's as if Simmons has lived aboard and eaten the food and scrubbed the decks alongside them.
The crew face many hardships from the poor food and the symptoms of malnutrition, disease, the intense cold and eternally dark days, the battles of the ice and the fear of the unknown beasts. Superstition and ignorance are rife and disturb even the most educated men on board. There is suffering and gory deaths depicted with empathy and precision.
The Terror is as exciting as any adventure yarn, as spooky as any ghost story and as horrific as any horror story. It is a disturbing story well told, atmospheric, vivid and tense. Everything is done to such an exemplary standard that I cannot find a point that could be improved. The writing is excellent and the language is refind for nineteenth century English gentlemen, and true for the sailors not so educated. The other more graphic scenes are appropriate and not gratuitous. The inclusion of Inuit folklore adds another dimension.
The title is a play on words with The Terror being the name of the ship and the name of what the people face in this unknown landscape. Fascinating, gripping and historically accurate. The race towards the terrifying conclusion. Simply brilliant.
International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel (2008),
Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Novel (Finalist) (2007), British Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008), Bram Stoker Award Nominee for best Novel (2007).
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