Nick Cutter, the pseudonymous author of The Troop, will release his second novel The Deep on January 13, 2015. In The Deep a strange disease called the ‘Gets has ravaged humanity attacking peoples’ minds forcing them to forget things until even their most basic abilities to function disappear. With no cure in a sight a special research station deep within the Marianias trench, the Trieste, offers the faintest glimmer of hope. Luke, a veterinarian, has been called to this research station since it his brilliant scientist brother Clayton who is spearheading the research deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Luke must descend into the dark depths of the ocean, into an alien landscape, in order to find his brother and discover what type of cure has been dredged up from the depths.
The Deep is a novel that excels at creating a cloying sense of claustrophobia. Cutter masterfully conveys the sense of alien-ness in the depths of the ocean. There is a blatant wrongness to the human presence in the bottom of the ocean; the sense that we are the invaders that all the strangeness occurring within the cramped corridors of the Trieste is a result of our intrusion into a place where humanity was not meant to tread. The constant threat of death, the notion that the only thing keeping our characters alive is the thin walls of the research station, is accentuated throughout the novel by the constant sounds of the tremendous pressure working on the walls; often characterized as the creeptastic pitter-patter of feet scurrying above the characters heads.
Memory is also an important theme that runs throughout the novel. Obviously there is the strange disease called the ‘Gets but Luke is an extremely introspective character and a significant portion of the narrative is given over to his memories. Memories that are not only of his own past growing up with his sociopathic brother under the thumb of a sadistic mother but of the events surrounding his own son’s disappearance and the collapse of his home life. Luke’s descent into his own memories and the way the pressures of the past influence the way he interacts with the world is a thematic mirror of the descent into the ocean’s depths and the literal pressure of its presence outside the walls of the Trieste. Luke’s seemingly involuntary retreats into the labyrinth of his own memory plays strongly into the overall feeling of both claustrophobia and paranoia that pervades the novel.
Luke’s familial issues, with his brother, his estranged wife, his missing son, and the ghost of his mother lend the novel a bit of an unfocused air particularly when combined with what feels like the almost vestigial addition of the ‘Gets. Cutter has managed to craft a near pitch perfect tone of the novel and it is unfortunate that the plot doesn’t quite bear the same weight of attention. Obviously memory is important to the novel but The Deep isn’t a novel about resolution which makes the novel’s conclusion both unsettling and at least a little unsatisfying. The role of the ‘Gets in the novel doesn’t necessarily feel like it needs to be there. As an excuse for having a research station on the ocean floor it mostly works and it certainly ties into the importance of memory throughout the novel but the weight of the disease doesn’t really carry throughout the novel; especially given the degree of other horror that Cutter tosses into the mix as the novel progresses.
The Deep was a bit of miss for me though it was a near one. There are aspects of the novel I certainly thought were evocative but in the end rang hollow. Plot and tone never quite seemed to meld together. In the end I was left feeling like The Deep could have been more than it was. The book is still an enjoyable, albeit occasionally oppressive read that horror fans should definitely give a spin.
This review is based on an e-ARC.