The Deep by Nick Cutter (Gallery Books, Jan. 13th, 2015)-As you know, I loved The Troop, so was eager to find out what Nick Cutter had up his sleeve for The Deep. Turns out he had plenty. The man basically committed one of my worst nightmares to print, so on that note…
It all starts with a plague called the ‘Gets, thus called because it begins by making you forget little things, then much bigger things, like, you know, eating, etc. Death is unavoidable, and can be terrifyingly prolonged. Luke and Clayton Nelson are brothers, but they couldn’t be more different. Luke is a veterinarian, Clayton is a brilliant scientist, and he may have found a key to a cure in an odd substance called ambrosia that can only be found in only deep waters, in particular, eight miles down in the Mariana Trench. In those dark waters is a lab called the Trieste, where Clayton is supposedly diligently working on a cure. However, all communication with Clayton and his colleagues have been lost, but not before a message gets to the surface, ostensibly from Clayton, asking for Luke’s assistance. Luke feels compelled to go, in spite of his misgivings, and along with Lieutenant Commander Alice Sykes of the US Navy, heads down to the Trieste, down in the dark unknown to hopefully make contact with his brother and his two colleagues, and also to find out if there’s really any hope of a cure.
Now, if you’ve read The Troop, you know that simple plans in Nick Cutter’s books never go like they should. Granted, squeezing oneself into a submersible and going eight miles down under the ocean defies simplicity, but Luke’s desire is simple: to hopefully find a cure for the ‘Gets. Once he and Alice finally reach the Trieste, however, it’s immediately obvious that all is not well. That’s probably the understatement of all understatements. Once under the sea, Luke and Alice uncover all kinds of very ugly things, but Cutter is rather sneaky, at times, as to whether these are creatures of reality, or of Luke’s sometimes fevered psyche. Luke is nursing a lot of pain due to a personal loss, not to mention an upbringing at the hands of one the cruelest and most terrifying mothers in existence. She makes Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest look like Mary Poppins.
The Deep takes a lot of classic haunted house elements and sets them among the rather organic structure of the Trieste (it frequently seems like they are in the bowels of a living thing), combining body horror with quite a few classic scares, to phenomenal effect. I like to think of it as The Abyss (set in Hell) by way of The Thing. Cutter starts the scaries right off too, while poor Luke and Alice are still in the submersible, and then pretty much doesn’t let up until the end. Luke is very identifiable and he really does his best to fight against the forces working against them. He really, really does, as does the affable, capable Alice. I would have liked a bit more of Alice, but really, this is Luke’s story, and in spite of the very scary set dressings, it’s a story about grief, and family, and the sometimes impossible bonds that bind us together. Cutter is never easy on his poor characters, and The Deep is no exception, and it’s not for the squeamish, either. Yep, I’m being a bit vague on the details, because that would ruin this book, and if you like horror, you need to read this book. This is the way it should be done. Also, you’ll never look at bees quite the same way again. Nick Cutter has a very, very twisted mind, but I like that about him. Claustrophobic and mind numbingly terrifying, The Deep will stay with you long after you read the last page. Promise.