Review: The Black by Paul E. Cooley


About The Black

Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Leaguer has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it’s about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.

The Black is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers’ hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same.

About the Author

A writer, podcaster, and software architect from Houston, Texas,  Paul E Cooley has been writing since the age of 12. In 2009, he began producing free psychological thriller and horror podcasts, essays, and reviews available from and iTunes.

His stories have been listened to by thousands and he has been a guest on such notable podcasts as Podioracket, John Mierau‘s “Podcast Teardown,” Geek Out with Mainframe, Shadowcast Audio, and Vertigo Radio Live. In 2010, his short story Canvas and novella Tattoo were nominated for Parsec Awards. Tattoo became a Parsec Award finalist. He has collaborated with New York Times Bestselling author Scott Sigler on the series “The Crypt” and co-wrote the novella “The Rider” (projected to release in 2014). In addition to his writing, Paul has contributed his voice talents to a number of podiofiction productions.

He is also a co-host on the renown Dead Robots’ Society writing podcast. Twitter: paul_e_cooley Facebook: paul.e.cooley

My Thoughts

As a fan of sea-based horror, Paul E. Cooley's The Black sounded like it would be right up my alley. And, boy, did it not disappoint!

The first third of the book, which is virtually all of Part I of the title, was a slow, deliberate set-up. Cooley spends plenty of time familiarizing readers with life on an experimental rig, the Leaguer, the technology used in the hunt for oil, and establishing the central human conflicts amongst his cast as his team of scientists deal with the rig chief, Vraebel.

The more scientific explanations rang true enough for me, and never felt like a massive, unnecessary bit of infodump. In fact, the exposition is necessary and helps to build up a nice bit of tension as chief engineer Thomas Calhoun and his team discover the oddities lurking beneath the sea. Their first sample of oil is clean and perfect, too much so, and strangely free of water. The tube worms encircling the ocean floor are arranged in unusual patterns, and their size seems to indicate an evolutionary throwback. The mysteries grow until Leaguer is hit by a massive air bubble that rocks it on its ballasts and one of the submersible surveillance drones employed by the rig is found inexplicably damaged at sea.

Part I of the title requires a bit of patience, which may depend on a reader's interest in oil drilling and rig life. Personally, I found myself wishing for a quicker pace through this segment, even though it serves as a required introduction to establish the central threat. The piling on of problems is certainly interesting, and Part I closes out with a wonderful "oh shit" moment that makes you realize the real predicament is only just now hitting, and that Cooley ain't playing around here. From there, The Black gains a lot of momentum, until it achieves a break-neck pace to carry it all home with an exciting finale.

The action is well done, and Cooley does excellent work describing the nasty encounters between the creature and the men of the Leaguer. As for the creature featured here, it's certainly a plausibly dangerous beast. While The Black is billed as a techno-horror, Cooley doesn't dwell on inventing scientific rationales to justify the creature's existence, sticking to a bare-bones "it's here, now deal with it" approach that I enjoyed.

Ultimately, The Black is a stylish, well-executed horror thriller that presents a grounded nature of evil set against a detailed and well-developed locale with a solid cast of characters to root for. There are a few plot threads left dangling, which may be the focus of a "sidequel," per Cooley's blog, and which could land sometime in 2015. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but if it goes in the direction I think it will, I'll definitely be checking it out.

buy the black at amazon


Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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