DEEPER - Jeff Long
Long's power novel, THE DESCENT (1999) truly took some topping. Long took the fantastic and made it both credible and creepy, introducing us to a whole other offshoot of humankind that in Long's clever hands, seemed very logical to have evolved in the subterranean world. If you like to tick the boxes with questions you've always had about the origin of our species, Long tied that all up neatly together in a racing thriller which was one of the "sleeper" reads of the year.
It has been a long wait for follow-up. DEEPER is the more literary novel, if the purist in you won't reel in horror at that style of writing being attributed to an action thriller. Or perhaps you'd consider this a work of dark fantasy. However you choose to categorize, this reader feels that Long's atmospheric work DEEPER spans a few genres, borrowing a little and often the best of each. What makes it the lesser book to its predecessor is the tendency for Long to spend too much time with the surreal sequences, where the reader has to make their best judgement as to what it is the characters are really seeing. Small gaps in action perhaps are to be filled by reader's imaginative fears. The plot drifting does become irritating, interspersed even as it is with some beautifully evocative scenes of the Hadal's ancient territory and the poignancy of what man had never appreciated, that which had always lain beneath. When Long is good, he's brilliant. The urge to rein in all in becomes quite powerful, and a plot that becomes somewhat resurrectionist towards conclusion loses none of its terrible beauty but most of its momentum.
Do we detect future plot seeds sown? Hadn't picked that with THE DESCENT, which stood on its own merit, but DEEPER is again either prompting the reader towards some more learned predictions of their own or is leaving the door open for a third book. It's a powerful read, and the themes of sacrifice and adaptation are strong throughout. Disturbing, thought-provoking and very required reading for anyone who wanted to further explore that post-apocalyptic world first introduced in THE DESCENT, DEEPER carries the banner of mankind with its all its failings and strength forward, with some space for reflection on what it is has brought the ape-like man to live how he does, above, and in the sun.
Claimed as a new territory for the above-land dwellers, the subterranean world has become subject to the same dispute of ownership that once happened in the days where vast tracts of the world were still largely unpopulated by modern man. It has become the new frontier, inhospitable yet awe-inspiring as man continues to marvel at the work of centuries of Homo Hadilis Man. In the decade that has passed since man eradicated the violent and primitive Hadals from their home, the infiltration deep down has taken the form of underground cities, ruled by force and the power of supply and demand to a species not accustomed to spending so much time in the dark and away from sunlight.
Linguist Ali von Schade has become an authority on the Hadal world as she was one of the first people to discover the hadals when she and her expedition explored deep enough one summer. She witnessed the brutality that ruled the Hadal communities, and unwittingly delivered the unknown race to their exterminators in the form of the military. Once captured by them, she survived and went on to live her life, having a baby with Ike who also made the original descent. The call of deep earth is too strong for Ike, and he leaves her one night to return to the dark. The smugness and complacency, the greed of new forms of land acquisition meets its fall. The Hadals are not yet an extinct race.