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Alexei Panshin
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The Descent - Jeff Long Last month I watched two movies with my wife. 'Sanctum' and 'The Descent' (which has no relation with this book). Sure, the casting and dialogues left a lot to be desired, but in retrospection it dawned on me that it didn’t really matter in the end as the real Hero-antagonist of these movies was The Darkness itself. The Claustrophobic Depths. The Subterranean Hell.

After watching those movies, my wife told me that she would never go on a cave "exploration" adventure even if it was in reality a tourist spot with all the safety features and she would never let me go anyplace like that either. I agreed wholeheartedly and promised that the only type of caves that I would ever go “exploring” would be like Ajanta and Ellora where, you know, I wouldn’t be more than a minute away from the open skies and sunlight. 30 seconds at the most, if I ran quick enough.

I wouldn’t go in a vertical cave, never. Thank you very much. And I will bet you a trillion Zimbabwean Dollars that you wouldn’t go either. No, I am not claustrophobic. At least I am not when I am above the surface of the earth. And no, I am not unadventurous either. You want me to climb Mt. Everest with you? I am ready. Let’s go tomorrow. Maybe I will lose my toes at 2000 metres and my nose at 2001 metres and maybe I will die at 2010 metres. But at least, I will die in the open. Above surface. In the sunlight. And if it is overcast (as in England), I can at least die looking at the grey clouds. Not the bloody darkness. (Real Fact: Ever wondered why the British don’t worship the Sun? It is because it is a relatively new discovery for them. They saw it the first time when the East India Company came to India. Only after 1947 when the sun began to shine for 10 minutes once in a week in the UK, they left.)

Okay then. Now about this book. It really lives up to its name. I have to give it that much. The Descent. The first chapter is excellent. But then the quality keeps descending unflaggingly right till the end. But my extreme fear of all things subterranean kept me going. Jeff Long’s writing style is choppy at the best. So much so that I had to read certain sentences twice just to comprehend what the hell was happening and who was talking to whom. The book started off as science fiction (much to my delight), but by the middle it drifted off towards science-fantasy and by the end it became pure fantasy. It clearly didn't know where it wanted to go. But who am I to blame it? Because in the deep, one can't possibly see.

Anywho, I had high hopes. And while it didn’t totally disappoint, it didn’t impress tremendously either.

So, an in-between 3 stars.