Have you ever wanted to have scurvy? If so, go read The Terror and cross scurvy off the list of diseases you’ve been dreaming about test-driving.
Holy crap. I don’t read much horror anymore. Back in high school when I loved to think of myself as dark and tormented, I read nothing but lurid tales of great bleakness, but thankfully that phase passed.
But then Dan Simmons, one of my favorite authors, wrote a big fat scary book that I had to try out. And as it happens, it was the scariest book I think I’ve ever read.
When The Terror begins, an arctic exploration crew aboard the H.M.S. Terror has already been trapped in the ice for two years. This is the era of Shackleton’s Endurance voyage. People were apparently nuts for the arctic. But as rough as Shackleton’s voyage was, the crew of The Terror are in for a bad time. They are running out of food, and several of the men are running out of sanity. (The malevolent lunatic dwarf in this book is worth the price alone.)
Worse, something out on the ice keeps clawing up the sides of the steel ship and snatching the men. A weird eskimo-esque woman wanders in out of nowhere, and all hell begins to break loose.
I find very few books indescribable. Blood Meridian might be the only legitimately indescribable book out there, but The Terror definitely has its own weird, icy charm. You feel cold. You feel scared. This is a book that understands Dread. You’ll thank your lucky stars that you haven’t been trapped in the arctic for two years with nothing but the Northern Lights to see by.
There is a set-piece about halfway through that I will never forget. It involves a masquerade ball, a working knowledge of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, and a lot of fire.
This is a masterful book. Good or bad, on every single page, you are feeling exactly what Simmons wants you to be feeling. More than horror, more than a thriller, more than any review can do justice to, The Terror is one of the most memorable books I have read in some time.
If you liked this post, please Subscribe To The RSS feed.