Thriller does its job just a bit too well,
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.