The Terror was a ship - a state-of-the-art ice-breaker - and it had a sister-ship, Erebus. If you know mountains you may note that two volcanoes in Antarctica share these names. They were, in fact, named after the ships. These ships later saw service on an expedition to find the North-West Passage - and never returned.
Simmons takes what is known of this expedition and uses it for the basis of a novel very aptly named The Terror, because up there, trapped in the sea-ice, the sailors find themselves stalked by something nameless and even more deadly than the ice-bears, ursus maritimus.
Yet another ambitious work from Simmons, this one combining horror/supernatural elements with historical/adventure fiction. Compared to his other books it is most similar to Drood, since the time-period is not much different and the story is told from the perspective of Britons (it was a British expedition, after all). This, as with Drood, leads to some oddities regarding the English. For instance, "arse" is used through-out, even outside dialogue, except for one instance, which must be considered a mistake. Contrastingly, the American "whiskey" is prefered to "whisky" at all times. Not sure what to make of this type of inconsistency, except that if he had a Brit editor read it carefully before publication with this sort of thing in mind, he could probably have published it entirely in British English. Similar issues come up in Drood, where it is clear cut that, since it is a 1st Person narrative, it should be British through-out.
The story is strange in that it is both gripping and seemingly endless at once. I'd read 50+p at a go, easily, look at my over-all progress and think, "good-grief, I've hardly started." Not knowing anything of the expedition prior to starting the book, I had little idea where the plot would take me and was more than a little startled by the ending and the stylistic switch associated with it. This switch is, however, necessary - indeed, for me, the point of the book. I was also a bit annoyed that one plot thread is left dangling. Inevitably there are some scenes where a couple of characters start name-dropping famous authors. This is getting tiresome and Simmons should completely eradicate it from future books - it is too often unnecessary and jars the reader out of the story.
So once again, Simmons reaches just beyond his grasp. Nevertheless, this is an exceptionally worthwhile book, showing men who are aliens in the environment they are trapped in trying to maintain not only their lives but their dignity when everything is going against them.