Newlyweds Karen and Jeremy delve into Dinky Cave, shocked to meet some strange individuals that claim to live deeper in the system, completely removed from society and the sun itself. Accepting the opportunity to know more of their way of life, they find themselves stuck and unable to leave, forced to fill the role of unwilling member in the strange community. Determined to escape, they bide their time until their schemes can reach fruition, but several hurdles rear up along the way.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Nancy Widrew for giving me the opportunity.
The premise of Something Down There had me initially intrigued, the synopsis ticking all the right boxes. Cult? Check. Mutations? Check. Underground? Check. Seriously, what’s more interesting than some cult prowling the claustrophobic confines of a cave and stealing people away? It was a solid idea, and there was some really great imagery that transported me into the subterranean depths, Widrew’s writing charming as she introduced an intimate look into a community that just wanted to start anew, but I had several issues overall with the book that I’ll try to explain. For starters, I didn’t particularly like Karen and Jeremy, as well as their marriage that depended on an obvious and toxic power structure, add to that I felt that accepting or understanding their poor decision making relied a great deal on my suspension of disbelief. People make mistakes, most definitely, but this was to the extreme, and I couldn’t help but think they deserved everything they got – natural selection at its finest. When the plot relies too much on characters being stupid to progress the plot, it can be tremendously difficult to connect, and connecting is what I search for in most cases when it comes to reading.
There were also aspects that I believe didn’t reach their full potential, as various plot points were introduced yet never fully explored. The god worshiped by the cult was one in particular that got my attention, but it might as well have been non-existent as it played such an insignificant role – it almost seemed to be shoehorned in just to have some inclusion of a bizarre religion, yet it was meaningless. The others include the lack of information regarding the mutations and infertility (it was obviously supernatural as they were first generation), and the mushrooms that seemed to be at the centre yet left majorly obscure. If anything, it grasped for these interesting threads but instead of exploiting them, it committed to a relatively safe space. The same applied to the cult as a whole, who weren’t as diabolical as I expected them to be; they were a dysfunctional band of rebels, some of their actions despicable but lacking the charisma and cohesion one would expect.
Despite not entirely working for me, there were elements I considered notable strengths in regards to character development. The decline of mental health when it comes to horrific circumstances tends to be something that draws me, and it certainly had a presence here with some very real emotional difficulties that beset not only the victims but the aggressors. That said, I feel the ending didn’t line up with what was depicted throughout the course of the novel, and it’s the only part I truly didn’t like. Consistency is important, forgoing it in the last few pages can leave a lasting impression.
In conclusion: A debut novel that will have its appeal to a specific audience, Something Down There descended into the earth for a close look at a secretive community. Even though there were some shining moments when it came to the drama, I couldn’t fully appreciate the story due to the amount of wasted potential and my inability to empathise with the characters. It’s my opinion that whilst decently written, it left a lot to be desired.
Above, life continued as before: people drove to work, children went to school, the sun shined or it poured cats and dogs. But here there was no change of seasons. Nights held no moon or Milky Way, and his only companions were a combination of screwballs and fanatics.
© Red Lace 2020