I usually write a round up of all the books I’ve read monthly, but sometimes, as you’ve probably realised, these round ups can go on, just a little bit! So I thought it might be fun to do the occasional full post as a book review, especially since I’m spending a bit more time reading at the moment, so thought I should dedicate a bit more space to it! It won’t necessarily be books I’ve loved, or my favourite books, but ones that I think I might be able to write a bit more about and were interesting. So, first up…
This is a hard one to rate – the first three quarters of the book, I probably would have bounced up to the 5 star rating on Goodreads and given it an 8.5/10, but the last quarter or so just went a little too weird for my liking, hence settling around 7.5/10.
Stephen King described Nick Cutter’s previous book, The Troop, as “Old-school horror at its best”. In my upcoming monthly book post, I talk a bit about how I’ve been desensitised by the internet towards horror stories, but there was plenty in here for this to earn that title too. I was drawn to it because of the blurb describing one of my apparent favourite scenarios to read: a disease (the ‘Gets) has swept/is still sweeping the population of the world. Much like an extremely aggressive version of Alzheimer’s, it causes people to forget small things like where they left something or the name of someone they know, rapidly escalating until they’ve soon forgotten how to think for themselves, how to breathe and how to get their heart to continue beating. And yet despite this devastating disease, the world doesn’t seem to be in a state of apocalypse like you’d imagine it to be – it’s a calm and collected vision of a devastated future.
And yet, they think they’ve found a cure. It’s information that’s hidden under lock and key, but Luke Ronnick, an everyday veterinarian whose life has already been turned upside down more than once by the loss of his wife to the disease, and his young son years before, is called upon to head to very literally the bottom of the ocean, where his almost estranged genius brother, Clayton, is researching this supposed cure: a substance they’re calling Ambrosia. The call has come from his brother himself: “We need you, Lucas. Come home.”
Luke meets Al at the surface who descends with him in a tiny submersible to the work station situated further than the deepest reach of the ocean as we know it, 2 miles below the bottom of Mariana’s Trench, where life cannot possibly exist. The station itself is already submerged in mystery, created to sustain life in the depths, under the pressure of 8 miles of water above, in freezing conditions and complete darkness. The journey down is only the beginning of the horrors they’ll face once they reach the bottom, with “marine snow” floating past them, giant squids attacking, and ultimate blackness around them.
And once we arrive at the station itself, of course things are only bound to get worse. The scientists stationed there were supposed to report on their mental stability regularly, being in a completely alien environment so far from the places they know, but they have recently failed to do so, and it is clear that not everyone has their mental faculties about them. And is it just Luke, or is there something about the station itself? Immediately upon arrival, he feels an uncertainty about the place, even before things start to go wrong.
I’m not going to give away the story to you any further, but believe me when I say that this is an incredibly well written book. You feel as if you are immersed in those waters completely with the characters, only breaking out of them into strange flashbacks of Luke’s childhood and earlier life. The claustrophobia you’ll experience when reading this feels almost real, as do every one of the threats that they face.
As I said before, the story continues much as you might imagine, leaving you wondering whether anything is really happening or whether it’s tricks of a mind that began its descent into madness as soon as the submersible began its. That is until just after about three quarters of the way into the book, at which point everything reaches a head, nothing can possibly be real at all any more – the horrors are too much – and you are suddenly sucked out of the story into an “explanation”. While I didn’t particularly like the explanation I got, it was executed fantastically. There was an immediate change in the atmosphere and tone – I felt as though everything had turned from chaos to a disturbing calm as all the pieces come together to reveal the bigger picture. It was odd, but it definitely left you thinking – what if this is the way things really are? It’s difficult to describe if you haven’t read it, but if you have, I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.
Would I recommend this book though? In short, yes. It was brilliantly written, had a captivating storyline and just came across really well. It was everything a modern horror story should be. I should warn the squeamish first though to proceed with caution, and if you find yourself attached to animals, be prepared to skim a couple of sections – it’s always the bits with the animals that get me!
Have you read The Deep yet or any other of Nick Cutter’s books? I’m planning on reading The Troop sometime now – apparently that is true horror, so let’s see if that can scare me!
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