The Deep by Nick Cutter
Published by Gallery Books, January 13, 2015. Hardcover of 410 pages at $26.00.
Note: I read an advanced copy, so any aspect of the book may have changed by publication.
The cover: A giant hand comes out of black waters for assistance or to pull a reader under. The title overlays the open hand, the lettering resembling the surface of the ocean. The author’s name is at the bottom in the same font as the title, and below that is the quote “Old-school horror at its best,” credited to Stephen King on Cutter’s book The Troop. The best covers are the simplest, and this image by TK is great. It implies the setting and the horror easily. Overall grade: A
The premise: Taken from the back cover, “A strange plague called the ‘Gets is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget–small things at first, like where they left their keys…then the not-so-small things, like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily…and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Mariana Trench, a heretofore unknown substance hailed as ‘ambrosia’ has been discovered–a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a cure. In order to study this phenomenon, a special research lab, the Trieste, has been built eight miles under the sea’s surface. But now the station is incommunicado, and it’s up to a brave few to descend through the lightless fathoms in hopes of unraveling the mysteries lurking at those crushing depths…and perhaps encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.” This sounds interesting. I like the disease, never encountered one like that before in other media. The setting reminds me of The Abyss, and that’s encouraged in the text on the back that hypes “The Abyss meets The Shining.” I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. Overall grade: A
The characters: There are four characters in this book. The lead is Luke “Lucas” Nelson, a veterinarian, who is reluctantly called in by the government to find out why the Trieste has gone silent. His backstory is that his son, Zachary, has gone missing seven years earlier. This haunts him still, as it would any parent, but it leads to a series of awkward conflicts later in the book that I couldn’t believe. He has flashbacks that constantly interrupt the flow of the story to interject pieces from his past to expand his present. They were an annoyance. The relationship Lucas has with his brother is strained, as genius brother Clayton is the last hope for mankind in stopping the ‘Gets. He’s extremely arrogant, distant, and more preoccupied with his tasks than those of his fellow man. This wasn’t a surprising character, as enough is hinted about him before he actually appears. He’s obviously hiding information from Lucas at their reunion and I was surprised that his brother didn’t demand to know what he was doing in the Trieste that caused communications to go out. Bringing Lucas down was Lt. Cmd. Alice “Al” Sykes of the U.S. Navy. She’s a big gal who’s just there to drop Lucas into the site and bring him up. She starts off as a very strong character initially, but because of the plot she comes and goes often from Lucas’s focus. I discounted her the second time she separated from Lucas, because Cutter didn’t intend for her to be anything beyond a mechanical expert underwater. Also in the station is another scientist, molecular biologist Hugo Toy. When he enters the book he’s already gone buggy. After this initial appearance, he disappears until the last third of the novel. Again, like Al, “Out of sight, out of mind” for the reader. The antagonist is some undefined evil that Lucas feels while beginning his dive to the station. Once at the station, the evil is so abstract and random, there was no horror. There’s obviously something wrong with ambrosia, but it’s left open until the very end. If the lead has to have flashbacks to add depth to himself and the villains are abstract until the very ending, readers are going to be wandering lost in The Deep, as I was. Overall grade: D+
The settings: Before the book goes underwater, this was an amazing setting. I loved the disease and how it was wracking society. I loved the trip through the countryside, the voyage on the boat, and the military installation. This was defined precisely and was hypnotizing. Once the book went underwater the setting was a maze-like installation that lacked any specifics, save the two doctors’ quarters, which could be described in a sentence. I don’t believe that Cutter could map out this setting of his own creation. Overall grade: D-
The action: This novel falls under psychological horror, which failed, and physical harm, which occasionally seemed to be headed somewhere, but then devolves back into psychological terrors. I only cared for anyone’s safety when Little Bee was in harm’s way. To keep this spoiler free, the holes were unintentionally funny. I couldn’t believe their threat or what they represented; again, because what they represent is so vague. This book plodded forward with little horror and action. Overall grade: D
The conclusion: The reveal of the villains was terrible. I felt absolutely cheated. I hadn’t been so annoyed by an ending since Stephen King’s It. If you found that ending satisfactory, then my review is not for you. As for me, this was a disaster of a finale. Overall grade: F
The final line: What’s above ground is fantastic, but once the reader submerges into The Deep it becomes an undefined hodgepodge that doesn’t frighten or entertain. Very disappointing. Overall grade: D-