DEEPER by Jeff Long is the sequel to 1999’s THE DESCENT.
Notwithstanding its heartstopping conclusion, THE DESCENT did not
scream for a follow-up, and given the interval between the
publication of the two books, there may be a bit of confusion. 2006
marked the unfortunate release of an arguably wretched film titled
The Descent, which was not based on Long’s novel,
even though it bore some plot similarities. The bottom line is that
you may want to read THE DESCENT before getting DEEPER, if you
will, into Long’s netherworld model for hell on earth.
THE DESCENT concerned the discovery of a civilization beneath the
earth’s crust that had provided the basis for Hell, with a
real Satan as well as lesser demons known as hadels. It concluded
with an invasion of that underworld by surface dwellers and the
apparent eradication of all who lived beneath. The world in DEEPER
is somewhat different. The subplanet, as the area below the crust
is called, is being colonized, mined and generally exploited for
all it is worth. China and the United States are the main players
in a spitting contest for subplanet territory. The hadels,
apparently surviving the Holocaust, return the favor, invading the
U.S. and kidnapping children. An official rescue mission might seem
in order, but surface tensions between the U.S. and China mitigate
Two very different unsanctioned missions commence. One is led by
the mother of one of the kidnapped children, a populist crusade
peopled by a disparate group of mercenaries, would-be tough guys
and ringer Armed Forces veterans. The other is a party of two,
consisting of linguist Ali von Schade and her student and erstwhile
companion. Von Schade, whose own child is dead, has lost her lover
to the subplanet, and has nothing to lose by going below and trying
to persuade the hadels to release the children by peaceful means.
What no one realizes is that Satan, believed to have been killed in
THE DESCENT, is in fact very much alive and manipulating events in
an attempt to effectuate his own release from the subplanet.
Even if DEEPER doesn’t provide the same rush as its
predecessor, it certainly is no slouch. Long has had nearly 10
years and the benefit of a visit to Bosnia to think up new horrors,
and he does so with the horrific imagination of a contemporary
Bosch. He gets bogged down occasionally when he attempts to make
DEEPER a parable critical of contemporary U.S. foreign policy, but
it’s been overdone and overwrought in the thriller genre to
the point where the kvetching is unfortunately tiresome at
best and tedious at worst.
Long truly shines, however, when he slowly and steadily sets up
Satan’s machinations, and saves the ultimate horror for last,
letting it settle quietly and with great subtlety. Let us hope that
we don’t have to wait another decade for the third volume of
what is now described as a trilogy.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010