The Deep

the-deep_nick-cutter

“For every lock, there exists a key. You just have to find those keys.” –The Deep

Eight miles underwater, a group of scientists search for a cure. In the deepest fathoms of the ocean, a mysterious discovery could be the key to saving a world ravaged by plague. However, the bottom of the ocean holds a darkness, one that goes far beyond the simple absence of light. Down on the seafloor, something waits to be found.

Sadly The Deep is not a story I enjoyed. It started out with a lot of promise. A mysterious plague is ravaging the world and making people forget things to the point that they forget to breath and make their heart pump. They forget the most essential functions of life. This rapid decay of life means the world has plunged into an apocalypse of sorts since there is no cure and no one is safe. People die and the world gets emptier and emptier. Yet life goes on. That setup alone would have been worthy of exploration for an entire novel. Alas it is simply the impetus that sends the main characters to the depths of the ocean for a cure.

At the center of the novel is a man named Luke, but he’s not a Skywalker. Luke is a veterinarian. He’s sent to a scientific research station that’s been assembled in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. Down there, his brother is experimenting on a miraculous creature with amazing healing abilities. Again, a plot point worthy enough of it’s own story. This creature could be the cure the world is looking for. But the creature has a mind of its own. Trapped eight miles under the ocean, the science lab containing the world’s last hope becomes a hell. You couldn’t ask for a better setup.

While this book proclaims to be a cross between The Abyss and The Shining, it’s really more akin to Hellraiser. The book gets very graphic and gory at the cost of the story. I’m not much of a fan of the movie Hellraiser, as it’s more torture porn than any kind of engaging tale. The premise is interesting, and there pieces that are intriguing, but the movie failed to embrace those elements. Instead they focus on the gore and violence. The Deep certainly tries to tell more of a story, but it sadly devolves into a mindless jumble of torture porn at the end.

Alice’s voice snapped Luke out of these unhealthy ruminations. First his mother, now his son–the sharp blades of a tiller churned through his gray matter, dredging up blackened pulp and old bits of bone. Luke felt them there in the Trieste, both Bethany and Zachary. Not in any material way, but their shapes and voices clung tightly to him now–it had started the moment the Challenger slipped into the sea. He was trapped with them now, under the hammering intensity of a trillion tons of water.

In the beginning, there’s some really good hooks and intriguing story elements. There’s the disease called the ‘Gets which causes people to slowly forget everything to the point of death. No one know what causes it or how it spreads. There’s a brief glimpse at a world dealing with this apocalypse. Yet the story never comes back to that disease to explain its origin, how it spreads, or if it can be stopped. It’s simply the macguffin that drives the main characters to the bottom of the sea.

As for the main character, Luke has two things going for him. He is haunted by the terror that was his mother and he is haunted by the son he lost in a park seven years before the story starts. Both of the elements are intriguing. They provide emotional, traumatic, engaging flashbacks. They reveal things about Luke that bring you closer to him. Later, the author uses these two elements to torment Luke, but their relevance to the story is nonexistent. Neither of them have anything to do with the greater story arc and are not essential to the plot. Both could be removed without affect the story significantly. In a way, it illustrates how the story has so many plot points all combined together, yet not essential tied together. It’s a missed opportunity to make all these things matter and to add a sense of revelation, awe and surprise.

Another big let down is the Fig Men. The miraculous curing creature is this clear blob thing that exists at the bottom of the trench. It has amazing regenerative abilities. Consume some and you can heal yourself immediately. You become impervious to damage. The drawback is it makes you insane. The story builds and builds on this concept, only to throw it away in the end. Full blown spoilers here: the bad guys are two weirdly described, ancient creatures exiled to the deepest, darkest part of the ocean. The story does not explain much more than that. It doesn’t tie-in very well to the rest of the story, and it doesn’t bother to elaborate on how it’s even connected to the healing blob things. They appear out of left field, and pretty soon the story ends.

However the worst part of the story is the characters. Be it Luke, the female submarine pilot who follows him down to the underwater lab, or his scientist brother, they all become senseless plot zombies. Luke becomes a dumb, haphazard character who bumbles around from one projected terror to the next. None of the character can make sense of what’s going on. None of them ever draw any conclusions or connect any of the dots. They don’t learn from the things they see or the mistakes they make. It’s like watching a horrible B-horror movie where the main characters keep doing stupid things and you want to yell at them for being so stupid. The characters become an awful mess. Seriously, it gets to the point that the lights go out and Luke runs into walls. He thinks he can save people who are infected when he sees just how horrifying the infected become. They constantly split up when they should stick together. Even the deaths are done in such a way that there’s no emotional impact.

What started as a great, enthralling read, became a huge waste of time. The Deep is an example of good ideas thrown together and turned into something terrible. I know Nick Cutter can do better because his previous book, The Troop, was a great book. This is anything but that. Perhaps it would have been better as a short story, as it started out good. However, as the story progresses, it unravels into a meandering heap of metaphors and similes piled on top of metaphors and similes resulting in a wordy mess. While I didn’t touch on this much, the novel gets really wordy and starts to suffer from too much fancy prose. It makes it difficult to read. As the story development gives way to torture porn, you’re left with John Carpenter’s The Thing minus Kurt Russell. A great horror story without any good characters equates to a flop. In this case the characters, the story and even the prose itself all terminates to a deteriorating mess as the book drags on and finally ends. As much as it pains me to say it, do yourself a favor and skip this one. Hopefully Nick can recapture the magic of The Troop in his next novel. For The Deep, I give it a two out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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