If I don’t like a book, I tend to quietly close it and never mention it again. I don’t usually go public with my disappointment. But, on this occasion, I felt it was important to share my grief. Because that’s really what I’m feeling today, a whole load of grief and disappointment.
I was waiting for ages to read The Terror by Dan Simmons and was extremely fucking excited about it. In hindsight, however, I should have been mentally prepared for potential disappointment seen as though I’d previously attempted another of his novels, The Abominable, on two separate occasions, and on both occasions, I returned it to the library unfinished because I just couldn’t hack it. I didn’t have the willpower.
When I started The Terror, I quickly started to notice I was in similar territory as The Abominable and started to get anxious, whispering to myself: ‘not again, not again, please not again, I really want to enjoy this book for fuck’s sake!’ The story was everything I could possibly want: Arctic exploration gone terribly wrong, a mysterious Inuit shaman, a monster out to destroy all the white men…it sounded too perfect to be true. And it was. After a few chapters, I found myself struggling to keep a grip on who was who and kept having to skip back and remind myself.
Before long, I could practically feel my eyes glassing over. Simmons was losing me. There was paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of stuff that wasn’t adding anything to the story. On more than one occasion I found myself almost screaming BUT HOW IS THIS RELEVANT?! I know what it’s like as a writer. I know the feeling of wanting to include every little thing you found out while undergoing research. But on this occasion, it was just too damn much. I don’t know if Simmons is under pressure to pad out his novels so he can sell them at £20 a pop, or if he genuinely wants to include absolutely everything. I think if The Terror had had a ruthless edit, I would have loved it and would be gushing about it to you folks today.
I found out what the monster was in the book by skipping forward. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I’ll be taking the book back to the library tomorrow with a heavy heart. To anyone who has finished this tome, you have my full admiration.
p.s. If anyone knows of any horror stories set in the Arctic, please do let me know!
p.p.s. I think I might need to embark on writing my own Arctic horror story now…I’ll keep you posted.