I dread this time of year. We're facing two months of relentless sunshine. Like many Portlanders, I don't have air conditioning. To cool my brain I'm reading a couple of snow-packed books. The first one is the latest horror story from Dan Simmons ? it's called The Terror
. He's an amazing writer. His horror is among the best; his speculative fiction
is award-winning. He even writes hard-boiled crime novels
The Terror is about an 1840s arctic expedition to find a sea passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in the polar seas north of Canada. It's based on historical fact ? Sir John Franklin's doomed expedition is the raw material for the novel. The bare facts are that every time Franklin had to make a decision, he made the wrong one. The two ships (and 134 crewmembers) were stuck in the ice for three years. The historical record says the entire crew died from starvation, scurvy, and exposure. Dan Simmons offers us a much, much scarier scenario.
The novel made me want to reread one of my favorite history books, The Arctic Grail, which recounts the Franklin expedition and offers up context for the quest for a Northwest passage. Voyages of Delusion is in the same vein, giving a well-written account of the many unsuccessful attempts. Also on my list (because when a subject captures me I like to dig deep) is a new book called Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship.
I figure three books set in the arctic should keep me cool for awhile. My body is in the 90-degree heat, but my mind is 50 below.