"Pressure" Book Review
Written by Matt E. Lewis
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Written by Brian Keene
2016, 276 pages, Fiction
Released on June 21st, 2016
For most people, summer time means trips to the beach, and with that, a stomach-churning return of the realization of how little we actually know about the ocean. You might have heard that we, as a species, know more about deep space than we do about the ocean, which is pretty weird considering that we share a planet that is seventy-one percent covered by it. We're constantly fascinated and frightened by the creatures that have adapted to life underwater, from the super-efficient predators to the bizarre lifeforms that often serve as models for the horrific imaginings of what extraterrestrials might look like. It is this fear of the unknown, of a world within our world that contains the last truly gigantic animals comparable to the dinosaurs, that makes the sea such rich fodder for fiction writing. Jules Verne, HP Lovecraft, Peter Benchley, Michael Crichton, and many more have taken their shot at "Deep Sea Horror" and produced works that have become household names. This year, another such work has crawled up from the murky depths to kick-start our nautical nightmares again – Pressure, from master horror writer Brian Keene.
Off the coast of Mauritius, the unthinkable has begun happening – the sea life has disappeared and the ocean bottom itself seems to be giving way. In preparation for a massive evacuation, government and private firms alike begin sending teams to investigate the collapse, while the international news media documents the mysterious event. Carrie Anderson, a world-class free diver, and her partner Scott are one such team that goes down...but only one comes back up. After recovering, Carrie skips out on the hospital, the press, and her employer without giving any kind of report, all for one simple reason: she can't explain what she saw down there.
After some well-earned drinks, Carrie contacts her old friend Abhi, a sea captain who knows the local waters like the back of his hand. Despite his better judgment, Carrie convinces him to take her out on a dive that very night. She can't remember what happened to Scott while she was down there, but she does remember feeling cold, and something dark and massive was moving through the water. Determined to find out what it is before it can hurt others, she charters Abhi's rust bucket of a boat for her own investigation. Just before they cast off, they're stopped by Paolo, an old flame of Carrie's and one of the best divers in Chile. He's heard all about what's happened, wants to help Carrie (because of...reasons?) and volunteers himself for what is surely a suicidal night dive into a monstrous abyss. Once out on the water, Carrie and Paolo end up finding all the previous occupants of the sea bed, which didn't actually disappear as they thought. Instead, they find the ocean floor littered with the bodies of crabs, fish, birds, turtles, anemones, and just about every other sea creature you can think of, seemingly frozen and hard as stone. Then the water starts to get cold again...
Without giving too much away, what they find down there is unlike anything they've ever seen. Whether an ancient horror has been unleashed or something terrifyingly new has evolved, they can't be sure, but Carrie, Abhi and Paolo need to uncover the mystery of it, before it threatens the entire world. Keene captures the essence of the summer deep-sea horror novel pretty well here, but some readers that are more interested in the "monstrous" details and exposition may be a little disappointed. But Pressure is written with smart scientific detail, snappy dialogue, climactic battle scenes, and enough intrigue and twists to keep you guessing all the way through. So quick, before the days get shorter again, pick this up and take it with you for a day at the beach. Just make sure you stay out of the water.