Monday, July 11, 2016

Creatures of the deep


By Brian Keene

Publisher: Thomas Dunn Books

Pub. Date: June 21, 2016

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's time for summer reading. When I travel I try to pick novels that fit the environment. Going to Washington DC? A juicy political novel. The South? Southern Gothic or maybe a James Lee Burke mystery depending on my mood. The Southwest? Edward Abbey or Hillerman is a must. Canada or Alaska? Something on the frigid side like a Robert W. Service collection or Dan Simmon's The Terror which actually got me turning up the thermostat a few degrees. But if you are going to the beach I have just the thing for you this year. Brian Keene's Pressure, which takes place on and slightly off the island of Mauritius, has the perfect ocean vibes with its sea diving and maritime scares.

In Pressure, The sea shelf around Mauritius is collapsing. A crew of scientists including free diver and marine biologist Carrie Anderson are trying to find out why. One of her dives result in the death of her co-diver and hits Carrie with a number of odd injuries including hallucinations which causes her to be hospitalized. But she also saw something large, dark and terrifying which sends her back into the waters to explore. What she and her companions discover is something that a large and corrupt corporation wants to keep a secret and is willing to kill for in order to accomplish that task.

Brian Keene is known mostly for his horror novels and Pressure certainly has some horrifying sections especially as we meet the creature. Yet it is more of a techno-thriller in the style of Crichton or Preston & Child than a horror novel. It is a good techno-thriller yet it caught me off guard especially at the beginning of the book where strange occurrences like plummeting temperatures and deadly hallucinations broadcasted something different in the mind of the horror fanatic I am. But once I acclimated to the thriller and corporate greed aspects, I was on board. Carrie Anderson is a likable and spunky character . Her two main companions also have essential characteristics that are stalwarts of the techno/horror thriller. There are plenty of seedy and untrustworthy types around to throw our heroine into more trouble. Yet where the book works best is under the sea and on the ship where we experience the horrors that the author appears most comfortable with. It is appropriately weird and terrifying. But later we hit the shoreline and the corporate baddies take over. It becomes fun but a bit underwhelming compared to the first half. I guess I would rather read about Carrie confronting unspeakable horrors rather than unspeakable business practices.

Surface is entertaining but having read much from the author, I came away pleased but not thrilled. I prefer his novels where he is throwing zombies at us or delightfully destroying the world over and over again. This is one of those times that I must take in account what I know the author can do and what he is currently offering. That makes it a good but not remarkable endeavor. Yet if you are looking for that summer read in the techno-thriller market, you just might find Pressure to fit the bill and may be even a little above average for the genre. For now, I will give it my beach read for the summer recommendation and leave it at that.

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