Showing posts from November, 2012

Book Review: The Terror

As promised at the beginning of the month, I have a book review for all of you today.

The year is 1847, and the crews of The Erebus and The Terror have been frozen in ice for two years. They are running low on food, suffering from frost bite, hypothermia, and disease, with the threat of mutiny always present. One day, a monstrous creature appears on the ice and begins picking the sailors off one by one.

In The Terror, Dan Simmons takes the known facts of the disastrous Franklin Expedition, and fills in the blanks. It’s not a spoiler to say a lot of people die, considering that none of the subsequent rescue missions, and later scientific expeditions, ever found any evidence of any of the men surviving. What Simmons chooses to fill the blanks with is a lot of reasonable speculation, and an ice monster whose nature is left a mystery until the last 3 chapters.

I really liked The Terror when the author is detailing the miserable conditions that the characters are
coping with. He writes in a way that you can very clearly imagine the ice, the long dark winters and short bright summers, the dank and dark ships that the men spend most of their time in. His descriptions of the ravages of scurvy had me picking up oranges the next time I went to the store.

He uses multiple POVs to tell his story, from the expedition commander Sir John Franklin, to the ship’s surgeon Dr. Goodsir, to the lowly seamen Pelgar and Blanky, with The Terror’s captain, Francis Crozier, as the protagonist. Each of his characters, even the ones that don’t get to tell their own stories are interesting, and complex.

The story is set at a very good pace, keeping things moving along for the most part except in a few
places where everything grinds to a halt so characters can lay down a bunch of background, talk
about this new radical idea of evolution, and describe-in painstaking detail-all the boats that the
ships brought with them. This information is necessary to an extent, but they are such obvious info
dumps that I ended up skipping several pages out of frustration.

The only other thing that stuck out to me is the last 3-4 chapters. They feel like they belong on a
different book. There is some foreshadowing of the conclusion, but it happens in one chapter and then doesn’t make any appearance for the rest of the story, so the fate of Francis Crozier seems to come out of left field.

The one thing I’m left with after reading The Terror is that Dan Simmons could have written a historical fiction novel without any supernatural elements at all and it would still be an engrossing story. Between the fully realized characters, the bad luck that never seems to leave them, the harsh environment they're trapped in, food poisoning, lead poisoning, starvation, and scurvy, an ice monster almost seems like overkill.

I have never read any of Dan Simmons' other books, so I can't compare it to any of his other work. But if The Terror is indicative of any of his other stuff, I may have to look up some of his other books.

Next month, I'm going to review Fireseed One by Catherine Stine. I received a copy of this book from Candilynn Fite as a prize for Fireworks, my entry in her Follow My Lead blogfest. It's been on my Kindle for months, so I might as well read it.

If anyone bothers to read this and comment, let me know what you think of my review. It's the first book review I've done, so any feedback is appreciated.

U Got The Look

Thanks to Laura at My Baffling Brain for tagging me in the U Got The Look meme.
This is an interesting one: go to your current WIP, find the word "look" and post the surrounding paragraphs. Then tag 5 new people with the meme.
So I've copied something from the first page of Weaver. I was trying to find something further into the story, but as I searched, I realized that  I use the word look A LOT. Time to break out the Thesaurus.
Anyway, without further ado, my entry:
It had been a long time since she had looked at the world through a Weaver's eyes, and for Myra Castor this was unusual. After all, being a Weaver, being able to pluck and weave those fibers of reality, was who she was, what she was born to do. But lately she had lost interest in the lines of the universe, and had allowed it all to slip into the back of her mind. Weaving was something she did when she was younger, like dying her dark, curly hair platinum blond, or staying up all night talking with interesting people, or dropping everything at a moment's notice to move on to a new adventure. It was something she used to do, not something she did now.
The revelation struck her as she sat in the Beanery with her hazelnut latte on a warm Monday morning in June. She had been nagged with a rising sense of dread all morning. The bad dreams and bad feelings that had plagued her for weeks stayed fresh in her mind, instead of fading away as they usually did. As she drove to the coffee shop for her usual latte, the sense of forboding had increased until she could literally feel the hairs on the back of her neck standing up, and her jaw ached from clenching her teeth. She had been at a red light, nearly to her destination only a block away, when she saw the bird.

It was perched on one of the lines that lined the street. The creature was so heavy that the lines sagged beneath its weight, and the feathers were spectacularly colored iridescent green and purple. But it wasn't the size of the thing or the technicolor plumage that made her stare, it was the creeping sensation that it didn't belong. It was unlike anything she had ever seen, or would expect to see perched on a power line in a city in North America. It looked like something that belonged in a tropical forest. Aside from being out of place, it felt wrong. For the first time in she didn't know how long, she reached out and tried to feel the lines that surrounded it. A ball of reality completely disconnected from hers surrounded the bird making it stand out against the background of the world. The bird stared back at her with unblinking black eyes as Myra leaned in closer to get a better look. It's head tilted left, then right, and then the bird took flight, its wings stretching wider than she thought possible. It swooped down towards her so quickly and so close she recoiled when she thought it was going to thump into her window. At the last moment it veered away and flew over the roof of her car. She craned her neck trying to follow the path the bird had taken, but she couldn't see it anywhere.

With the disappearance of the bird, the general malaise that had dogged her all morning lifted, as if the creature had taken it away on it's shimmering wings.
So that's that. I hope you enjoyed it.
Now for my picks:
LG Keltner at Writing Off the Edge
Von L. Cid at The Growing Writer
You'll notice that there are only two of them. Well, I suck at tagging people in memes.

ISWG: November

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for another Insecure Writers Support Group post.
I'm working through some mental blocks regarding my writing, and trying to calm myself down. I'm so eager to get a finished product that I get frustrated with the work required to get there. I knew writing wasn't easy, but for some reason I didn't think it would be this hard.
My problem right now (really my problem always) is beginnings. I never know how to start things. What both my CPs came back with was that the story doesn't really get interesting until nearly a third of the way through. Fitting in character introductions, explaining the nature of my universe and how the characters influence it, and laying the ground work for the latter part of the story--I'm have trouble getting it down without a lot of info dumping.
I'll get there. I just have to keep reminding myself that it will get done, and it will take time and effort to do it right.

Inspiration Monday and Miscellany

As always, I'm going to cram a lot of unrelated things into one post today.

First, my inspiration this month: Positive Feedback

Last month I got feedback from my critic partners regarding my MS, Weaver. Both liked the idea and the story, and they gave me some great feedback. This has inspired me to keep going. Since I know I'm not writing complete crap-only about 50% crap, but crap I can mold and polish into a shiny golden poo that smells like lavender- I have a little more fuel to keep me moving. Sometimes it's the little things that keep you going.

Second, goals for November:
  1. Start next round of rewrites for Weaver. I want to be mostly done by the New Year, although with the holidays and having to rewrite the beginning (again) I'm leaving this one open ended.
  2. If I'm not revising, write for at least 30 minutes (1 hr if I can find it) a day.
  3. Read for at least 30 minutes a day. I have not been doing much reading recently, and I need to get back into the habit.
And finally, I would also like to announce a new segment I just thought of on my drive home for work called "What I'm Reading This Month". I figured I ought to expand my blogging horizons a bit, so to add a little variety (and to provide some incentive to complete goal #3), I decided to try book reviewing. I don't know the first thing about reviewing books, so this should be fun.

My first What I'm Reading This Month pick is The Terror by Dan Simmons:
I'll be back at the end of the month with my review.