What happened to the H.M.S. Terror, a la Dan Simmons? Please?
August 21, 2009 2:16 AM Subscribe
Please help me understand aspects of the ending of the novel "The Terror" by Dan Simmons! Super spoiler-icious details inside (definitely don't read unless you've read the book, or are sure you never want to)...
posted by taz to media & arts (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It's driving me crazy! Who sailed the Terror 200 miles south of it's original ice-locked position near the Erebus? Who was the rat-toothed corpse in Crozier's bunk?
Am I wrong in understanding that the top-deck hatches had been nailed shut from the outside? And this would indicate that the (apparently) single remaining seaman aboard had been locked inside either for the protection of others, or for his own protection?
Failing the possibility that the mystery corpse was one of a party of rescuers (and I reject this theory because the ships were never found in real life), logic dictates that he would have had to be one of the three - Reuben Male, Robert Sinclair, and Samuel Honey - who set out cross country to return to the Terror. Simmons is specific that the corpse in the bunk is about the height of Crozier, but elsewhere, Reuben Male (the more significant character of the trio) is described as shorter than Crozier, and there is almost no mention or development in the novel at all regarding Robert Sinclair or Samuel Honey (who is not Honey, the carpenter, but a blacksmith with the same last name who is basically never mentioned except for being included in that group that chose to try to return to the Terror).
However, one detail seems to suggest that it wasn't one of those three: the corpse is swathed in heavy clothes and blankets, which puzzles Crozier, since if the three had managed to make their way back to the Terror, it would have still been summer. (I mention this because it's specifically pointed out in the narrative. In fact, since this discovery happens 2+ years later, they could have returned, sailed the ship out during summer, and then this individual could have died at a later time.) Earlier, much was made of checking every nook and cranny of the ship before abandoning it, which seems to have been explicated especially to put aside any notion that whoever the corpse was (and whoever sailed the ship and nailed the hatches shut) weren't sailors who had surreptitiously stayed aboard. The constant head-counting by Crozier also indicates that nobody is unaccounted for after the crew leaves the ship.
Simmons is also quite specific that the Terror was anchored in a place that didn't make any sense; instead of harboring in the shelter of the various nearby inlets, it is anchored in open water (later, ice), leaving it exposed to the terrible storms. Was this, again, an effort to isolate the one left on board? Or was it just an indication of extreme incompetence? (Wouldn't pretty much any sailor know to seek some kind of safe harbor?)
And wtf, the rat teeth?
It also makes me crazy that Simmons writes this:
How Terror could have ended up here, almost two hundred miles south of where she had been frozen fast near Erebus for almost three years, was beyond Crozier’s powers of speculation.
He would not have to speculate much longer.
eh? Why not? He doesn't seem to have reached any conclusion (or none that were shared with us poor readers) about this after inspecting the ship.
It just doesn't make sense to me that Simmons would have put all these extremely specific details/clues - not to mention the relocation of the Terror at all - just to leave it all as a hanging mystery. Why? Why? What am I missing?