Date: January, 2007
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Historical fiction, horror
This book was a really enjoyable read, perfect for the winter. It is about the Franklin Expedition, where Europeans tried to establish a trade route by sea through the Northwest Passage (North of Canada). The actual history books tell us that this was an unfortunate and failed mission. This book re-imagines that historical event with a chilling edge of survival in the arctic.
The writing was extremely detailed and dense. I found I had to really take my time with this story in order to absorb all the little bits of information. I read the paperback version which is close to 1000 pages - no easy feat! But it was well worth the effort. I really felt like I was on the ships with the crew, battling the same gruesome weather and starvation.
The characters were not as established as I would have hoped. Many of them blended together and didn't have too many distinctive details about them. The captains were obviously memorable, as was the mysterious native woman on board, but many others I have already forgotten about. Some characters were gay, which was both a surprise and delight to read. I feel there really should be more LGBT* characters in literature because we are a population that exists and should be represented in stories with large casts of characters. Of course, these gay characters were viewed in a historical context, but I was just happy to see they were there.
The plot moved quicker than I expected for such a brick of a book. There was an overall feeling of loss, hopelessness, and alienation but the crew were kept busy. One minute someone's dying, the next there's some freaky thing out on the ice, and it just kept going on and on. As soon as we are able to compose ourselves, something else is happening (good or bad). I was really afraid that parts would be a struggle to read, but that was far from the case.
Then I got to about the 3/4 part of the book and it was difficult for me to finish. It had all the same elements as the beginning, but by then I wanted something different. It was just the same stuff happening, except it was all worse, but the magnitude of it didn't impact me the way it was suppose to. I was very curious about the natives, but they were not focused on as much as I expected.
Overall, this is a very dense and well written story about survival. I really felt like I was on the ship and trying to survive with the crew. However, more distinctive features between crew members and more emphasis on the natives would have made the book more well rounded for me. If you are looking for a dense, historical novel that is amazing at setting, then this is your book. However, as a horror novel I felt it fell short despite some creepy moments.
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