A Million Ways to Die in the North

terror

 

I pulled this book from my mountainous TBR pile shortly after the first season of the television adaption dropped onto Hulu. The second season, which is airing now, is entirely self contained and doesn’t appear to have anything to do with this book or season one. When I opened the my Kindle and saw that it clocked in at well over 900 pages I thought maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I love a good door stopper of a book but almost a thousand pages of man (and it is entirely men) vs supernatural beast seemed like a bit much. However this may be one of my favorite novels of the year and is definitely one of my top ten horror novels.

Dan Simmons gives us a fictionalized account of the Lost Franklin Voyage of 1845. In May of that year the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus set sail to find the fabled Northwest passage. They were the most well outfitted and equipped ships of their time and they were never seen again. The wreckage of the Erebus and a few of the remains of the men have been found but the rest is lost to this day. When Simmons’ account begins, both ships have been stuck in the frozen waters of the Arctic Circle for many months with no sign of a thaw in sight. In addition to the dangers of frostbite, malnutrition, scurvy and all the other dangers associated with being stranded near the North Pole, the men are being stalked by a giant creature that resembles a giant polar bear but is much more cruel and cunning. As their situation deteriorates the crew’s hopes for survival becomes more and more hopeless.

The misery of the sailors is palpable and constant. There is no getting warm, there is just getting less cold. The men are constantly wet and filthy, the rations grow increasingly worse as they are unable to hunt or fish successfully. It’s a situation that would be hopeless without an evil demon bear stalking you. Though the captain of The Terror, Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier is the protagonist, many chapters are told from other characters perspectives. The arrogant Sir John Franklin, the curious and deeply principled Dr. Henry Goodsir and the cunning and cruel Cornelius Hickey. But the ice itself is a major character in this book. It shifts, cracks, forms ridges and squeezes the Erebus and Terror possibly to the breaking point.

I really loved this book you guys. Even knowing the history going in I wanted to see where it would go and how exactly each character’s story would end. It might be a good one to pick up if you find yourself snowed in with nothing to do or if you just want to read an amazing novel about history, survival, the hubris of man and masculinity.

“Cause I might open my eyes and find someone standing there”

lock every door

After getting unceremoniously laid off from her job and coming home to find her boyfriend cheating on her, Jules Larsen is forced to couch surf with her good friend until she can get back on her feet again. When she is offered the opportunity to apartment sit at The Bartholomew, one of the most exclusive and notorious buildings in Manhattan for $1000 per week, it seems too good to be true. If you’ve consumed even the smallest amount of fiction in your life, you know offers like that turn out. Despite the warnings of her best friend and the strangely restrictive rules for the job (absolutely no visitors and no spending a night away from the building), Jules takes the job with little hesitation. She begins to get uneasy very quickly as not just the eerie atmosphere but the sudden departure of one of the other house sitters makes Jules suspicious. Nothing in the Bartholomew is what it seems.

This is the third book by Riley Sager that deals with horror movie tropes. Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied dealt with (obviously) final girls and sleepaway camp respectively. Lock Every Door examines the trope of the building with the notorious past (e.g. the apartment building from Rosemary’s Baby). There is a lot of bad decision making on the part of our protagonist as you may have guessed from the plot summary, but you kind of get why she makes those choices. I enjoy the heck out of these books but I often wonder if Sager’s obvious attempts at misdirection are intentional. The person who seems wonderful and reliable and gorgeous is clearly evil; the protagonist clearly thinks all roads lead to one conclusion so it’s obviously not that. I choose to believe they’re intentional since he is taking on horror movie tropes.

This one is definitely a good beach read, or perhaps a cozy sweater and coffee read since the beach weather will be leaving us soon. I can speak from experience when I tell you that reading it alone in the house at night is not the best idea.