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The Deep [Mass Market Paperback]

John Crowley
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Bantam Books; First Thus edition (Dec 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553239449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553239447
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.2 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,727,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

John Crowley was born in 1942 and has worked in documentary films and TV since 1966. The Deep, his first SF novel, was published in 1975 and was followed by Beasts, Engine Summer and Great Work of Time. In his later work, Little, Big, Aegypt and Love and Sleep, he has moved into writing fantasy to great critical acclaim. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Alle-gory! 9 May 2013
By Behan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Get it? Because it's full of symbolism and allegory, but there's a fair bit of gory death too. Right?

If you have to explain a joke, it probably isn't that funny, huh?

Imagine a fantasy world where the whole thing is a metaphorical card table ... and I've already given too much away about the plot. Gollancz have have included this book in their 2013 picks for the S.F. Masterworks, so I thought I'd grab a copy and introduce myself to this author I'd been meaning to get to. Start with the début; seems like a good idea.

Well, it's just science fictional enough, but I can't help feeling that recently Gollancz have assimilated more of thispseudo-fantasy-stuff into the series in a vain attempt to cash in on the success of Game of Thrones. This is very much that sort of stuff; the central story is about the grapples for power between two noble houses in a medieval fantasy setting, while mysterious assassins and outlanders also threaten the kingdom. Amid the intrigue, a sexless, inhuman visitor appears; he is your traditional SF trope, the alien observer, but has no memory of his mission. The Visitor, bereft of purpose, becomes embroiled in the turbulent politics of the world he has been sent to observe, all the while trying desperately to recover some memory of his mission.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early SF/Fantasy by Crowley -- highly recommended 1 Sep 2013
By Mithridates VI of Pontus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Deep (1975) was John Crowley's first published novel and his first of three SF works from the 70s (The Deep, Beasts, Engine Summer). He is best known for Engine Summer (1979) and his complex/literary fantasy - Little, Big (1981) and the Ægypt sequence (1987-2007). In the two novels of his I've read (the other is Beasts), Crowley's prose is characterized by an almost icy detachment, an adept construction of unusual images, and dialogue that says only what is needed.

The Deep deploys, in minimalistic fashion, the standard tropes of the fantasy genre mixed with distinctly SF elements: namely, an android visitor whose blood "was alive -- it flowed in tiny swirls ever, like oil in alcohol, but finer, blue within crimson" (1). The world itself is fashioned like a game. The players are arrayed across the surfaces of a pillar that rises upward and is surrounded by the eponymous chasm, the Deep. The characters move across the landscape in the methodically-structured dance of a game -- each action reeks of cyclical timelessness, endlessly played and replayed, played and replayed. The being that fashions such choreographed destruction clutches the cosmic pillar -- a re-imagined Yggdrasil -- from below, wreathed in the deep, twined like the Norse serpent Nidhogg, the Hateful Striker.

Everyone besides the Visitor seems aware that their parts have been played again and again. They are content to repeat the same empty yet impassioned motions. They are content to strive for glory knowing that once the balance is askew the Just will set them aright -- with the Gun.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

The novel begins with the discovery of the android Visitor, who is "neither male nor female," by two Endwives, who care for the wounded and the dead caused by the endless struggles between the Reds and the Blacks. The society on the pillar is feudal in nature. The Blacks and the Reds, called the Protectors, evoke old claims for the throne in continuous back-and-forth maneuvering for the ear of the king and even the throne itself. The Just "protect" the common Folk by assassinating key players who are selected by lot by their sexless and mysterious leader, the Neither-nor.

The other power are the Grays who arbitrate the law, collate knowledge, and slowly uncover obscured carvings in their indomitable keep that illustrate the cyclical workings of the world: "crowned men with red tears running from their eyes held hands as children's cutouts do, but each twisted in a different attitude [...] Behind and around them, gripping them like lovers, were black figures, obscure, demons or ghosts. Each crown had burning within it a fire, and the grinning black things tore tongue and organs from this king and with them fed the fire burning in the crown of that one, tore that one's body to feed the fire burning in this one's crown, and so on around, demon and king, like a tortured circle dance" (30).

Soon the Visitor, who relearns speech from the Endwives, is discovered by Falcounred, a lesser noble who owes his allegiance to Redhand. The Visitor is exposed to the complex machinations of the Blacks and Reds -- Crowley bases their conflict on events from the English War of the Roses. The exact lineages, figures, battles -- although discussed at length -- are not the main movements of the plot. Rather, the Visitor, as he experiences more of the world in the employ of the Reds, soon learns his origins and purpose.

Final Thoughts

I found the sculptured landscape -- the plain called the Drumskin, where the battles are waged; the lip that surrounds the edge of the word; the circular lake surrounded by mountains whose single island contains the residence of the King; the increasing decay that inundates the landscape as one moves outward towards the edge; the deep abyss that surrounds the pillar; the movement of the stars -- incredibly evocative. The reader watches the action unfold below, like the hypnotized audience of a chess game. But there is only one player... The Leviathan wrapped around the pillar. The Visitor, initially ignorant of the world, is a cypher for the reader who slowly learns the workings of the board.

For fans of literary fantasy and SF. Crowley's early visions are not to be missed. Perhaps not as intriguing or as complex as Beasts, The Deep will transfix the diligent reader.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair to middlin 19 Jan 2012
By Brad - Published on Amazon.com
If you undertake this one, bring your ability to discern remarkably similar names and titles and positions. Dark age type fantasy with your castle intrigues, wars, alliances, etc... But just for fun, on a faraway celestial body of indeterminate origin, composition, etc... The main arena is clearly defined, and somehow Crowley again makes me think the best part of this story happend either before we came in on it, or after the last page leaves us behind.
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