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‘The Terror’ Brings Extreme Exploration to Life through Fictionalizing Real-life Events

Ship headed to sunset

Dan Simmons’ “The Terror” (affiliate link) is more than just a tale of supernatural horror based on actual events. It is an exploration of possible Inuit beliefs. Though because this is a work of fiction, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. Still, the penultimate chapter is a masterpiece, and what the book has to show about ignorance, savagery, ugliness and nobility is true to human nature.

Simmons will have you running through the frozen landscape with the members of the Terror as the stripping of identity reveals the nature of each character more fully. You’ll wonder: If the men of England find life short, brutish, poor, nasty and solitary, how can a man on the ice eating raw meat not, especially after everything that has come before? “The Terror” (affiliate link) was made into a series on AMC.

For greater appreciation of “The Terror,” I would start with Shackleton’s true tales of exploration in “Heart of the Antarctic” and “South” (affiliate link), which details the true story of Antarctic explorers. You can follow that up with Robert McNab’s “Murihiku,” which catalogs the exploration of New Zealand’s south islands. Both provide a glimpse at ship life in a way that makes it easy for modern people to understand, especially when it comes to abandoning ship or being left in a place without the necessary resources. For a fictional short story about Inuit beliefs, check out my book “Tales at an Alaskan Cabin: 16 short stories to pass the time.”

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