Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: The Deep, by Nick Cutter

Claustrophobia, paranoia, and abyssal horrors.

The Deep

Gallery Books, 2015, 394 pages

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 Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as "ambrosia" has been discovered - a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a universal 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 to encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.

Part horror, part psychological nightmare, The Deep is a novel that fans of Stephen King and Clive Barker won't want to miss - especially if you're afraid of the dark.

All horror stories set at the bottom of the ocean get compared to The Abyss, just like all "spaceship crew encounters dangerous things in space" gets compared to Alien.

The Deep is really more like a classic horror novel, closer to Deep Black Sea. Like the latter book, The Deep takes place aboard a research vessel at the bottom of the Challenger Deep, and the crew starts going bonkers as freaky things come out to kill them.

Nick Cutter is a better author. Heavily influenced by Stephen King with a touch of H.P. Lovecraft, the story inevitably becomes gory and nasty.

The initial premise of The Deep is a hook that really seemed unnecessary, as the seemingly existential threat to humanity was merely a plot device to get the characters down to the bottom of the ocean. A plague has swept around the world; informally called "the 'Gets," it's a hyper form of dementia, causing people to lose their memory until they literally can't remember how to eat or even breathe.

The main character Luke's genius brother Clayton is a scientist aboard the Trieste, a research station at the bottom of the Challenger Trench, eight miles deep. Supposedly he has found a possible cure for the 'Gets, and he sent a mysterious message asking for his brother. So Luke is sent down to talk to him, because they've had some trouble contacting the station. There are a few logical gaps here (why send a veterinarian, just because he's the brother of one of the scientists, instead of, say, a Special Forces team backed by a squad of doctors and psychologists?), but it makes for a much better story of psychological horror. Where Nick Cutter draws on Stephen King is in filling in the details of the characters' lives — all the horror and drama going back to their childhoods, which will of course manifest itself in frightening and horrific ways when they're at the bottom of the ocean and things are starting to mess with their head. In this case, literally, things start to mess with their heads.

There are some pretty gruesome scenes, lots of gory deaths (including of animals — sorry, if you are an animal lover and you expect the dog to always survive, you might want to skip this book), and then at the end, shit gets unreal. The Deep sometimes swerves like it's going to be a book about the human spirit, or at least human stubbornness, triumphing over adversity, but that's when things start to get Lovecraftian.

So, the mood may be similar to The Abyss but The Deep is really more like The Shining and Tommyknockers and The Thing — there are inhuman horrors, people going insane in a haunted houseunderwater research station, and scientists losing their marbles. The Deep is as creepy as Nick Cutter's other novels, and while he doesn't quite evoke the humanity (and depravity) that King at his best can, he's definitely a horror writer to watch out for as I have enjoyed (and been creeped out by) all of his novels so far

Also by Nick Cutter: My reviews of The Troop and Little Heaven.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, horror, nick cutter

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