Some readers may know the novel "The Terror" by Dan Simmons, about the doomed Franklin Expedition, which set out to find the Northwest Passage in 1847. There's an extended scene of a ghastly entertainment that mirrors "The Masque of the Red Death," complete with the seven fantastical chambers and a monster that craves human flesh. In one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twists, the book's title refers not only to the terrible experience of those doomed sailors--it's the name of one of the ships. The other was called Erebus, after the Greek god born out of primordial chaos. Hmm, I might have thought twice about such ill-omened names before stepping foot on board. Simmons's book is sprawling and confusing in spots, but the atmosphere of desperation punctuated by bursts of deranged merriment put me in a kind of surreal mood as I read along.