The Terror: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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The men onboard HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape. A haunting, gripping story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.
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|Listening Length||28 hours and 28 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||February 13, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #658 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#6 in Historical Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
#7 in Historical Mysteries (Audible Books & Originals)
#39 in Historical Mystery
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Simmons bases The Terror on the historical 1845 Franklin Expedition and the journey to the Northwest passage. He fuses historical elements along with supernatural and horror to create the timeline and plot.
I would venture to say the term “terror” has several meanings and manifestations with regards to the novel. It is the name of one of the primary vessels that is used by the men as they traverse the regions; it is also symbolically refers to the bitter cold and harsh conditions the explorers face. Moreover, it also refers to the Abominable Snowman like “creature” that begins to bump off the men one by one. I will also add that the book itself, at its 769 pages, was also a bit of a terror as well to finish.
The novel was a bit of excess in too many places.
I do not mind a bit more detail in a historical based novel if it goes somewhere, but here the extra superfluous details here did not really add much. (For example, do we really need to read page after page of meticulous details about someone suffering from scurvy?) I had to skim ahead during some of these parts.
Likewise, there are portions of the novel that are overwrought/excessive. Some of the “death” scenes were over-the-top and also the characterization was mediocre, as the character interactions were lacking and the characters themselves seemed like interchangeable parts difficult to differentiate for the most part.
Finally, I know many readers liked how the book finishes, but I was disappointed in the final section. This novel seemingly sets the reader up for something throughout and then pulls the proverbial rug from under them in the book’s final seventy plus pages. I thought this was kind of weak, as the book sets up questions, conflicts, and plot lines that are answered or explained in a murky, unsubstantial, unbelievable manner.
I was going to go with two stars based on all of this, but I did appreciate the ambitiousness of the novel itself. It seems to be well researched, (the author clearly did his homework before putting this together), and the author tries to create an “epic” sort of feel to the book as a whole which works at points. (At points, whether they like it or not, the reader feels like they are along on this desperate and failed journey). Alongside this, there were some intriguing and compelling parts of high tension and suspense as the men explore the unknown and have to deal with so many different elements.
So, in the end, I’ll say 2.5 stars that will round up to 3 stars.
I am currently watching the 2018 miniseries and it seems to be a little better than the book right now in how it presents the story.
The Terror deals with the two ships and 126-man expedition into the Arctic Circle region in 1845 by Sir John Franklin, who hoped to find the infamous Northwest Passage. In September of 1845, the two ships (H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror) found themselves trapped in a pack of crushing ice with no visible escape in sight. There was no worry at that time since both ships were heavily loaded with coal for heat, canned goods and salt pork for food, and the belief that the ice would eventually thaw and allow them to search for the waterway that would carry them to Alaska and then Russia. That wasn't to be. The ice never thawed, and the ships and men were trapped for three incredibly long years with dwindling supplies, poisonous canned food, the illness of scurvy takings its toll, and the freezing temperatures that averaged -50 Below Zero and colder. But, that wasn't the worse of it by far. Something roamed the ice that was both vicious and cunningly intelligent, and it had a distinct taste for human flesh. This uncanny creature began to slowly kill the members of the expedition one and two at a time, including the Commander of the crew, Sir John Franklin. When the Commander is killed, the duty of saving the remaining men falls onto the shoulders of Captains James Fitzjames and Francis Crozier, but it's Crozier who takes the lead, having a strong instinct for survival and an intrinsic authority for leading men. The only way to escape their perilous predicament is to walk back out the way they'd come, across hundreds of miles of frozen ice while being stalked by something that doesn't want them to get away.
As the Nova television show explained, as well as previous non-fiction books and records, no one from the expedition was ever seen again. But, what happened to everyone? This is what Dan Simmons tries to convey with his stark imagination and monstrous size novel. He gives his version of what might have happened to the 126 men of the Franklin Expedition, and it isn't a pretty one. Though I'm aware of the tremendous amount of research that Mr. Simmons had to do in order to write this novel, the book is so damn good and detailed oriented that it's like he was actually there himself. I could feel the unbelievable cold to my bones, the hunger and weariness of the men, the pungent smells and the hundreds of strange sounds below deck on both vessels, and the utter terror that was out on the ice just waiting for its chance. This novel is so well written that it should win every award that's out there, not to mention hitting the New York Times Bestseller list. I'm not kidding, either. This should at least win the World Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award for 2007. During the course of reading The Terror, you will be there in the Arctic Circle experiencing the same trials and tribulations as the rest of the expedition. You'll know what it's like to be hunted, yet never knowing from what direction the attack will come or when. You'll slowly come away with a clearer understanding of what it truly means to be afraid. As an example, there's one scene where the mysterious and deadly creature gets below deck on the Erebus and hunts the members of its crew through the pitch-black darkness with screams of terror ringing out from every direction. Mr. Simmons captures the atmosphere and sense of desolation perfectly. He brings all of the characters to life. There's going to be those you care for and those you hate with a grim passion. Captain Francis Crozier, of course, is the hero of the expedition, but even he isn't prepared for the frightening challenges that face both him and his men. The Terror is certainly movie material. All through the novel, I kept seeing the British actor, Clive Owen, as Francis Crozier. If I were Dan Simmons, I'd have my agent send Mr. Owen's agent a copy of the book. Who knows what may happen. The Terror by Dan Simmons is by far the best novel of 2007 and is highly recommended to those who love vividly written stories with a strong dose of horror thrown in for good measure.
Top reviews from other countries
Told through first and third person narratives The Terror is the name of the ship charged with finding and navigating the Arctic Northwest passage in the mid nineteenth century. However, those not interested (or actively disinterested) in seafaring tales should take heart that the ship manages virtually no 'seafaring' at all thanks to fact that it is iced-bound and serves only as the setting for the nerve-fraying and horrific series of events that beset the expedition. Stranded with no hope of a thaw, starving, sick, mutinous and tormented by an unseen and deadly predator on the ice, crew members die or are picked off one-by-one until they are forced to ever more drastic and desperate measures to survive.
As well as being fast-paced and tense, The Terror also manages to fascinate with details about these early, ill-prepared and frankly foolhardy explorers and provides shameful insights into the mindset of a group of people who actively look down on the native populations of the arctic, despite their seemingly effortless ability to thrive in such a hostile environment whilst the white men around them perish. Dan Simmons' ability to convey the claustrophobic confines of the ship and the crippling, debilitating and merciless Arctic environment elevates them almost to leading character status and this ensures the reader develops the appropriate empathy needed to fully appreciate the hardship and horror that these ill-fated expeditions were subjected to.
I found The Terror hard to put down and am delighted to now be embarking on Dan Simmons' other work.
The unadorned story would be fascinating in it's own right but Dan Simmons adds another layer to the the account by incorporating a supernatural monster that is preying on the ship's crew. Although this monster is always a menacing presence on the ice, there are plenty of other dangers too which make this book a real page-turner. In addition, the crew is supplemented by the addition of a mute Inuit girl who mysteriously disappears and re-appears and who seems to have some understanding of the threat out on the ice but cannot explain. The beasts random attacks on the expedition are some of the most exciting moments in the book.
I think a core factor in making the story so plausible is that the account is wholly located in the site where the two boats HMs Terror and HMS Erebus are frozen in with earlier elements of the expedition told in flashback. Immediately, the writer plunges us in to the horror of the situation and the fact that this part of the world is so alien and disturbing, the incorporation of the monster does not feel at all incongruous. In fact, the book ultimately concludes with an explanation from the Inuit perspective of what has actually happened.
What I really liked about this book is that, having read non-fiction accounts of the expedition, Simmons has woven in elements we know to be true about this expedition into his fiction and reimagined some of the issues such as the cannibalism into the story whereby they serve to explain particular events or as a conclusion to one of the plot threads. The account of the poorly sealed tins of food is also accurate. Simmons has also cleverly allowed the story to be told through a number of different characters , each with a distinctive voice and therefore you get a different perspective on what is happening. There are sub-plots a -plenty and also some fascinating dynamics amongst the officers and their crew which change as the situation becomes ever more hopeless as the events progress.
I also feel obliged to say that I cannot see how anyone can suggest that this story sags at any point. If anything, it is a book in three parts. Initially the crew of the two ships appear to be coping until an event occurs which prompts a change in fortunes where life becomes increasingly parlous in the middle third. Throughout these pages we get to understand and appreciate the various characters and their efforts to survive in increasingly difficult circumstances. Tellingly, Simmons reveals the flaws in his principle characters and you get to understand the difficult decisions that need to be made, even if you know they may have consequences later on. In the final third of the book the pace picks up as the story moves out on to the ice where the numerous plot strands in the book ultimately play out to often shocking conclusions. I don't think that I have read 300 pages so quickly!
Science Fiction is usually an oeuvre that I tend to avoid. "The Terror" is does combine elements of the supernatural and horror yet, for the most part, this is essentially a historical adventure story . Few genres are quite as disappointing as Science Fiction in my view and they are usually let down by poor endings. By contrast, "The Terror" works really well with some elements of the novel worked through to a satisfying conclusion and others left to remain a mystery until the final pages. There are moments which are really poignant, others where you are rooting for the villain to get his come-uppance and an over-riding desire to see that the survivors reach Back's River inlet. The story does not effectively end until the last few pages but which time the reader would be excused for taking in a few deep breaths to take in a really good yarn told exceptionally well. Thoroughly recommended.
So, watching and then reading The Terror (at times simultaneously), I was hugely impressed with the historical accuracy about the expedition, the ships, the costumes, the speech, the personalities. I decided in the first instance that “The Terror” – or the Tunbaaq, as we had to learn to call it – was a symbol of all the many unknown factors that caused the demise of the entire Franklin expedition. Except the all-knowing and heroic Dr Goodsir and his compatriot, Dr McDonald, had sussed the faulty lead seals and possibly the botulism, although they didn’t know its exact composition. Not to mention the dreaded scurvy, exposure and later starvation, but it did help explain the unusually high mortality rate in the early stages of the expedition, particularly amongst the officer cadre. Oh, okay, I thought, it’s a symbolic(ish) Inuit spirit animal.
Simmons’ bibliography proved that he had read all the standard Franklin works then available, and thank you, Mr Simmons, had pored over contemporaneous naval terms – nothing annoys an old Navy hand more than botched Naval terminology! So, given the “Thing” was wreaking havoc, rather repetitively, it must be said, and things were going from bad to worse, it was initially quite a pacey yarn. He’d clearly studied the famous daguerreotypes of EREBUS’s Wardroom (plus only Crozier from TERROR) and based his characters on these pictures and what was known about the various officers. Unfortunately, William Battersby’s excellent biography of James Fitzjames came out a year or so after “The Terror” was published, and quite gave the lie to the lisping aristocrat portrayed in the book. Massive kudos to Ridley Scott for updating the film version, with Fitzjames fessing up to Crozier on their trudge back from writing the Victory Point note, and they then becoming best friends ever! Simmons played very fast and loose with Crozier, making him out to be almost born in a hovel, “not a gentleman”, an atheist, and moaning that nothing was named after him, which was patently untrue – Cape Crozier in the Antarctic of course playing a central part in the later woes of Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Crozier, although lacking a formal education, came from a perfectly respectable background, had a comfortable and relatively privileged upbringing and his French sounding name is claimed by HIS biographer to indicate the family came over with the Conqueror. Although his depression post his Antarctic voyage was known, it was his great friend James Clarke Ross who probably had the drink problem. However, heroes and villains, etc, and this was a work of fiction.
So far so good, but as the book went on and yet more decimating attacks were wreaked by The Thing from the Ice, I began to think, “Oh, no, not again”. But I suppose it usefully disposed of large numbers of the party, which subsequent investigations have proved had split up. Dr Goodsir (about whom there is a fair amount of information, as he came from an eminent medical family) was a super goody, and his character, both in the book and on the TV, was appealing and felt authentic.
It was clever to turn Cornelius Hickey into the villain, as one of the recovered Franklin artefacts is a knife, clearly belonging to someone else, but on which Cornelius Hickey had superimposed his name/initials. In the book, (and towards the end and the time I was beginning to lose the will to live), he pretty well rivals the dreaded Tunbaaq for evil.
And then it really all went wrong for me. The author had clearly done a lot of research on Inuit foundation myth, legends and shamanism and the chapter on this was a step too far (thanks to Ridley Scott for excising it). Throat singing, now tongueless Crozier living out his life in cosy, if chilly, domesticity with his Inuit wife and children, signalling by cat’s cradles, was a step even further too far. True, there are many conflicting myths and possible sightings about Crozier surviving later than everyone else, but I was disappointed in this ending, and felt that as is so often the case, that a not too wonderful book, was better for being cleverly edited and simplified for TV/Film.