Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Terror by Dan Simmons
"All this natural misery," Dr. Goodsir said suddenly. "Why do you men have to add to it? Why does our species always have to take our full measure of God-given misery and terror and mortality and then make it worse? Can you answer me that, Mr. Hickey?"
Last week I considered making The Terror a long-term read while reading another book or two on the side. It's such a big book after all, and besides, the fate of the Franklin expedition is not a well-kept secret. But then I made it past the one chapter, the only chapter in the whole book that dragged for me, and from that point on, I could not put it down. I put life on hold over the weekend (I'm still playing catch-up), cursed daylight savings time for robbing me of an hour of reading time, and reached the last sentence shortly before bedtime Sunday night.
Scurvy! Lead poisoning! Cannibalism! A melancholy captain who preaches sermons based upon Hobbes's Leviathan! (It's my theory that the crozier held in the hand of the giant on Leviathan's frontispiece sparked Simmons's storyline for Captain Francis Crozier.)
If a man in a smoking jacket in a coal-fire-heated library in his manor house in London can understand that life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, then how can it be denied by a man pulling a sledge stacked with frozen meat and furs across an unnamed island, through the arctic night under a sky gone mad, toward a frozen sea a thousand miles and more from any civilized hearth?