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Dan Simmons, madman

Today's New York Times Book Review has a piece on Dan Simmons' new novel, The Terror. After an unflattering acknowledgment of Simmons' talents -- he's "managed to generate" over two dozen books "in an impressive variety of genres" -- critic Terrence Rafferty dismisses this latest effort as an act of hubris. Simmons must have been crazy, he says, to think this was a good idea for a novel.

The Terror is a fictionalized account of a 19th-century British naval expedition that set out to find the Northwest Passage. The two ships involved, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, got stuck in the polar ice, and their crews died (in real life, the men starved and froze to death; in Simmons' version, there's also a monster). Rafferty's objection isn't to the subject matter, but to the way Simmons decides to tackle it: "[O]f the many possible approaches to making artistic sense of the...fiasco, just about the least promising...would be to turn it into an epic-length ripping yarn."

Which is just what I was thinking. An adventure story about a doomed polar expedition? Dan Simmons, are you smoking CRACK?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
I don't think I can imagine Dan Simmons writing anything BUT "an epic-length ripping yarn."
Mar. 19th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
The only Simmons I've read is Song of Kali, which, with the exception of an awesomely creepy corpse-stealing sequence, didn't do it for me. I've thought about giving The Terror a try, but so far I've held off because I think there's more than enough epic-yarn material there without adding in a supernatural element, and because I'm worried the monster will be cheesy. Part of what annoys me about the Rafferty review is that it's no help at all in making up my mind -- the guy should have just said "I don't like this kind of fiction enough to offer a real opinion" and spared the Times the rest of the ink.
Mar. 19th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
Sci-fi, yes. Horror, no.
I very much enjoyed Hyperion, and the sequels as well, but Dan's horror isn't as interesting to me. Less story and more monsters, creepy happenings, and, well, filler probably isn't the most diplomatic description... but there it is. So I'll probably give The Terror a miss. I remember liking Song of Kali - it scared my pants off.
Mar. 19th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Sci-fi, yes. Horror, no.
Horror sequence was the only effective part of otherwise lacklustre Hollow Man.
Mar. 19th, 2007 11:32 pm (UTC)
Maybe you should try his shorter work first. Very uneven and perhaps too linear, but some of the stories are very good.
Mar. 20th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
Wasn't Song of Kali a novelization of a shorter work? Or perhaps simply reacalls for me some of the same feelings as the Thai vampire short from Lovedeath. I'll certainly look for more shorts.
Mar. 20th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC)
Carrion Comfort originated as a very powerful short (the last one in Prayers to Broken Stones). As to Lovedeath, somehow I liked the Indian novella there best, "Sleeping with Teeth Women".
Mar. 20th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
I thought The Terror was great. I didn't find the monster cheesy. The description I've been telling everyone (I work at a bookstore) is it's like an early Michael Crichton book but well-written.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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