Friday, October 05, 2007

Thank god I didn't waste my money

Jeff Long

I was dubious upon first beginning Jeff Long’s Deeper, not because of a barrage of cover praise (which usually indicates a sub-par work), but because Long seemed a bit Crichton-ish. And because the premise of Deeper sounded dumb. Dumb like a Crichton novel. And after my last two experiences with the C-man (ugh 1 and ugh 2), I feared that I was in for another dumbed-down novel on a mission.

However, if Long is Crichton-esque, he is the Crichton of days gone by, of Jurassic Park and Congo, not the current one whose work has become little more than a platform to spew his own agenda. So needless to say, I found Deeper to be an unexpected treasure, a glorious find – and, dare I say it, way better than anything I’ve ever read by Crichton.

Deeper takes us into a world set in the not-too-distant future, when excavations have unearthed an entire world underneath the Earth’s crust. Living in the vast networks of caves and tunnels are the Hadals, or, more specifically, Homo hadalis, a distant relative of Homo sapien. Many believe that the historical hell has been found and that the Hadals are its demonic denizens (and truly, it doesn't help that they're ugly as all get-out). Others recognize them as simply another life form with a right to exist peacefully. Many more want to exploit this unchartered territory and take from it all the resources it may yield.

Calibos = Hadal?

Of course, it is never as easy as all that. The nations of the world quickly scramble to claim their territory, and governments try to find a way to create laws to govern the vast wilderness beneath us. And what a wilderness it is: creatures never before imagined exist in the depths, evolution having occurred differently due to a total lack of sunlight. Humans experience odd reactions to the deep, and gases and magnetic waves react differently as well. Quite simply, life below cannot be predicted by one who has spent an entire life above. And, of course, there is a creature in the depths that surpasses even the blithest of summaries. In other words, what awaits explorers, treasure seekers, and readers alike can't be expected, but it will keep all involved on the edge of their seats.

In some hands, Deeper might have fallen into a deep pit of hokey, a chasm of trite ideas and clichéd plot devices. Fortunately (and also surprisingly), Long is a skilled craftsman, creating an entire world thrown into political chaos over the discovery of the new world that lies beneath the surface. The world above is as richly woven as is the world below, and there is much about the novel that stands as an allegory for today's world. The result is a thought-provoking and spine-tingling read, a rare treat nowadays.

In a nutshell: Deeper was fascinating, thrilling, and compelling. A surprising and enjoyable read that left me needing to read more books by this writer.

Bibliolatry Scale: 5 out of 6 stars


Edwin Hesselthwite said...

I have to say, as a dedicated science fiction fan, who's done two degrees in Geology... Even *I* have trouble with this concept. I want to believe, I really do.. But it sounds like Barker's Nightbreed!

I'm going to try an mooch it... Its one of those ideas I *HAVE* to see.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

It sounds interesting and your recommendation will definitely influence me.