I discovered The Terror by Dan Simmons after seeing an ad for the AMC series based upon it. The premise seemed interesting enough for me to give it a read before diving into the show.
It was fantastically worth it.
Using the true story of a failed a lost expedition searching for the Northern Passage in the 1840’s as a starting point, the tale goes wild places I did not expect. Part Arctic survival tale, part supernatural horror, part “the real monster is man,” and part historical drama, there is something in the book for fans of many genres.
Although there are some definite antagonists present, some of the most tense moment in the story, for me, were the struggles for simple survival against the elements. The descriptions of the extreme lengths that the crews of the stranded ships must endure to complete the simplest of tasks, the struggles against scurvy, cold, and vermin, the constant need and search for basics such as food – these elements caused as much discomfort and drama for me as a reader as the struggle to survive against a mysterious force stalking the men of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
Despite clocking in at 946 pages, and sometimes getting caught up in lengthy descriptions of seemingly mundane objects and procedures, the book never felt like a slow read. The pacing is well executed, the writing is captivating, and unlike so many modern stories the climax and denouement are satisfying and don’t feel rushed or tacked on.
If you have contemplated reading this book, or simply are looking for the next book to add to your reading list, I can’t recommend this one enough. This was also the first Dan Simmons book I’d read, and I’m sure more of his work will be in my reading future.
Regarding the series, I’m on episode 3 and it’s also pretty solid. I’ve not enjoyed it as much as the book, but it captures a substantial amount of the feel and character touches that made the book so effective. I will reserve my final judgement until the final episode, but so far it has been worth the watch.