There are very few literary characters that I have disliked to the point of their impeding my ability to continue reading; usually it’s poor writing that keeps me from finishing a book. But in Dan Simmon’s “The Terror,”a hatred of one character had me putting this excellent novel aside for months. (I will not name the character so as to not spoil it for others.)
The story is pure and utter horror, going way beyond goose bumps to enveloping the reader in a metallic tang of terror. The real life setting already foreshadows tragedy: the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845, which braved frigid Arctic waters in an attempt to find the fabled Northwest Passage to the Orient. Factor into that an unknown predator of unspeakable horror, and a visceral writing style that makes turning the page an act of courage. Then, in the most desperate of circumstances, one morally corrupt crewman exacts his personal vengeance for the meanest of reasons, and at the moment of last hope damns the entire remaining crew. It’s almost – almost – too much to bear.