Monday, September 01, 2008

Book Review: The Terror by Dan Simmons

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book reviews.

It's actually been around a year that I last tackled a really long novel (anything more than 500 pages). Apparently, my skills aren't up to par as it took me around two months to finish The Terror. Mind you, it's not due to bad writing. Strangely enough, once a week, I'll pick up The Terror and for an hour or so, I'll be engrossed with its characters and with the horror Simmons includes in the novel (which ranges from the environment, the supernatural, and in the end, the characters themselves).

The strength of the author is how he manages to create a new mythology based on his research on the ships The Erebus and The Terror. It's fascinating reading as Simmons provides a complex and logical narrative. The heart of The Terror however are the characters and Simmons manages to juggle a huge cast of characters with varying motivations and voices. The points of view aren't symmetrical but suits the form just fine. Somewhere in the middle of the book, I got the sense that this'll be another Titanic but I kept rooting for captain Crozier and his crew anyway.

So what stalled me this entire time? Simmons's writing is densely packed so this isn't a book one can easily read while multitasking. However, the writing is detailed and rewards the reader for their full concentration. The other thing is the nature of horror in this novel. Simmons gives it to us in small packets, usually self-contained but has a cumulative effect of wearing out the reader as we read one bleak story after another. What probably best describes my experience is that once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down but once I do manage to put it down, I procrastinate reading The Terror because it requires a huge investment in time and emotion.

The Terror was a great read and Simmon's characterization is quite compelling. However, this is a long piece and the atmosphere of the novel is appropriate. If you want a good, sophisticated novel, The Terror will reward you for your efforts.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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