Readalikes for Dan Simmons' The Terror
In 1845, the Franklin Expedition headed for the Northwest Passage, seeking a shorter trade route between Europe and Asia. Two ships set out, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and they were never heard from agaaaain. Well, the ships were found, but only very recently; Erebus in 2014 and Terror in 2016.
Back in 2007, when the world thought we would never hear from them agaaaain, Dan Simmons wrote The Terror based on Franklin's lost expedition, speculating about what could have happened to them out there in the mysterious Arctic wastelands, and his explanation is a combination of extreme nature and the supernatural. It works both sides of the "is it or isn't it?" monster question for a long time, as the stranded men succumb to the psychological effects of deprivation, isolation and stress; their judgment clouded by delusions and hallucinations. Whether or not there's an actual evil force at work, survival in these conditions is difficult enough, which you know if you've ever read anything about Shackleton's Endurance voyage. This one is an Arctic, not an Antarctic expedition, but that just means it has all of the things Shackleton faced and also polar bears. And also...something else.
This is not Simmons' first horror rodeo, and he knows that the secret to effective horror writing is to include both familiar and paranormal threats. This book has been exhaustively researched, and after the "familiar" horrors of frostbite, starvation, and the appalling symptoms of scurvy, you almost don't need an additional monstrous threat, but you're not regretting its presence.
The Terror has been adapted into a ten-episode miniseries scheduled to air at the end of the month, and I am turning my anticipation into a book list. Because there is so much "fact" in Simmons' fiction, it's a mix of fiction and nonfiction readalikes, all guaranteed to make you think twice before joining a polar expedition. Pack extra socks. And maybe a flamethrower.
A dark and violent novel about the experiences of the crew of an Arctic-bound whaling ship in the 19th century, whose men face the same dangers from weather, isolation, and disease as the fellas in The Terror. Although this does not have a supernatural menace, it does have Henry Drax, a man with no interest in civilized morality whose actions in the pursuit of pleasure and survival are more monstrous than any ghoul.
1 / 11
This is a nonfiction account of the Franklin Expedition that re-examines the assumptions that were made about its fate in the light of the new scientific data obtained from the recent discovery of the ships. After reading it, you can decide for yourself which you find more compelling; science or Simmons.
2 / 11
An atmospheric ghost story set in a remote outpost in the Arctic Circle during the Polar Night, when the sun vanishes for months and the potential for spookiness increases greatly. Spookiness does indeed come to visit the members of a scientific expedition in 1937, when a series of mysterious accidents occurs, causing their numbers to dwindle until one man (and one dog) are left to face what haunts the darkness.
3 / 11
Nonfiction reinforcing my claim that when it comes to polar voyages, nature's scary enough without adding monsters. From the largest blizzard to the smallest louse, and everything in-between (including murrrderrr), explorers seeking Crocker's Land- a continent spotted, but never reached, by Robert E. Peary in 1906, suffered many earthly hardships. Imagine their LOLs when they found out the land didn't actually exist.
4 / 11
This might technically be closer to another of Simmons' books, The Abominable, which is The Terror tipped vertically, where the snow, danger, frostbite, survival and maybe/maybe not monsters occur on Mt Everest. This takes place in a Welsh cave system and then later on Everest, but cold horror is cold horror, and like The Terror, the "natural" horror of the claustrophobic caves is scarier than any "unnatural" threat.
5 / 11
This is like The Terror set *inside* The Abominable: a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers travel to Mount Ararat to investigate what is believed to be Noah's Ark, in which they also find a coffin containing the cadaver of a horn'ed beast. Worsening weather traps them in the cavelike wreck, creating an action/adventure turducken: trapped by a blizzard in a shipwreck in a mountain. With monsters. Yikes.
6 / 11
The Terror is well-researched historical fiction. This is narrative nonfiction that reads like a novel. In 1879, 33 men began a journey to the North Pole. After 2 years of being trapped in an ice pack, drifting where it drifted, the ice shifted, shattering their ship and forcing them to walk across the ice, beset by frostbite, hunger, polar bears, snow blindness, madness and despair. The stuff of fiction, except not.
7 / 11
John Wood Campbell
This is the novella that inspired "The Thing" and the X-Files episode "Ice." The list goes on, but you shouldn't need more than that to convince you of its superb Antarctic terror.
8 / 11
Starvation, hypothermia, and isolation are just a few of the problems faced by the crew aboard an offshore oil refinery in the Arctic awaiting a pickup that seems to have been delayed. Another problem will soon appear in the form of an invasion of metal-spiked alien-zombies that are the reason for both the delay of their relief ship and also the end of the world.
9 / 11
Man v. Nature, 2013: despite the advantage of hundreds of years' worth of documented polar exploration to help them prepare for the worst, despite all of the advances in nautical technology, and despite having access to Twitter, Skype, and YouTube to communicate with the outside world and request assistance, 72 people still found themselves in the same dangerous straits as Shackleton's men, albeit for a shorter time.
10 / 11
The Terror premieres March 26th on AMC at 9/8 central and I am excited. If you haven't read the book, you still have plenty of time to do so and join me in my excitement.
11 / 11