About The Deep
From the acclaimed author of The Troop—which Stephen King raved “scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down.…old-school horror at its best”—comes this utterly terrifying novel where The Abyss meets The Shining.
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.
About the Author
(This review is based on an advanced reader's copy obtained from the publisher via NetGalley.)
A mysterious Alzheimer's-like plague known as the 'Gets is devastating the world, prompting a group of scientists to board an underwater research lab, the Trieste, to unlock the secrets of ambrosia, an unusual lifeform living at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. The ambrosia, it is believed, could be the cure to the 'Gets. Until the surface loses contact with the Trieste, that is. What follows is a descent deep into the ocean and straight into the heart of madness as Luke, brother of one of the scientists aboard the Trieste, tries to salvage the mission and recover the lost researchers.
The Deep is billed as "The Abyss meets the The Shining," and it's an apt comparison. I'd probably throw in Event Horizon as well, for good measure. It's a trifecta that produces one hell of an underwater nightmare, albeit one that ultimately feels as if some other ephemeral ingredient is missing, one that I can't quite place, but which is well worth the read.
Nick Cutter has a masterful control of language and scene construction, and an ability to describe the horrors he conjures with vivid luster. And to be sure, there are horrors aplenty. From the opening pages, where readers encounter an unfortunate victim of the 'Gets who has become a virtual nest for mantises, right down to the spidery configuration of the tightly claustrophobic Trieste and the peril of deep sea pressure, which could squash a human into paté before he even realizes he's dead, Cutter crafts a gripping, chilling narrative. In fact, there are numerous images that I, unfortunately, think will be stuck with me for far too long (and I mean this as a compliment).
The Deep is a story where the horror works on multiple levels and serves to unify the various parts into a psychological terror on the whole. Luke and his brother, scientist Clayton, are...well, dysfunctional doesn't quite do it justice. Clayton is a detached, unemotional, sociopath. Luke is more well-adjusted, yet still reeling from a divorce and the disappearance of his son. He and Clayton are the products of psychological torment perpetuated by their abusive, slovenly mother. Both their individual and shared histories become fodder for manipulation by the ambrosia, which is heightened in Luke's case, as he adjusts to the physiological changes brought about by the underwater pressure changes. He finds it difficult to sleep, and is often lost in waking nightmares, which prompt him to sleepwalk and experience horrifyingly vivid dreams.
The nature of the story itself makes the narration unreliable, at best. Given the psychological toll and the nightmares Luke experiences, coupled with the questionable nature of the ambrosia, one has to wonder just how much of the story is actually happening versus how much of it is something Luke believes is happening. There are enough scenes and moments to call into question the truth of it all, but even if taken on a surface-level read, The Deep is mostly satisfying enough and horror-seekers will get their money's worth.
As I noted earlier, there still felt like something was missing in the overall picture. While the 'Gets is the initial impetus to get the ball rolling, story-wise, it quickly takes a backseat and felt somewhat superfluous given the peril aboard the Trieste. Additionally, given the psychological nature of the horrors presented, I often felt like the physical threat of the ambrosia was lacking as a whole, despite having a very heavy presence in parts. While these two elements act as terrific catalysts to motivate the story and its characters, there doesn't seem to be quite enough cohesion to satisfy.
These quibbles, in the end, are certainly far from a deal-breaker as far as I'm concerned. Given the gripping narrative and frightening images Cutter is capable of, I find The Deep to be an easy recommendation for horror fans. When it comes to creating visceral moments of fright and a read that actually instills moments of claustrophobia, Cutter does all the right things.