If you thought last year's The Troop was dark and horrifying, then get ready to reevaluate your definition of darkness, because Nick Cutter is about to drag you down to a whole new depth of horror. The Deep is extraordinarily dark, doom-laden, and depressing . . . unrelenting in its horrors. This is a book that makes the most of its cramped, claustrophobic, underwater atmosphere, making you sweat alongside the characters.
More than that, Cutter does a better job of layering in multiple horrors than just about any author writing today. The cover blurb calls this a novel where The Abyss meets The Shining, but that's barely treading the surface of what's really here.
It all begins with one of the most horrifying apocalyptic plagues ever to come our way, an insidious disease known as the 'Gets. Imagine a cellular-level form of Alzheimer's, a disease that begins by making you forget simple things like where you left your keys; which progresses to the point where you forget things like how to drive; which gets so bad that you forget how to walk and to talk; and ends with your body forgetting how to breathe or circulate blood.
Layered on top of that is the nightmare of a child's disappearance, an event that continues to haunt Luke, long after his marriage dissolved and he secretly gave up hope of ever seeing his son again. Cutter does a phenomenal job of making you feel Luke's guilt and sorrow, to the point where you share in his terror as nightmares come to life deep beneath the ocean. What's more, Cutter so deftly blurs the lines between reality and nightmare, between reality and the sense of otherness, you're never quite sure how much is mere nightmare and how much is something else . . . something darker . . . something more supernatural.
Bridging those two layers is the sinister mystery of ambrosia, the miracle substance being harvested at impossible depths in hope that it may serve as a universal cure - not just for the 'Gets, but for things like cancer and more. Nobody knows where ambrosia comes from or what it really is, but Luke soon discovers that what's a focus for the obsession for his genius brother is also a channel for the madness of everyone else aboard the underwater Trieste research lab. Again, the story is so carefully told, you're never sure what's really happening and what's just the madness talking, whether there really are living, breathing orifices in the walls, and whether it's all in their heads.
Like I said, this is a book that's unrelenting in its darkness and its doom-laden depression. It's the kind of book over which you'll find yourself lingering, not because you want to put it down, but because you literally need to step away and look up into the light from time to time. There's no down time, no softer moments, no humor to relieve the tension - just an unending series of horrors that get under your skin and infect you with Cutter's brilliant madness.
If I were to have one complaint about the novel, it's that the ending seems a little too familiar, but I still like what Cutter did with it, particularly with the ominous final scene. Atmosphere, horror, strong characters, a deep mystery, and that unsettling fear of what's real - The Deep really does have it all, and does it all very well. In terms of emotional impact, I can't remember the last time I read a novel that resonated so deeply, or so strongly. The Deep is pure, unadulterated, unrelenting horror at its very best.
Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: January 13th 2015 by Gallery Books