“The Terror” Invites Readers to Dip a Toe into Haunted Waters (Book Club Pick)

Here at Pressboard, we believe in few things more than the power of a great story. Stories inspire us, galvanize us and move us to tears. They change the way that we view a particular issue or society as a whole. But most importantly, they bring us together.

This passion for storytelling is what originally inspired us to design a platform that allows brands and publishers to connect and craft outstanding content together; now, it’s the driving force behind our book club, which delivers our favourite reads — fiction, non-fiction and everything in between — to your inbox every month. Allow us to introduce our pick for October 2018: Dan Simmons’ The Terror.

In 2016, the skeletal, 168-year-old wreck of the HMS Terror was uncovered in the depths of the aptly named Terror Bay, just off the coast of Nunavut’s King William Island. This ghostly relic of Royal Navy Officer Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage sets the stage for Dan Simmons’ chilling work of historical fiction, The Terror.

George Back’s 1938 engraving depicts the Terror trapped in ice and frigid water. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Buoyed by the spirit of adventure, Franklin and his crew begin their journey in 1845. By 1846, their ships (the Terror was accompanied by another vessel, the HMS Erebus) are entombed in ice. And by 1848, death, illness, starvation and an unseen horror have taken hold with an icy grip, forcing the remaining men to abandon their ships and set out onto the ice on foot. Unbeknownst to them, however, is the fact that the greatest threat to their safe passage through what we now know as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago lies not in the unforgiving climate, but within their own ranks.

A crewman descends into the deep in AMC’s TV adaptation of The Terror. Image: AMC Studios.

Simmons’ writing is as sharp and relentless as the landscape itself, casting a pallor over the pages that you can feel in your very bones as you read — which, of course, makes it the perfect October pick. But the real magic of this book lies in its portrayal of the enduring power of storytelling. The fate of the HMS Terror and its passengers remained a mystery for a little over a century-and-a-half, which meant that human imagination naturally leapt at the opportunity to fill in the blanks. This has resulted in a rich tapestry of folklore, mythology, oral accounts and historical hypotheses that has been passed down over the years like a game of telephone, shaping and expanding the story as it moves from one mouth (or page, or screen) to the next. Simmons provides his own fantastical solution to the mystery of Franklin’s missing men — which we wouldn’t dare spoil for you here — that embellishes the story even more and makes it sufficiently haunting enough to top our monthly reading list.

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