Dickens lowered the shield over most of the bullseye’s lens and gestured for me to follow him. The paving stones on this lower, older level of the catacombs were uneven and several times I had to use my stick to brace myself from falling. Just around the bend in the corridor, more main passageways branched to the right and left.
“Is this a Roman catacomb?” I whispered.
Dickens shook his tophatted head, but I felt it was more to quiet me than to answer me. He pointed to the right passage from which the glow seemed to be coming.
It was the only loculus not bricked up. A dark and ragged curtain covered most of the arched opening, but not completely enough to hide the glow from within. I touched the pistol in my pocket as Dickens walked brazenly through the rotted gauze.
This loculus was long and narrow and opened into other niches and vaults and loculi. And the corpses there were not in coffins.
The bodies lay along wooden benches that ran from floor to ceiling for the entire length of the narrow passage. They were all corpses of men – and not Englishmen or Christians or Romans from the looks of them. They were skeletal, but not mere skeletons; the tanned skin and stringy flesh and glass-marble-looking eyes appeared to have been mummified. Indeed, these might be Egyptian mummies we were walking past, lying there in their rotted robes and tatters, except for the Oriental cast to the mummified features and unblinking eyes. When Dickens paused for a moment, I leaned closer to inspect the face of one of the mummies.
DAN TO WRITE FANTASY TALE SET IN JACK VANCE UNIVERSE
Despite the fact that Dan has won the World Fantasy Award twice, the British Fantasy Award, a Japanese Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and various other awards with "fantasy" in their headings, some of you may know that he feels that he's never written a "real" fantasy story or novel.
That will change this year.
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have asked Dan to write a story or novelette or novella for their upcoming proposed anthology of tales set in Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" universe and Dan has accepted . . . with pleasure.
"I respect the fact that most of the world thinks of Harry Potter when they think 'fantasy,'" says Dan. "For me, quality fantasy will always be Jack Vance and his The Dying Earth tales. I'm excited to be invited to that universe and look forward to attempting a piece of fantasy that will honor the tremendous quality that Jack Vance set as the standard in his Dying Earth stories."
Here are some of the details as forwarded in a letter to Dan from George R.R. Martin:
"Gardner and I have put the finishing touches on the proposal for the anthology we're calling SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, and have turned it over to Ralph Vicinanza, who represents Jack Vance and will be handling this one on both the foreign and domestic fronts. We got a wonderful response to our invitations; Jack Vance is truly a writer's writer, and has had a profound influence on several generations of fantasists.
Our lineup of writers is pretty impressive, we think. In alphabetical order:
Glen Cook Michael Shea
Terry Dowling Robert Silverberg
Phyllis Eisenstein Dan Simmons
Ray Feist Jeff Vandermeer
Neil Gaiman Paula Volsky
Elizabeth Hand Howard Waldrop
Matt Hughes Liz Williams
Tanith Lee Tad Williams
George R.R. Martin Walter Jon Williams
Michael Moorcock John C. Wright
Gardner and I are hopeful that the publishers will be as excited about this anthology as we are. It should be a terrific book.
We'll keep you posted.
George R.R. Martin"
THE TERROR Becomes Bestseller, Goes to Third Printing
Dan reports that THE TERROR, released on January 8 of this year, achieved national bestseller status within a few weeks and is now in its third printing, with more than 80,000 hardcover copies currently in print.
THE TERROR was # 17 on the New York Times Extended Bestseller List, # 14 on Publishers Weekly’s top 15 Bestseller List, and has been in the 30% discount sections of Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com for some weeks. Dan’s short book tour in late January through early February appeared to have helped sales; THE TERROR was # 3 on The Denver Post bestseller list and on that list for several weeks, # 4 on the Los Angeles Times list, and also on the bestseller lists in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon.
Current word is that THE TERROR will be reviewed in New York Times Review of Books on Sunday, March 18.
Podcast of Rick Kleffel's January 31 Interview with Dan
While in San Francisco on tour for THE TERROR at the end of January, Dan went to the NPR headquarters there to do this one-hour interview with Rick Kleffel of California's KUSP radio. Kleffel's "The Agony Column" features podcast and broadcast interviews with some of the top names in imaginative fiction. This interview focuses on THE TERROR but also includes conversations about writing SF, researching for a novel, the demise of Joe Kurtz, and other topics.
To hear this podcast, please click here to reach the Agony Column Archives and scroll down to Simmons's interview on 1-31-07 to download it in either MP3 or Real Player format.
Simmons Interviewed on the Kacey Kowars Radio Show
In mid-April, Dan was interviewed about THE TERROR and other topics on the popular Kacey Kowars Show. Click on the following link to hear the interview -- http://kaceykowars.com/authors/simmons.html
IN THE BELLY OF THE THING
(Dan's note: John Clute is one of the most respected reviewers in the field of speculative fiction. Here is his Feb. 19 review of THE TERROR in his "Excessive Candour" column on SCI-FI WEEKLY, Sci-Fi.com. SPOILER ALERT! Clute discusses the end of the novel in detail!)
In the Belly of the Thing
By John Clute
No reader who has begun to get used to the literatures of the early 21st century should be flummoxed by the strangeness of The Terror, which seems to be an historically exact recounting of the famous doomed Arctic expedition led by the ineffably stupid Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), who caused the deaths of 130 men in his attempt to find the Northwest Passage by force, but which is something else entirely. The Terror is not only a story about white men not getting the point of the world, it is also a story about the wrongness of a certain kind of story.
For there is no way to understand Franklin's insane blundering assault against the arctic ice north of mainland Canada, nor the "supernatural" intensity of the experience of dying there of cold at the top of the world, as a simple narrative whose terminus is mundanely inevitable. The story of the Franklin expedition is not inherently a realistic story—not a tale that can plausibly be told within the framework of a conventional mimetic narrative process, despite the 650 pages Simmons spends seeming to obey the demands of "realism." Because The Terror is not a goosed documentary; it is far truer than that. It is a fable.
We begin in medias res, where meaning begins, six months after Franklin has finally died, in one of the two ships stranded inextricably in the ice because he refused to listen to reason about what was facing the expedition. Click here to continue reading article article at http://www.scifi.com/sfw/books/column/sfw15092.html
READING EXCERPT FROM THE AUDIO BOOK VERSION OF THE TERROR
Dan writes –
Over the years I’ve annoyed more than a few of my professional peers by suggesting that listening to an author read his or her prose is not always the best way to get a sense of the true quality of the writing.
It is, of course, almost always interesting – some writers (especially poets) can be wonderful reading their own work and listening to an author’s emphasis can be and often is a revelation – but overall, listening to a good actor or trained professional reader verbalize careful written prose gives us readers a better sense of the literary cadence and quality of the book. In other words, listening to Shakespeare read King Lear would be fascinating – and he was trained as an actor – but listening to a recording of Sir John Gielgud reading it almost certainly gives us a better sense of the work.
The following link is to a Borders’ site that includes a brief excerpt from the opening of THE TERROR. (And despite an artifact that may still be on this site, THE TERROR is available now in all Borders and other bookstores.)
CLICK HERE to listen to an excerpt of THE TERROR
TWO SIMMONS’ HORROR CLASSICS RE-RELEASED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE TERROR
Hachette Book Group USA, which has become the parent company of Little, Brown and what used to be Warner Books has, in conjunction with the release of THE TERROR, released the mass-market paperback versions of two of Dan’s horror classics – SUMMER OF NIGHT and CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT.
Dan says –
“I like the feeling of the new cover art for both books, but especially SUMMER OF NIGHT. The book is about kids in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, fighting a creeping terror in the summer of 1960, and the sense of the Midwest is central to the tale. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I can attest that the late evening sunset over cornfields – the central image on the new cover – is very much a part of a child’s experience there.”
Canadian Franklin-Expedition Historian Reviews THE TERROR for The Globe and Mail
Dan writes --
"Even while I was writing THE TERROR, I knew that it would almost certainly someday be reviewed by an historian or writer with great knowledge about the actual Sir John Franklin Expedition. Ken McGoogan's recent review in The Globe and Mail -- Canada's national newspaper -- is precisely that review by an expert. McGoogan received the Pierre Berton Award for History and the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography for his book LADY FRANKLIN'S REVENGE. His book FATAL PASSAGE, about the expedition, is being adapted as a 2-hour Canadian TV docudrama."
From the Toronto Globe and Mail
© 2006 by Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.
Franklin and the white death
By Dan Simmons
Little Brown, 769 pages, $32.99
The most impressive achievement of this brilliant historical novel about the Franklin expedition is that the author manages to account plausibly for all the known facts. In recreating the harrowing true story of the final expedition of Sir John Franklin, who disappeared into the Arctic with two ships and 128 men in 1845, Dan Simmons offers imaginative solutions to the thorniest mysteries.
After spending a first winter at Beechey Island, why did Franklin leave no note saying where he was sailing? Why did sailors, and especially officers, begin dying in such numbers? When, in 1847, the men abandoned the two ice-locked ships, the Erebus and the Terror, why did they drag sledges toward the continental mainland and not Fury Beach, where food supplies lay waiting?
The questions get tougher: Why did local Inuit not help the starving, scurvy-stricken white men? How could sailors of the Royal Navy resort to eating the dead bodies of their comrades? How did one final survivor end up sitting in a whaleboat heading back the way it had come? Simmons incorporates oral testimony that some final survivors managed to get back aboard the Terror, and dramatically explains why contemporary searchers have failed to discover any traces of either ship.
Canadian literature is haunted by these questions. Besides such classics as The Arctic Grail by Pierre Berton and Frozen in Time by Owen Beattie and John Geiger, the lost Franklin expedition figures in works by authors as diverse as Margaret Atwood (Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature) and Mordecai Richler (Solomon Gursky Was Here). The surprise is that Simmons, a prolific, Colorado-based American who has won several awards for his suspense, horror and science-fiction novels, should demonstrate such mastery of this northern file.
And Simmons is more than plausible. He is also dramatic and vivid -- at times, horrifically so. He delivers arresting evocations of the cold and the dark and a bloody flogging; I do not believe I have ever encountered more chilling descriptions of shipboard amputations or of the effects of scurvy, lead poisoning and botulism. Nor does Simmons neglect the prosaic but enhancing detail. "Each time the survivors spent more than two days at a camp," he writes, "the bosuns dragged a stick through the gravel and snow in some relatively open, flat spot to create the rough outline of the Erebus's and Terror's top and lower deck. This allowed the men to know where to stand during muster and gave them a sense of familiarity."
Not surprisingly, given his experience as a novelist, Simmons opens the narrative in October of 1847, when it is well-advanced, and flashes back as necessary. He alternates among several point-of view characters, but most often he draws on Captain Francis Crozier, who in real life was Sir John Franklin's second-in-command. This enables him seamlessly to contextualize the expedition, as the veteran Crozier can "remember" sailing with Sir Edward Parry and Sir James Clark Ross, and also visiting Franklin when he was lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen's Land.
Simmons gives one character a diary, and he allows the Irish Crozier to have inherited the gift of second sight, so that on occasion, for example, he can "see" what Lady Franklin is doing back home in London. So far, so safe. But the author also employs one risky narrative strategy: He adds a mystical or supernatural dimension to the novel by introducing a marauding monster -- a cannibalistic Arctic windigo.
In so doing, he transgresses the conventions of the prevailing psychological realism. As a result, he will draw fire from both literary and historical purists, who will use the white beast as an excuse to dismiss the novel. Aesthetically, however, Simmons makes the device work.
First, he indicates that the beast should be read allegorically. He does this by allowing Crozier to realize that "the Devil trying to kill them up here in the Devil's Kingdom was not just the white-furred thing killing and eating them one by one, but everything here -- the unrelenting cold, the squeezing ice, the electrical storms, the canny lack of seals and whales and birds . . . the summers that did not come, the leads that did not open -- everything. The monster on the ice was just another manifestation of a Devil that wanted them dead."
Secondly, Simmons identifies this white beast, also called "The Terror," as emerging out of Inuit mythology. And in this way, he integrates the Inuit dimension, without which the novel would remain incomplete. Finally, by introducing this inexplicable beast, Simmons implicitly recognizes and asserts that some aspects of what happened on that long-ago expedition must remain forever unknown.
No book is without flaws. Simmons treats explorer Elisha Kent Kane far too harshly, and he serves up one fanciful sex scene that, alas, just never could have happened. Nor did Lady Franklin, as she is properly called, see her husband off at the London docks; and Leopold McClintock did not read the final note at the cairn on King William Island, but only when he arrived back at his ship.
But this is nitpicking. While remaining true to the historical record in every important particular, Simmons has given us a host of colourful, believable characters caught up in a driving, hell-bent narrative. The Terror is a tour de force. The author's nationality notwithstanding, this novel is far more deserving of specifically Canadian attention than the majority of the books that, come autumn, we will see short-listed for this country's most prestigious literary prizes.
Ken McGoogan has written about the lost Franklin expedition in Lady Franklin's Revenge, which recently earned him the Pierre Berton Award for History and the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography; and in Fatal Passage, which is currently being turned into a two-hour TV docudrama.
EARLY REVIEWS OF THE TERROR
First reviews for The Terror, which will be published by Little, Brown in early January, are appearing in journals such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. These reviews are primarily for those who purchase for bookstores, chains, and for individual book buyers who want to keep abreast of what's being published in coming months.
A starred review at Kirkus or Publishers Weekly alerts readers and buyers to a book of special significance.
Publishers Weekly Galley Talk
(Note: “Galley Talk” is a column in Publishers Weekly in which booksellers get to talk about upcoming titles that they’ve read in proof form – galleys – and which they’re very excited about. Only one book appears in Galley Talk per issue. The following appeared in Publishers Weekly in October.)
Frazer Dobson, Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC
I've always enjoyed Dan Simmons's work, but nothing he's done has blown me away like his new novel, THE TERROR. This gripping story of seamen trapped in the Arctic ice while something big and nasty devours them one by one held me rapt for the nearly 800 pages. The characters leap off the page, and despite it's length, there's not an ounce of fat or filler. I'm going to be pushing this one hard to anyone who enjoys great adventure stories--it is technically a horror tale, but Simmons's skill in putting you right in the middle of the frozen action lifts it above genre fiction. It's going to be a good Father's Day handsell, too. Anyone who enjoys Patrick O'Brian or tales or Arctic expeditions is going to love it. I sure wish it were going to be out in time for Christmas, but, hey, people have to spend their Book Sense gift cards on something, right? The first great read of 2007.
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
DAN SIMMONS. Little, Brown, $25.99
(784p) ISBN 978-0-316-01744-2
Hugo-winner Simmons (Olympos) brings the horrific trials and tribulations of arctic exploration vividly to life in this beautifully written historical, which injects a note of supernatural horror into the 1840s Franklin expedition and its doomed search for the Northwest Passage. Sir John Franklin, the leader of the expedition and captain of the Erebus, is an aging fool. Francis Crozier,his second in command and captain of the Terror, is a competent sailor, but embittered after years of seeing lesser men with better connections given preferment over him. With their two ships quickly trapped in pack ice, their voyage is a disaster from start to finish. Some men perish from disease, others from the cold, still others from botulism traced to tinned food purchased from the lowest bidder. Madness, mutiny and cannibalism follow. And then there’s the monstrous creature from the ice, the thing like a polar bear but many times larger, possessed of a dark and vicious intelligence. This complex tale should find many devoted readers and add significantly to Simmons’s already considerable reputation.
Kirkus Starred Review
Horror novel based on an ill-fated 19th-century polar expedition.
Simmons (Olympos, 2005, etc.) tells the story through the eyes of several characters, including the expedition’s leader, Sir John Franklin, co-commander Captain Francis Crozier and the ship’s surgeon Harry Goodsir. The author jumbles the chronological sequence, beginning in October 1847 with Terror (one of the expedition’s two ships; the other was Erebus) trapped in the ice north of Canada, where they have come in search of the Northwest Passage. The initial scene immediately introduces the novel’s main supernatural element: a giant bear-like entity (the crew call it the thing) that preys on the explorers and appears invulnerable to their weapons. The expedition is in enough trouble without this hostile being’s attention. Food is short, thanks in part to improperly prepared canned goods; the ships have been frozen in thick sea ice for two consecutive winters; many of the crew show signs of scurvy; and temperatures have been consistently 50 or more degrees below zero. Overconfident Franklin has disobeyed orders to leave behind messages detailing his movements, so rescue expeditions have no idea where to search for him. Crozier, for his part, is a chronic drunk, although it doesn’t seem to affect his command of his ship and men. Simmons convincingly renders both period details and the nuts and bolts of polar exploration as his narrative moves back and forth in time to show the expedition’s launch in 1845 and its early days in the Arctic. Tension builds as the men struggle to survive: The thing is a constant menace, and deaths continue to mount as a result of brutal Arctic conditions. The supernatural element helps resolve the plot in a surprising yet highly effective manner.
One of Simmons’ best. (Agent: Richard Curtis/Richard Curtis Associates Inc.)
. . .
Little, Brown (784 pp.)
Jan. 8, 2007
Library Journal Review for Nov. 15
(November 15, 2006; 0-316-01744-3; 978-0-316-01744-2)
Though Simmons is best known for his convoluted sf novels Hyperion, Ilium, and Olympos, his new work shows that he’s also capable of writing a direct and compelling narrative. For the moste part, it’s a straightforward sea story following the difficulties of the dwindling remains of Sir John Franklin’s failed 1840’s mission to find the Northwest Passage. However, in addition to scurvy, frostbite, botulism, snow-blindness, and threats of mutiny, the crews of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus are harried by some enormous Thing out on the ice. The story is told from the viewpoints of several members of the ships’ crews, with emphasis on Terror captain Francis Crozier and Erebus surgeon Harry Goodsir. The effects of malnutrition and climate on the men are related in grisly detail, while the predations of the Thing are often left vague. As several characters remark, the real monsters in this tale are their own shipmates and the North itself. It’s clear that Simmons devoted a lot of t ime to researching the history of the Franklin Expedition. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.
THE TERROR UK and US COVERS
Below we have a final cover proof for the Little, Brown US cover for The Terror and an earlier proof (which will be modified) for the Transworld – UK Bantam version of The Terror.
Dan asks – “Which one of these do you readers prefer? The UK or the US version? Feel free to give me your opinions on the Dan Simmons Forum.”
Early Blog Review of THE TERROR
Even though Advance Readers’ Copies of The Terror are just in the process of going out to reviewers, reps and book customers have received their ARCs and here is one early opinon posted on the SIBA web site, from a bookstore reviewer with a blog in Charlotte, who also sent a review to Booksense.
Book #27: Dan Simmons’ The Terror
Posted in Uncategorized at 4:11 pm by Frazer
So last night, I was in the kitchen about 7.30, working on dinner (chicken piccata–a good quick meal for a Wednesday night), when Sally came in the kitchen, and said, “Where’s my dinner? I’m hungry!” (When it comes to food, Sally–and, indeed, the entire Brewster clan–is very direct.)
“I’m working on it, honey, almost finished. We’ll have dinner in fifteen minutes.”
Then she noticed that I was leaning over something on the counter next to the cutting board where I was mincing shallots. “Hey,” she said. “You’re reading while you’re cooking! You never do that!”
“I know,” I admitted, “but I’ve only got 100 more pages, and I’ve got to finish it tonight!”
Click Here to continue reading the blog
OLYMPOS Out in Mass-market Paperback
With the July, 2006 release of Olympos in paperback, the entire Ilium-Olympos saga, beginning with the 2005 Hugo-nominated Ilium and concluding with Olympos, is now available in mass-market paperback format.
Intertwining Homeric themes of fate, ceremony, friendship, duty, and courage with nonstop action and cutting-edge 21st Century SF sophistication, the Ilium-Olympos saga has been called one of the great achievements in contemporary speculative fiction.
Nick Givers said in LOCUS – “Considered as a great explosion of Story, Dan Simmons’s OLYMPOS , sequel to the already voluminous ILIUM (2003), is a supreme achievement . . . this is, in other words, something resembling the ultimate SF novel, a convergence of most, if not all, of SF’s idioms and narrative potentials in a synthesis so commanding that it might appear to put a capstone to the entire literary project that is SF, obviating any need to go further . . . for readers seeking to understand what SF is and what it can be, the ILIUM/OLYMPOS diptych will for the time being be the cynosure.
Kirkus Review of OLYMPOS
A sequel to Simmons's ILIUM (2003) offers up the Trojan War along with elements from The Tempest, The Time Machine, Victorian poets and pop SF.
ILIUM ended with the Greek and Trojan heroes allied against the Olympian gods, advanced space-going robots called moravecs aiding the human side. Meanwhile, in a different reality, a lovely but decadent human civilization is under attack from its feral former servants, the robotlike voynix. A third plot strand now updates the conflict between the sorcerer Prospero, Caliban and Caliban's monstrous god Setebos. And the revived 20th-century American scholar Hockenberry attempts to chronicle the events while making love to volatile Helen of Troy. Simmons brings each subplot to a boil and spins off sub-subplots about Achilles' love for a dead Amazon queen, Odysseus' voyage to the alternate Earth with the moravecs, the arrival of Setebos and his minions in what was once Paris, etc. Everything comes together into a solid adventure story, with all the mysteries explained in respectably up-to-date SF terms. At the same time, Simmons adopts the device of having his characters quote freely from Homer, Shakespeare, Shelley, Browning, Proust and a host of other sources that liberal arts majors can have fun spotting. The author often gives his borrowings an ironic twist--as when Odysseus quotes Tennyson's "Ulysses" to a classical scholar who half-recognizes the poem, or when Prospero objects to playing himself in a production of The Tempest, not wanting to memorize so many lines. Homeric tags alternate with tough-guy street talk, and several of the moravec scientists turn out to be Star Trek fans. Simmons's gift for vivid description is evident throughout, as well. He effectively combines a serious subject, ironic perspective, strong action and believable (if not always sympathetic) characters.
Ambitious, witty, moving: Simmons at his best.
Publishers Weekly Review of OLYMPOS
DAN SIMMONS.Eos,$25.95 (576p)
Shakespeare’s rawing fromTempest Homer’sand the Iliad, work of several 19th-century poets, Simmons achieves another triumph in this majestic, if convoluted, sequel to his much-praised Ilium (2003). Posthumans masquerading as the Greek gods and living on Mars travel back and forth through time and alternate universes to interfere in the real Trojan War, employing a resurrected late 20th-century classics professor, Thomas Hockenberry, as their tool. Meanwhile, the last remaining old-style human beings on a far-future Earth must struggle for survival against a variety of hostile forces. Superhuman entities with names
like Prospero, Caliban and Ariel lay complex plots, using human beings as game pieces. From the outer solar system, an
advanced race of semiorganic Artificial Intelligences, called moravecs, observe Earth and Mars in consternation, trying to
make sense of the situation, hoping to shift the balance of power before out-of-control quantum forces destroy everything.
This is powerful stuff, rich in both high- tech sense of wonder and literary allusions, but Simmons is in complete control of his material as half a dozen baroque plot lines smoothly converge on a rousing and highly satisfying conclusion. Agent, Richard Curtis.7-city author tour. (June 28)