- “What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ― Werner Herzog
I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents…. The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? – John Steinbeck, East of Eden, 1952
“Man is the cruelest animal.”–― Friedrich Nietzsche
It began in Stockholm, Sweden in 1938. Pearl Buck won the Nobel for Literature, on the same stage where Enrico Fermi received the Nobel for Physics for his work on the artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons, and for nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons. And outside the stage door, Max Feldt and his wife, Ada, are about to be murdered by Nazi Gestapo agents for the location of a single man. Dominik Kaminski.
This is the beginning. But it is not the end.
In the present, Kate McCreedy just lost her father – who happened to be the Vice President of the United States. Her father the VP, her brother the high powered Security Analyst who couldn’t even find time to make it to his father’s funeral – and Kate the secretary. Well, an administrative assistant, but she did just get a promotion to media relations executive – for Valley Oil, one of the four largest oil companies in the world. Her brother got the lion’s share of their father’s estate. The condo on Independence Avenue and summer home in Connecticut. The yacht and various other rich man’s toys. Kate? The deed to her father’s Mercedes. The family china and a few nick-knacks. She doesn’t really care, she is happy with her life. But this too will change – with far reaching and deadly effect. For when she is called to her godfather Godfried’s home she learns two shocking facts. First, her father left her, privately and with no fanfare, all off his stock in VO – stock with a ‘bit’ over $32 million dollars in value. She is now the biggest oil shareholder in the country. Second? There is a problem at the Aeschylus Platform, the two-point-two billion dollar engineering marvel deep in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Communications are down. The platform is damaged. It is a disaster – and there are no answers.
The company is sending in Black Shadow – the second largest mercenary group in the U.S., with orders to find out what happened to the platform, and to the two hundred and thirty-eight missing workers. Someone from media relations has to be onsite, to record what happened for the board, as well as helping restrain the fiscal panic inherent in any disaster of this magnitude. Kate won’t put anyone else in danger – especially when her godfather presents her with photos of the disaster, and indicates that her father knew before his death something was wrong, and wanted her to handle the issue herself. She can’t let her father down, can she?
What starts out as an information gathering and rescue mission soon becomes more, much more, as the story moves back and forth through time – from the kidnapping of Dominik and his family by Gestapo agents and their enslavement on a tiny island in the South Atlantic, to the modern day as Kate, nine members of a Black Shadow team, with Mason Brubaker, ex-military and now full time killer consultant/troubleshooter-for-hire in the lead. AJ Trenton, Security Chief on the build for Aeschylus, disgraced and fired from the project for questioning the higher-ups about possible problems that the company was ignoring, but still the most knowledgeable of VO’s personnel, and his buddy Dutch who AJ won’t travel without round out the group.
Get in. Save the personnel. Get out. Or at least that is what Kate plans. But Robert Burns said it best: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” And gang aft a-gley, in this case, is an understatement. For what they find on their arrival is more terrifying, stranger and more deadly, than anyone, even the members of a hard-ass private military corporation like Black Shadow, have ever faced. For the platform isn’t just damaged – it is overrun. Overrun by what can only be described as black tentacles growing up from the ocean floor, covering and infesting everything it touches. And when the members of the group are attacked, they find that it is not only the platform that is infested.
The Aeschylus is a fast paced novel of the lengths beings – whether corporation or government – or even a single man – will go to control the unknown in a single-minded pursuit of glory, power and money – and a brutally practical look at politics and corporate manipulation on a massive scale. It is also something much more – a warning, a threat, about the things we do to hide the most horrific of atrocities. And finally, it is about the things that are hidden still, the dark places and things of the world, and about the folly of human hubris.
Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. – Tom Hiddleston
Eighty years ago, the Nazi’s absolute certainty that they could manipulate everything within their purview, turn it to the glory of Germany, of Hitler and the Nazi party, opened a door. A door that remained open, though its denizen slept. Now, it is awake. And the world will never be the same.
There are many things to admire about David Barclay’s novel. It is powerful on many levels, from the twisted brutalities of people who would, without the pressure of the Nazi regime, have been perfectly ordinary human beings to the cold, calculating viciousness of those who are willing to do whatever is asked simply for the money. Do it and move on, never to think about it again. Political intrigue and corporate rapaciousness are handled with a deft hand, but the thriller aspects kept me turning pages nearly faster than I could read, to find out what happened next. Scientifically and historically, Barclay also did his homework, making a fiction work blend seamlessly into historical happenings with both a scientific and science fiction bent that speaks to the devastation of the Earth by the unlearned and unwary. I recommend it.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.