Deeper (Jeff Long novel)
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Pages||480 pp (paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 1-4516-0751-2; ISBN 978-1-4516-0751-2|
|Preceded by||The Descent|
Deeper is a 2007 novel by Jeff Long and is the sequel to his 1999 novel, The Descent. It continues the first book's exploration of the dark subterranean world populated by the brutal hominid offshoot Homo hadalis.
In a prologue, veteran underground guide Ike Crockett abandons his wife Alexandra von Schade and unborn child to return to the subterranean world, driven by feelings and whispers he cannot understand. He does not plan on returning to the surface. At the same time, an unscrupulous video documentary producer named Clemens is leading a film crew and its support team into the abandoned Hadal metropolis discovered by the ill-fated Helios expedition three years earlier. The film crew is wiped out by an unseen force, with Clemens the sole survivor.
The main narrative resumes a few years later. While tensions between the United States and China increase on the surface, sub-planetary exploration and colonization is booming, ratcheting up potentials for international conflicts. The subterranean world is thought to be safe, having been "sanitized" by the viral bioweapon deployed during the first novel's Helios expedition.
On Halloween night, scores of children are suddenly abducted by the long-thought-extinct Hadals, who brutally kill any adults attempting to intervene. The Hadals take the children back underground with them, leaving the United States in a panic. Due to the tensions with the Chinese, the U.S. government decides against mobilizing the military to perform a sweep of the sub-planetary Pacific region in search of the kidnapped children and the apparently-not-extinct Hadals.
Ali von Schade is approached by Rebecca, a tall and statuesque young woman whose husband was killed and whose daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped by Hadals. Due to Ali's previous experience with Hadals and the sub-planet, Rebecca wishes to enlist her help in searching for her daughter. When Ali declines and warns against searching, Rebecca eventually creates an army of volunteers and mercenaries to rescue the kidnapped children. Some of these volunteers are the same people who angrily attack Ali's research institution, believing her to be more sympathetic to the Hadals than to her own people. Clemens, who escaped Hadal captivity and is wracked with brutally inflicted scars and deformities, is present at the attack on Ali, and becomes a supporter of Rebecca and her goal of entering the sub-planet.
Rebecca's army enters the sub-planet, aided surreptitiously by the U.S. government and overtly by a mercenary leader named Hunter, and begins traveling toward the Hadal metropolis discovered by the Helios expedition a decade earlier. She encounters an AWOL Navy SEAL sniper named Beckwith, who had deserted the military after he and his colleagues had mistakenly murdered a group of Chinese settlers after believing them to be the children-snatching Hadals. Rebecca, Hunter, Clemens, and Beckwith descend through the interior of the planetary crust toward the metropolis. They discover the remains of all the male children, who were apparently killed by the Hadals after being unsuitable captives.
Ali and a colleague, Gregorio, enter the sub-planet themselves on a similar quest.
Meanwhile, as both Rebecca's army and Ali and Gregorio separately descend in search of the kidnapped children, Ike Crockett has been conversing with an ominous "Angel," who appears to be a superhuman being as old as Earth itself. Ike appears to be a captive of this being, who explains that he himself is the prisoner and wishes Ike to "free" him. The Angel reveals that he has directed both human and Hadal evolution.
Gregorio dies in a climbing incident, leaving Ali by herself. Rebecca's army, having shrunk considerably due to desertions, eventually discovers a second Hadal metropolis, this one decorated with statues and emblems of oxen and Minotaurs.
Ali is discovered by the Angel, who takes her to his lair. There, she watches in shock as he removes his "disciple," who is revealed to be Ike, her husband, from a walled-in room and forcibly gives him an amphetamine-like drink. Ike rushes off, having been given instructions by the Angel to bring him the kidnapped children.
Rebecca's army discovers a complex of pyramids across a river from the city and, led by Clemens, enters it across a large bridge while Hunter's mercenaries and Rebecca herself remain behind. The volunteer army, now down to less than ninety men, discover troves of treasure and begin looting. Suddenly, they are ambushed by Hadals and effectively massacred - only three make it back to the city. Rebecca, Hunter, the mercenaries, and the three volunteer survivors use a building on the city's side of the bridge to fortify themselves and a siege begins, pitting the remaining humans against an unknown number of Hadals.
The siege ends in a bloody battle after over a week of Hadal biowarfare, which includes using darts poisoned with the rabies virus and a Hadal who infects himself with Ebola before allowing himself to be killed by a mercenary sniper; soon to be cooked and eaten by the starving humans. Clemens, thought dead in the massacre of the volunteer army, returns and tells them that he has been dealing with the Hadals, who will release the children if the mercenaries surrender to certain torture and death. Hunter refuses and believes Clemens to be in league with the Hadals. Before he can be killed, the zip-tied Clemens is freed by Rebecca, and he promises to return with Samantha. Samantha is brought forth by three Hadals, who use her as a human shield. A battle ensues, and Samantha is killed.
As Ali replaces Ike as the Angel's captive "disciple," Ike enters the pyramid complex. It has been revealed that the kidnapped children are the design of the Angel, but the Angel's plans have been co-opted by Clemens, who was once a "trainee" of the Angel. Ike kills many surviving Hadals and has been told to bring the children and the disobedient Clemens to the Angel. Clemens, however, proves to be a formidable adversary and bests Ike in hand-to-hand combat, inadvertently aided by the sniper Beckwith, who remained undetected by the Hadals and mistook Ike for a bad guy and assumed Clemens was a good guy, shooting Ike's hand. Clemens has the remaining girls and a traumatized and mentally unstable Rebecca (unable to cope with the loss of her daughter Samantha) with him, and tells the girls that he, Clemens, is their rescuer and that Ike is the one who mutilated him.
As he tortures and prepares to kill Ike, Clemens is paralyzed by Rebecca, who uses a poison-tipped barb given to Ike by the Angel. Beckwith arrives and, realizing his mistake, helps rescue Ike, the delusional Rebecca, and the girls. They head toward the surface, suffering from illness and fatigue.
Ali remains with the Angel, knowing that as long as she is his willing captive and "disciple" he will not find a way to "free" himself.
The girls are brought to the surface and their parents celebrate in massive function thrown by the United States government.