by Long, Jeff
Publisher:Random House Inc (T)
This blockbuster confection of adventure, paranoia and horror is receiving bestseller promotion. Jeff Long gives a fresh spin to the underworld caverns of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth by populating these vast spaces with demonic creatures whose existence explains the myth of Hell. They're our feral relatives, Homo hadalis or "hadals", afflicted with horns and deformities by a harsh environment where necessity is the mother of cannibalism. Greedy for new frontiers, governments and corporations move to exploit the recently discovered underworld. It's deadlier than they think; much hideous bloodshed follows. Long expertly hits a range of nerve-jarring emotional buttons, playing on our fears of darkness, monsters, mutilation, torture and worse. One major plot strand follows a literally bedevilled expedition through terror-fraught tunnels under the Pacific to the remnants of a 20,000-year-old civilisation below. Another speculates about the charismatic hadal leader "Satan" and his impact on world religion (this is where the Turin Shroud comes in)--a tastily paranoid reinterpretation of history. There's a slam-bang climax down in the deeps, with enough horrific trimmings to make readers nervously shield their tender parts. Though the incidental science is poorly handled and occasionally absurd, The Descent reads well as nightmare action-adventure. Not, as they say, for the squeamish. -- David Langford
In a high Himalayan cave, among the death pits of Bosnia, in a newly excavated Java temple, Long's characters find out to their terror that humanity is not alone, that, as we have always really known, horned and vicious humanoids lurk in vast caverns beneath our feet ... This audacious remaking of the old hollow-earth plot takes us, in no short order, to the new world order that follows the genocidal harrowing of Hell by heavily armed, high-tech American forces. An ambitious tycoon sends an expedition of scientists, including a beautiful nun linguist and a hideously tattooed commando former prisoner of hell, ever deeper into the unknown, among surviving savage horned tribes and the vast citadels of the civilisations that fell beneath the earth before ours rose. A conspiracy of scholars pursues the identity of the being known as Satan, coming up with unpalatable truths about the origins of human culture and the identity of the Turin Shroud, and are picked off one by bloody one. Long rehabilitates, madly, the novel of adventures among lost peoples--occasional clumsiness, and promises of paranoid revelations on which he cannot entirely deliver, fail to diminish the real achievement here; this feels like a story we have always known and dreaded. --Roz Kaveney
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