Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Deeper is Jeff Long's follow-up to his chilling The Descent. Like most sequels it duplicates some of the original work, although I would argue that would be hard to avoid in this case. A novel about a race of horrific creatures living deep in the earth - well it kind of necessitates a trip underground, doesn't it?
Ike, the longtime captive turned Army scout, has returned to the caves and hasn't been seen in years. His wife Ali, the former nun,, leads a controversial scientific group that is seen as overly sympathetic to the plight of the Hadals, the demonic race defeated in The Descent.
Although they were supposedly wiped out at the end of first book, the Hadals mount a strike against the heart of America, kidnapping children from across the country. The mother of one of the children mounts what's termed a Children's Crusade, an armed volunteer expedition to the center of the earth. Not surprisingly, Ali and her MIA husband are soon drawn into the fray. That trek towards a bloody confrontation with the Hadal is the heart of the novel, echoing the plot of the first.
There are difference however, and not just in the motives that move the characters. When we last saw it the underworld was an elaborate but undeveloped universe; now, with a flippant and unrealistic confidence in their past victory, many humans have migrated below. A more fundamental difference lies in the philosophy of Long's universe. In The Descent the Hadal are not only physical beings but creatures whose existence defines religion as a fraud, even if I thought the argument was weak and contrived.
Deeper, however, has a definitive spiritual flavor. The Hadal may be earthbound beings but they are led by a being that looks/acts/thinks like a fallen angel, one in a desperate search for release from his prison, and there is an immortal mythological creature at work too.
Long's universe remains one of monstrous darkness defined by elaborate torture, brutal cannibalism, and fear. It would be an awful, awful world to live in, but from the safety of the printed page, it's a great place to visit.