Thriller does its job just a bit too well,

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - TERRY DOWL­ING

LIKE artists ev­ery­where, writ­ers of­ten en­joy ac­knowl­edg­ing their creative in­flu­ences. When Dan Sim­mons learned of John Franklin’s ill- fated 1845 ex­pe­di­tion to lo­cate the North- West Pas­sage us­ing two steam­driven ships, one named the Ter­ror, it must have seemed like too good an op­por­tu­nity to miss.

He ded­i­cates his latest novel, ( Ban­tam Press, 772pp, $ 32.95), to the di­rec­tor and cast of The Thing from An­other World , the science fiction thriller that had such an im­pact on him as a boy and, years later, led to this his­tor­i­cal tale with a dif­fer­ence.

Sim­mons takes us aboard the ships of the Franklin ex­pe­di­tion af­ter they have been

The Ter­ror trapped in the Arc­tic ice for al­most two years, their hulls be­ing steadily crushed by the frozen ocean. Sup­plies are nearly gone, morale is des­per­ately low.

But the bliz­zards and cold aren’t the only en­emy. As in the 1951 film, there is some­thing huge and oth­er­worldly set on killing the crews, even ven­tur­ing aboard the doomed ves­sels to do so.

This fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ment adds spice to a drama that is al­ready closely ob­served and vividly ren­dered by the au­thor, leav­ing one im­por­tant caveat to be made.

De­spite the un­for­get­table set­ting, metic­u­lous re­search and Sim­mons’s al­ways im­pres­sive nar­ra­tive skills, the sense of im­pend­ing doom wears the reader down as surely as it does the crew. The re­sult is that the small fi­nal tri­umph will prob­a­bly seem too lit­tle, too late.

In

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