THE DESCENT by Jeff Long is one of my favorite horror novels. Part horror, part grand adventure, and thoroughly imaginative and penetrating, it’s an amazing read.
First, this book should not be confused with the film of the same title, though the film borrows some of the same elements. I enjoyed the film for what it was, but the book is amazing. If you like horror–hell, if you like books at all and can stomach something tense and frightening–you should read it.
The novel begins with separate stories that suggest there is a predatory race of creatures among us that come out when it’s dark. It’s discovered they live in the ground under our feet. Exploration leads to discovery–the crust of the planet is laced with a vast labyrinth. After the creatures that live there seemingly vanish over the years, nations and corporations spill into the interior to exploit its rich resources. One corporation recruits a scientific expedition to march across a vast tunnel under the Pacific Ocean and claim it for itself. The scientists are being used but go anyway to reveal the underworld’s scientific secrets.
Then things go wrong.
THE DESCENT is a work of soaring imagination bordering on genius. The underworld Long creates is breathtaking in its scope, detail and dangers. The creatures that live there, possibly descendants of an underground civilization who regard humans as slaves and meat, are truly terrifying. The characters are interesting and we come to deeply care about them. The story combines the best of horror, survival fiction and a science fiction thriller in the vein of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.