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.