I have to finish books.
Maybe not right away, or in the timeline I want to finish a book, but I absolutely must finish a book I start. This philosophy has lead me to books that were an absolute slog. I normally read other books in the mean time, but I will always come back to finish a book eventually (with the exception of Queen’s Gambit which I accidentally gave away). This life-long philosophy of mine nearly ended with Dan Simmon’s The Terror.
As many of you already know, I lived in China for a year.
I get a mixed bag of reactions when I tell people I spent a year of my adult life splitting a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom flat with three other people in Beijing. Guess what? It was one of the best years of my life. I firmly stand by my opinion that everyone should try to spend an extended amount of time outside of their home country.
Beijing is a second home to me. Beijing is vibrant. Beijing has some unreal food. China as is a gem of a country. Just writing about it makes me nostalgic and fills me with warm fuzzies.
I went to China as an English teacher. My background is in education, it seemed a good fit. My best friend was already there. I was already going through what I called my “quarter-life crisis”. Such a millennial problem, right? On a whim one night in March 2014, I applied to jobs in South Korea and China. Within four days I had an interview. Within a week I signed a contract and starting looking for a cheap plane ticket from Manila to Beijing since I was spending May-June of that summer on an excavation in the rice terraces. I was not going to give myself a chance to over think my decision. I was resolute; I was moving to China.
One of the greatest things, and there are a lot of great things, about Beijing is their subway system. Sure, it was crowded and you bet I spent a good chunk of my commute smashed up against strangers, but public transportation is amazing. That subway ride also gave me an excuse to read on my way to work.
I’m going to be completely honest with you: it took me almost 5 months to finish The Terror. And for that 5 months, I didn’t read any other books.
*Short disclaimer*: The following may contain a few spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Let’s begin with my trip to Shenzhen, China in October of 2014. The trip I started The Terror on. The beginning was phenomenal. A trapped expedition shrouded in mystery, being (pardon the minor pun) terrorized by….something. Simmons had this book hot coming out of the gate. I probably devoured the first 200 pages on the short plane ride back to Beijing. I felt like I was a member of this ill-fated expedition, claustrophobically trapped in this frozen wasteland and suffering from scurvy. Simmons spectacularly described the monotony of an Arctic-bound bunch as well as an author could. Not only the monotony, but the monster! This was not your average monster either, this monster was intelligent. Intelligent enough to have me grimacing once or twice with its antics. The supernatural aspect had me on the edge of my seat. Was it actually a monster? Or was the monster actually men? Were men being pushed towards the brink of their sanity and group-hallucinating this? I had so many questions!
And then, it just lost me.
The flashbacks, hearing about everyone losing their damn minds repeatedly, Lady Silence, the monster, mutiny, scurvy. They all lost me. Much like the sailors stuck in Arctic, I waited for an absolution that I knew would never come. 10 Points to your house of choice if you get that reference. So I kept going. For all 700 and however many pages, I kept going.
And then the end was near. It was February 2015 (shout out to Goodreads for tracking the dates I start/finish books!!) and I had been dragging my feet. I brought my kindle day in and day out on the subway, trying to get through five pages or ten pages if I could. Finally, the end came.
I don’t know if it is possible to be more frustrated with the ending of a book. Everything was tied up in a perfect little bow. The mainish character becomes the sole survivor and finds a lover. All the bad guys die. We find out the true meaning/birth? of the monster.
I. could. not. believe. it. I just spent five months of my life FOR THIS?!?! Maybe I am just incredibly uneducated in Inuit culture and missed all the warning signs. Maybe books about failed expeditions are just not my cup of tea…. Maybe I should’ve just abandoned ship. I don’t know and I don’t think I ever will why this book did not do it for me.
I have another Dan Simmons book that I fully intend on reading (The Abominable). Although Terror had me “terroring” out my hair, I really appreciated Simmons attention to detail and research on the time period. I’ve brought this argument up before and there is no doubt I’ll bring it up again in the future: a well researched historical fiction, regardless of how bored or angry it makes me, will always be something I respect. In my opinion, Dan Simmons deserves another chance and I intend on allowing him one.
So there it is. The time I nearly bailed on The Terror. I didn’t pick up another book until March when I went on vacation and that’s another story for another #TBT time.
Have a book you were determined to finish even if it frustrated you to the ends of the earth? I want to hear about it!!