i read this on the plane, and now i feel the need to lay off the sugar. Reader fatigue is real; we cant put off reading the classics until we’re older and wiser. There’s no more time for mass market genre novels! THE ABYSS meets THE SHINING the blurb says. The plot also brought to mind SOLARIS (conscious entity probes the characters’ ids and manifests people and things), Peter Watts’s STARFISH (spooky hijinks in deep underwater facility), John Carpenter’s THE THING (sentient blood and a little spider monster dude). It was…pretty okay?, ridden with cliches, none of the characters is all that compelling, but it is savagely bleak and hopeless — i admire any story that refuses to pull up from the nose dive.
Eeek! The cliches! Multiple spaces are cold as a meat locker. People shiver, but not because of the meat locker temperature. Numerous stale descriptions. To be honest i cant recall them. The dialog was wooden, mostly delivering techno babble. i enjoyed the info dump scenes with a mildly theatrical scientist; i cast Alexandro Jodorowsky for the part in my mental movie. But the writing was good in key scenes when it counted — those poor doggies….
A highlight is the third quarter in which the diary of a scientist working in the undersea lab is read. On the surface, the human population is being decimated to the ‘Gets, which mirrors colony collapse disorder. A substance is discovered in the Marianas trench which seems to be a miracle cure that baffles science. This egg head keeps a beehive (there are other lab animals in the station) but succumbs to madness, and in a way i wont spoil assimilates the substance, called Ambrosia. It’s a great body horror set-piece — a living beehive with larvae bursting out of the skin.
The plot goes all out with the high concepts. There’s a one knock for yes two for no communication with a ghost, mutants, event horizon-style chaos, evil childhood memories.
Our protagonist Lucas Nelson, nicknamed Luke, is a vet (and the biblical Luke was a healer), asked by the government to call on his brother Clay, a brilliant and cold super scientist working in the facility. He’s thoroughly white bread, and accompanied by a woman Navy lieutenant named Alice. There’s no sex thank god. Alice is a badass and in the movie in my head she was brown although the novel is pretty explicit that literally every single person in the plot is white save for some diseased walk-ons in Guam.
Clay comes off as a white new atheist sort of dude. He’s not doing this gig for the cure but simply to be at the edge of discovery. He couldn’t care less if the human race is decimated by this plague, the world is overpopulated anyways (sigh, this old 70s yarn). The evidence of his genius is in the prodigal experiments he carries out from childhood onward, but you won’t find any in his lines.
Grotesque and distorted bodies is a motif. Luke and Clay’s mother is abusive sexually and emotionally, and the narrator takes pains to tell us that she is unacceptably obese. Her husband is thoroughly whipped, as they say; what a perverted household indeed.
It was entertaining. The evil forces at work are a little too comprehensible by the end (when these plots do reveal the mystery im always more disappointed than if things had remained unexplained); but like i said there is no hope for the world at the end which is nice. Another issue i have is that for the all-out zaniness of the plot the delivery is conventional. The scares are traced neatly to childhood traumas; although there was a little libidinal fun to this, it’s still too familiar a routine at this point. Grant Morrison’s NAMELESS series is another “brave few explore Lovecraftian house of horrors” narrative that on the other hand vandalizes its linear plot with some aggressive WTF stylization — and the final issue should be out soon.
The prose could have used some more pruning, but Nick Cutter, pen name for Craig Davidson, produces a shit load of work. Maybe the “literary” short stories signed under his real name are worth a look.