Let me start out by saying this wasn't a bad book. In fact, it was a downright entertaining little literary diversion. The problem is, it's been done before, and just as good (if not better). Rewind your VCRs back to the magical year of 1989 and check out the undersea, Alien-inspired, sci-fi/horror of films like Deep Star Six, Leviathan, and The Abyss and you'll see what I mean.
For what it's worth, Deep Star Six was probably my favorite of the three.
Anyway, It Waits Below is very much of that undersea sci-fi/horror mash-up genre, so you know exactly what to expect going in. Eric Red lays it on a little too thick sometimes, and tries too hard to play to all the genre clichés, but he does have a solid, quick-paced style of storytelling that keeps the story moving along.
There are some amazing scenes here, no question. The opening scene, with the Spanish treasure ship Corona being sunk by a massive asteroid, is undeniably awesome, as is the later scene of the Tulsa being sunk by the alien-fueled sea monster. Some of the scenes aboard the DSV (Deep Submersive Vehicle) Neptune are pretty cool as well, effectively capturing that claustrophobic horror of being on the cusp of death by crushing, drowning, or suffocation. Where it stumbles, however, and where I really wish we'd gotten more detail, is in the exploration of the Corona itself. That should have been a highlight, a breathtaking set-piece to really bring the story home, but it's far too quick and far too light on detail to make any sort of impression.
The characters here are okay, although (as I mentioned) clichéd sort of stereotypes. You have the two brothers behind the salvage mission, one a daring adrenaline junkie, and the other a cautious worrier, who connect the Neptune with the Tulsa up above. Aboard the Neptune you have the typically crusty Soviet Naval pilot who knows better than everyone else, and the super sexy apprentice pilot, who really serves no other purpose than to provide the Captain with a partner for the mile-deep club. Heck, she even has a cheesy, sappy subplot surrounding the death of her mother and her fear of drowning that's made for Hollywood. Up top, aboard the Tulsa, you even have the usual suspects trying to sabotage the mission in order to pay off debts to the Russian mafia.
Like I said, this was a fun read, and the parasitic hive-minded alien species was very well done. I can't say as I ever got emotionally involved or invested in the fate of the characters, but I was sufficiently intrigued as to stick around and see how it all worked out. It Waits Below is nothing new or groundbreaking, but just fine as a throwback or homage to those underwater monster movies of 1989.
Paperback, 279 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Samhain Publishing