The TerrorThe Terror by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

oh my god, let me never get scurvy.

i am glad i am such a grad-school overachiever. for both the horror/sci-fi and mystery portions of my readers’ advisory class, i have read one extra title from the selection list, and both times, i have liked the extra title best. (i did not choose to read an extra romance title, so we will never know how that would have turned out, alas)

this book is a rare combination of to the lighthouse, and the thing, with hardy-esque occurrences of misunderstanding and some cannibalism thrown in for the kiddies. plus boats and ice and monster.

like the descent, it is the supernatural elements of the story that end up being the least scary. nature is scary enough. cave-exploration, even for feisty extreme-sport doing, athletic-looking girls, becomes terrifying, even before any monsters show up. monsters are icing. for this book, scurvy, madness, murder, temperatures of 78 degrees below zero, starvation, frostbite, gangrene, botulism, did i mention scurvy??- i mean, isn’t that enough without a giant monster stalking and eating your seamen?

but i am, to my great dismay, not easily scared. this, to me, was the most promising trailer in the world, but the movie was not scary, and in fact made me cross because of the ways in which it was not scary. i thought i had finally met my match, but i wound up being utterly disappointed. being scared is not too much to hope for, is it?? this book, while it is not going to keep me up tonight, has several really good “oh shit” moments.

i love the cold, but this book made me pray for global warming to hurry up and save these poor men. (this feeling will last until one of you jokers sends me a picture of a sad polar bear – awwww) but seriously, shit is COLD!!

and i got so into the book that i took the wrong bus on monday and traveled a half hour in the wrong direction before looking up from the book to realize my mistake, and also skipped work (ostensibly because of residual bad-feeling from hellish customers yesterday and faulty alarm clock [both true], but also because i wanted to finish this book before the ending could get ruined for me in class tonight)

it is an amazingly well-researched book, which may ruin it as horror genre-fiction for people who want their horror fast, cheap, and hard. there are tons of details about rigging and naval protocol and ice conditions and many repetitions of the survivor’s names – there are echoes of moby-dick here, in its dullish bits about whale anatomy that might be a staple of maritime fiction for all i know, but make the progress a little slower than the monstrous stephen king i read as the other horror title for this class. i think all the details add too much weight to the story to let it retain its status as genre fiction. for myself i would consider it historical fiction with some supernatural zazz.

but it remains totally absorbing, totally gripping, and despite all the questions i raised about the pacing, it is ultimately scarier than the king, whose characters remain cartoonish and too one-dimensional to be scary. except for large marge, cartoons are not scary. here, the danger seems imminent – there are incredible moments of tension and so many beloved characters having unfortunate things happen to them. do not become attached to any of them, because in the end, many seamen are swallowed, and several are spit out.

(that was unavoidable and you know it)

read my reviews on goodreads

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