Deep Black Sea by David M. Salkin
One element that makes great horror so effective, at least for me, is isolation. I think it’s scary enough being somewhere so far out of reach from fellow humans that to have something go horribly wrong, such as a monster intent on destroying and/or assimilating you, can, if done well, make the atmosphere and dread of what’s already a dreadful situation even worse. Some of my favourite stories involve this kind of isolation and dread. Movies like Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing come to mind first. Those movies really cemented my perception of horror.
But then in the late 90s, or there abouts, came a slew of deep sea movies like Leviathan, Deepstar Six, and The Abyss. The latter of these isolation stories reminds me of David Salkin’s novel, Deep Black Sea, for obvious reasons, but the actual story and intensity of the growing dread remind me more of the former. No disrespect to the mentioned deep water movies, but none of them have the staying power of the classic Alien and The Thing.
In Deep Black Sea we start the story with an introduction to all seven crew members as they discuss their mission: to stay in a new type of research submarine four miles below sea level for an entire year. The description of the living conditions down that deep, which also compares the differences of outer space, was fascinating and actually gave me nightmares. I’m not even claustrophobic. Or, perhaps I am and just haven’t been in a situation yet to show me that I am. If that’s the case, then my thanks to David Salkin for pointing this out to my unconscious mind.
The seven crew members then head off on their mission. They make their slow descend into the deep. Along the way they catch fish and get to know each other better. Once they hit the ocean floor, things become immediately interesting. They bring aboard a bacteria that can enable flesh to live in extreme circumstances, such as seven-hundred degree water near a black smoker–which is sort of like an underwater volcano.
The story moves quickly after this as a terrible situation grows worse and worse with each passing scene.
Is Deep Black Sea so good as to become a classic and sit amongst greats? No, not necessarily. The book is really good with an ending that’s probably one of the best I’ve read in a long time, but to join the cannon of true classics is seriously tough. First, it would be great to see this one become a movie. If done well, I think it would offer some new things along with some great homages to said classics. But we’ll have to wait to see how the future remembers Deep Black Sea to see for sure.
Whatever the case, this is a great read and a lot of fun. Give it a go and see what you think! I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Five dweller heads!