Back when I read Craig Davidson's Sarah Court, I thought the guy had a real handle on wringing every bit of tension out of the most mundane instances of contemporary life. Then he took on the pen name Nick Cutter to release one of the more hair-raising horror novels of 2014, The Troop. Now he has The Deep, and I think this is where he makes the balance between the two.
Okay, so it's a very near future where the world is ravaged by a disease that causes people to forget. Not just "Where did I leave my keys?" stuff, but right on through to "How do I breathe?" The civilization that is hanging on bands together to find a cure, but things aren't going so great. There's an inkling of hope way down in the deep blue sea, though. There's been a discovery down there, a substance dubbed Ambrosia that may be the cure, but it's eight miles down and the facility at the bottom of the ocean researching it has gone silent. The brilliant, if not slightly disturbed, scientist leading the charge down there calls upon his brother to come down, and so he does. It's already a strained relationship between the two, so throw in a perilous journey below the sea to a claustrophobic sea station with drudged up memories and a possible sentience at work related to the Ambrosia, and things just get compounded.
The tension mounts and mounts, from all angles, for all members of the crew, and what really works as the cement between these bricks of horror is the familial bond between the two brothers and what we see of it through the induced flashbacks. Where The Troop took the parasite horror trope and breathed new life into it, the Crichton-esque horror new technologies impeding on our grasp of reality is given a breath of fresh air in The Deep, but given it a more relatable experience through its humanity that I just never got from a Crichton work.
There's a lot of ways to describe this book, but I kind of like Edward Lorn's: “Event Horizon shags Sphere who then fornicates with Carpenter’s The Thing.” Bingo!
I'm lukewarm to the movie, Sphere, but Event Horizon and The Thing are two classics in the sci-fi/horror realm, and if The Deep ever sees its way to the movie screen it would fit in nicely among this pantheon. It doesn't reinvent the genre, but what it does do is fine tune it so that its engine purrs. The Troop was very good, The Deep is just plain great, so I'm really keen to see what Nick Cutter manages to do with his third outing.