by Dan Simmons
Here’s the novel I mentioned in connection with the “Making History with Vitamin C” selection in our textbook. In my humblest of opinions, Simmons does a pretty swell job of chocking his story full of historical details, super-super chilly cold, and supernatural “what-iffing” to explain the gaps in the historical account of this naval tragedy.
I’ll be honest, though—since I read this in little bits and pieces while I was home tending to a newborn, and since I read it on a Kindle, I wasn’t really aware of its insane length. (992 pages for the mass market paperback, Amazon says. 992 pages!)
It does bog down at times, too, if I’m remembering correctly. For instance, a long scene involving a party on the ice crudely modeled after a short story a sailor had read in a popular magazine (Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”) is cute, but drags on a bit, ending with the obvious outcome, once you’re accustomed to the pattern of “terror” that afflicts the ships.
The supernatural elements injected a level of conflict above simply “man-versus-nature,” but ultimately is left a bit unresolved. I’m all for ambiguity, but there was something unsatisfying about this particular mystery. (That may be the reminiscence of a sleep-deprived brain—see “tending to a newborn,” above.)
In any event, give it a try if you’re interested in extra-long books about maritime catastrophe and horror. You could do much worse.
The Terror at Amazon.com
A brief history of the ship on Wikipedia
The Guardian’s coverage of the recent discovery of the ship
A pretty dense BBC History Extra article about the Franklin expedition in general
…and AMC supposedly has a TV series based on the book in the works.