Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Deeper

DeeperDeeper by Jeff Long

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Nowadays, it’s not enough to have a hit idea in entertainment; you have to have a hit ranchise.   Witness the success of movies like The Matrix or Pirates of the Caribbean, which were then followed by the plodding, nonsensical, self-gratifying, pretentious, convoluted messes that were the sequels.  Even worse, think back to how the second movies in these “sagas” ended — with a ridiculously-placed cliffhanger which served only to draw people back to the theaters for the last movie in the series.  Moviemakers can talk all they want about how the movies were intended to be a trilogy from the get-go, but if that’s the case, then why do the first movies seem self-contained and innovative, while the last two movies seem to be one story, with no clear direction or innovation?  I think it has more to do with the money.

Cynical?  I won’t deny it.  And why am I bringing this up in reference to Deeper?  Well, I’m seeing the same sort of pattern here.  The Descent was a pretty fun book, hardly anything to win awards or significant recognition, but for a beach read, it was enjoyable.  Deeper tries to pick up where The Descent left off, and I suppose in that respect, it succeeds.  It’s a darn shame, though, that that’s the only way that it succeeds.

This book plods.  The real crux of the novel begins after the 100 page mark in the book, which means that the first 100 pages deal with exposition.  This is odd by itself, since this is a sequel, but perhaps the author didn’t want to lose any new readers by not having the proper background.  If he did it well, I wouldn’t complain all that much, but the characterization is weak and even cliched.  Even for characters that I already knew and related to, they were hard to care about the second time around.

This book preaches.  Instead of making it a light, fun romp like the prequel, the author tries to give it some heft and meaning by making it relevant and timely.  It doesn’t even fit with the story.  The angle only serves to draw the reader out of the story and wonder what the author is trying to convey.  If it had any real bearing on the rest of the story, the political overtone of the novel may not feel as forced, but that part of the story is told through soundbites and asides, and never has much significance to the action and events.

This book contrives.   Much of the progress of the plot hinges too much on coincidence, and it’s hard to feel compelled to finish a story when you feel like the author is dragging you along without a real reward for your commitment.  If it made sense, and tied together neatly, the effort would be worth it; as the book stands, though, it’s just a mess.  Characters change motivations whenever it suits the author, not when it suits the plot.  It’s distracting, and careless.

This book panders.  It wouldn’t be so bad if we were allowed to take the events seriously at all, but it seems dumbed down.  The cliffhanger ending, where little is left resolved, makes me wonder if this was written strictly to pad out the story to make the story into a saga, as opposed to a novel.

Long can write a good, powerful, effective story.  The Reckoning was one of those novels that sneaked up on me without pretension, kept me reading despite my reservations, and then hit me with an ending that was similar to being punched by Mike Tyson.  The talent is there.  It’s just not evident through this book.

The Descent is a fun read.  If you like James Rollins and Preston/Child, there’s a lot in the story that will keep you engaged.  If you’re dying to read an adventure novel about a subterranean civilization that makes the myth of hell come alive, then find that book and read it.  Once you’re finished, though, resist the temptation to read the sequel.  There are too many other good books to waste your time reading it.

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February 11, 2008 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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