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TPG Reviews: Spectral Fathoms, by Nathan T. Dean

September 20, 2014

This particular book was in fact a pre-release copy, received in exchange for an honest review. A big thanks goes out to Hannah Agutter for the opportunity.

And now, for the review…

Bizarre. Incredibly so. In both good ways and bad. 

Jacob Altringham is an architect whose grandmother has just passed away, and meeting a woman who can only talk in third person at her funeral will change everything. Or nothing. 
Edward Condance sells bizarre, esoteric drugs, but it’s his friend who sells myths who sets their lives on a new path. Or, actually, is it the new drug White Rabbit.
My rating: 5/10

Spectral Fathoms is a particularly strange book – one of the strangest I’ve come across, in fact. Setting-wise, it’s fascinating; it’s essentially a take on Lovecraft-esque horror with an added dose of crime fiction (complete with telepathy-inducing drugs) on the side. There’s a lot of good ideas in this novel, and it was from these that I derived much of my enjoyment

Execution-wise, however, there are several flaws. The plot took a while to get started, for one thing, and wasn’t always easy to follow once it did. The overly dense writing style didn’t help matters here, and often slowed the paceing in entirely unnecessary ways. Last but not least are the frequent overt references to other works which, frankly, achieved little beyond distracting me further from the narrative.

The individual characters are all very interesting, though many end up feeling under-utilised. Coralie – the “third-person” woman from the blurb – is hit particularly hard by this, as her role in the story turns out ultimately to mean little. Jacob, the overall protagonist is explored well though, and I found myself warming to him by the end despite his rather…unusual mindset.

The finale is what saves this book, if anything. The last few pages are a superb piece of work, being exciting and eerie and intriguing in equal measure, and I dearly wish that the rest of the book had been able to match them. Granted, the ultimate ending is decidedly anticlimactic, but it’s done in a deliberate way which fits well the preceding narrative. Dean clearly has talent as a writer, and it’ll be very interesting to see where his future work leads.

Ultimately, I’m not sure where I sit with this one. The ending is great, but whether it’s worth the trouble to actually reach said ending is up for debate. There’s a lot of unnecessary flab here, and another edit or two would surely have trimmed it down. With its concepts, Spectral Fathoms could have been great; as things are, Spectral Fathoms is at best okay and little more.



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