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2007 Books #40: The Terror, by Dan Simmons

This book is a manual that shows exactly how not to plan and execute an exploratory voyage to the Arctic in the middle of the nineteenth century. For example, a point that is made exceedingly clear by the developments of the story is this: when stocking your ship with food for such a voyage, do not purchase canned goods from the lowest bidder, especially if that company's bid is half the price of the bids offered by three better-known companies. This is very important. Probably it's not a great idea to take up your storage space with lots of fancy china or over 9,000 pounds of chocolate, either. Perhaps more coal for the heating and steam engines would be a wiser choice?

The gross incompetence of the people who plan and provision the voyage is not the only problem encountered in this novel, either. I was pulled through the 766 pages by my morbid curiosity about the mysterious occurrences, unbelievable mistakes, and dire consequences that were revealed one after another throughout the book. I can't say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading The Terror, but I was fascinated and compelled to read it as quickly as possible, and I have to credit the quality of the writing for that. I recommend it, especially to anyone who is interested in history, exploration, ships, and incredibly freaking cold weather.

I'm definitely looking forward to reading more books by Dan Simmons, especially since I'm likely to meet him at Norwescon in March!


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
I listened to it on audio and loved it (I love failed expeditions in general, but this had the added horror element).
Dec. 23rd, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
Read the best of Simmons next: the 2 books of the Hyperion Cantos and Song of Kali...
Dec. 29th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
I've forgotten details from a lot of books that I've read, but some of the mental images from Song of Kali are still in my head.

I also have this book (The Terror) in my queue. I remember when I learned that some polar expeditions really did stock up on beer but brought linen clothes (that combo works better in the tropics, I suspect -- which the poles are, well, not).
Dec. 23rd, 2007 11:25 am (UTC)
I hadn't been particularly intending to go to Norwescon, but I've really enjoyed all of Dan Simmons' work that I've read. (I particularly enjoyed his use of a Canterbury Tales style framework in Fall of Hyperion.) Maybe I'll have to reconsider.
Dec. 23rd, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
Be sure to say hi if you go to Norwescon. :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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