As a plague devastates the world, Luke Nelson gets a call. He needs to fly to the other side of the world, to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His genius brother, Clayton, is working in a station at the deepest point on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench. The station has gone incommunicado, except for a strange message from Clayton asking for Luke.
Luke’s a veterinarian. He has no experience, no business really, hopping in a submersible and falling to the darkest part of the ocean, but he goes unquestioningly to try to help his brother. Maybe Clayton has found a cure for the ‘Gets. But as Luke arrives in the crushing dark, he finds instead horror and creeping insanity that dredges the deepest memories of his past.
Objectively, The Deep is a pretty solid horror novel. There’s a lot of really squicky, gory body horror, and the psychological horror elements are very effective. I even like the intense bleakness of the ending. Butâ€¦ I really don’t know if I’d recommend this book. My reasons are somewhat spoilery, so you can read them below the spoiler tag.View Spoiler »If you have trouble with animal cruelty/death, please read this book with great caution. Honestly, if it hadn’t involved animals, particularly dogs, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with the book. Kinda weird, isn’t it? I could deal with humans having horrible, horrible things happening to them in fiction, but dogs? Nope. They’re helpless and can’t choose to be in those situations, and when bad things happen to them, I just can’t deal with it. And grotesque, horrifying things happen to a dog that was basically developed as another character. I totally understand that horror is supposed to push my boundaries, but that’s a line that I don’t want crossed. Your mileage may vary, but to be honest, this ruined the book for me. « Hide Spoiler
If there’s anything that breaks up fiction’s flow more than choppy, short sentences, I don’t know what it is, and I had trouble wanting to focus during the first third of the book because the sentences and often sentence fragments were just graceless. I didn’t necessarily see that sentence structure advancing the mental state of the protagonist up to that point; the sentences do become longer, more complex, and more graceful as the book progresses, but the beginning just seemed incredibly awkward to me.
The setup for the actual story felt weak, as if Cutter came up with the bones of the story (bizarre, eldritch horror at the bottom of the ocean) and needed a reason for his protagonist, a person who would not normally go to the bottom of the ocean, to be there to make it happen. It came together fairly well in the end, at least in terms of the interpersonal aspects of the story, but the worldwide plague just felt slapped on there. Honestly, there could have just been nebulous “scientific research” going on instead of the search for a cure for the ‘Gets, and I would have been fine with it.
Did you ever see Event Horizon? This book is very, very similar. You have people trapped in a basically inescapable situation, only at the deepest part of the ocean instead of in deep space. You have the slow seep of insanity into the minds of the characters. You question whether or not anything is real for a good, long while. And you have the unrelenting bleakness, the feeling even from the start that no one is going to come out of this unchanged.
There’s a lot of derivation from earlier horror books and films, but Cutter did very effectively scare the shit out of me in this book. From nearly the beginning, it started hitting all of my fear triggers (especially claustrophobia, gah!), and despite my problems with the writing style and background plot, it is an effective horror novel. It just crossed my own personal line, and I’m not sure if I’ll be seeking out any more of Cutter’s novels because of that.