Saga Press; November 5, 2019
176 pages (ebook)
2.9 / 5 ✪
I was kindly furnished with a copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to both Saga Press and NetGalley for the review copy! All opinions are my own.
First off, The Deep was written by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes. Was a bit long for the title, though. This was one of the more unique and interesting stories I’ve ever read, down to the premiss which was birthed in an electronica album by Drexciya. It’s called “The Quest”, if you’re interested. I listened to it while writing the review and… well, I’m not a big electronic guy, unless it’s electronic metal. Anyway, the album later inspired a song by the rap group Clipping (this one I liked better, and would recommend it; it’s just “The Deep” by Clipping). The novella, The Deep is based on both, as well as the actual history behind it. Yes, that was a real thing that happened. Not always, but still. A real, awful, horrible thing.
A Tale of Two Tales
The Deep is an unique novella based on a species of mere-people originally descended from the children of slave mothers who were thrown overboard when it was found that they were pregnant. Along with reminding people of a terrible history—this novella blends such history fluidly with the present, as Yetu remember her people’s origins among the two-legs. While it was thought-provoking and uniquely based, the story is complicated by strange, almost random glimpses into the past, and a vague and detail-poor present. The mere-people live in a colorless world—which is mostly what I thought of this read. Interesting, but ultimately colorless.
Yetu holds the memories of her people. As a child, she was incredibly sensitive to the ocean around her. To voices, to feelings, to the temperature and flow of the waters. As the Historian of the Zoti Aleyu (meaning “strange fish”), Yetu contains the sum of their memories of old; all the pain, the suffering, the brief moments of hope and love between. The other Zoti Aleyu live in blissful ignorance, free of the pain from before. Since she took over as Historian, her life has become a nightmare. Lost in Remembrance, she has withered away. Nearly died on a increasing frequency. She is in constant pain, and seeks to shut out the world—and her own kind—as much as possible.
Yet the Aleyu cannot sustain themselves completely free of memories. Once a year the Historian must host a group Remembrance for all, during which she must guide them through the memories before ultimately leaving them to digest and interpret. But soon after the Historian must take up the mantle once more, and remember for her people.
But instead Yetu flees. She escapes to the surface where she learns an important lesson, something that may yet save the Aleyu and Yetu herself. All she must do is survive long enough to use it.
The story is very interesting at first, though it takes a few detours early on. And then later. But the Zoti Aleyu ultimately proved fascinating. When the focus was on them, I didn’t really have any issues with the text. With the history behind it, the mere-people at the forefront? Honestly, if you just want to read something entirely new and interesting, skip the rest of this and read the book. Otherwise… well, the rest of this review will be less flattering.
The story occasionally switches between the past and present, sometimes seemingly at random. One of the later times it does this for no reason that I can tell, doing little to nothing in setting up the finale. Other times it’s to reveal snippets of the Zoti Aleyu’s history—stories that often fail to tell enough, revealing bits and pieces for the reader to interpret for themselves. Other events of importance are told in full: their birth as a species, for example. But too many details are left out or lost. The world runs by in a blur. The parts we are shown are lacking, incomplete, colorless. The Remembrances especially, though even the present is often left wanting, with the plot itself vague or unclear.
My biggest issue with the story is, well, the story. The Deep can’t ultimately figure out what it is. At first it doesn’t much matter, but at about the halfway point, a love story is introduced. And then the story splits. This throws off the pacing, the focus and the flow. From then on, I wasn’t sure where the plot would lead as this romance competes with the Aleyu’s history. Now, this can be a good thing, when done well, as it keeps the reader guessing. Sadly, this is not done well. And since the story never really decides what it is, what story it is telling, the ending was ultimately unsatisfying. Now, this may be due to the sheer number of authors involved in the writing of it—one trying to tell Yetu’s story while the others focus on that of the Aleyu. It is said that too many cooks spoil the broth. Too many authors may take a good idea but get carried away in the writing, all while losing sight of the story they set out to tell.
The Deep is an interesting and unique story with quite the premiss and an amazing lead. It is also unfocused, bland, with an unsatisfying conclusion and strange, often random flashbacks. Though it never decides which story it ultimately wants to tell, the two plots competing one another all the way to the end, it’s thought-provoking and new, something you’ve likely not seen before. Combined with a terrible, eye-opening history of the world (like, the actual world), it’s… I dunno. Can’t decide if it’s a must-read or something to skip. Dunno if I’d pay $10 for the unique vision bereft of a real resolution. I’ve read enough glowing reviews to offset my neutral one, so there’s a decent chance you’ll love it. But, I didn’t. So… your call.