Just finished reading Dan Simmons' The Terror, an historical fiction novel about the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition, in which the crew of nearly 130 men died after the ships, the Erebus and the Terror, found themselves stuck in Arctic pack ice and was forced to abandon both ships; lead by the more capable captain of the Terror Francis Crozier (the main protagonist), than the more decorated and unworthy Sir John Franklin. They left behind only few washed up pieces of wood, bone fragments, written notes and an oral account from the Inuit tribe in their wake. To this day, there are still archaeologists and history buffs trying to piece together the events.

This expedition is rife with mystery, and provided ample room for Simmons to plug in his own interpretation of what went wrong on the ice. Using Inuit folklore, a giant polar beast, and the pure human instinct to survive by whatever means necessary, he managed to keep me engaged throughout the whole 766 pages.

I think what I liked most of of all was his use of chapters and the passage of time. Each chapter is broken up into mini-episodes, featuring the various characters points of view, and jumping from the next day to even a month after the last chapter, leaving a space in time that we are not privy to until a character flashes back to a significant event. It immediately reminded me of a mini series on television, perhaps best suited for HBO.

The length of the book certainly can become a daunting affair though, as I can see how one can become a bit impatient. The level of detail is quite overwhelming, especially for someone like me who lacks any previous knowledge of anything nautical. But the characters are all interesting enough- from the timid Dr. Goodsir, the conniving Hickey, to the sad, washed-up drunkard Capt. Crozier. The pacing is done very well, and the turn the book takes in the last 200 pages or so caps off the conclusion rather satisfactorily.

It has even sparked in me enough interest to do further research on the Franklin Expedition and Inuit culture.

No comments: