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A Million Ways to Die in the North



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.

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