The Terror

Dan Simmons
The Terror Cover

The Terror - Dan Simmons


Nearly two months after I started it, the slog through Dan Simmons' The Terror is at an end. Like the inevitably doomed mission of the characters, this story is devoid of humor and hope.

The premise is simple enough - a historical mystery presented as narrative, with possible explanations and occult phenomena worked into the plot. Chapters told from the perspective (and voice) of individual crewmen worked very well. The ending was interesting and enjoyable, and helped me understand the monster who lurked through the first half of the book.

Other parts of the book were very uneven. Said monster was a major point to the plot, then mostly vanished. Uneven timing of the earlier narrative worked well, but then was abandoned. Captain Crozier has a nasty habit of mentally accounting for his crew, living and dead, and the author shares each mental word with us. Yes, this proves that Dan Simmons did his homework, but doesn't make for a good story.

Still other aspects rubbed me completely the wrong way. Crozier has some sort of second sight while quitting his alcohol cold turkey - and the author uses this to detail many of the future quests to find the expedition. Adds nothing whatsoever to the story! Many days of sledging and detailed descriptions of ice formations could have also been reduced, sparing the misery of the readers.

This book is included in Nightmare Magazines top 100 horror books, and was nominated for three other awards. A shorter version of this story could have earned that honor, but this novel is just way too much.