Four kilometers beneath the plains of southern Africa a search party discover a lost world of vicious, gigantic Carboniferous Era insects, surviving virtually unchanged for 350 million years in a vast magma chamber. The search quickly descends into a terrifying fight for survival against creatures thought only to exist in prehistory and nightmares.
In a race against time the team will struggle to save not only themselves but to stop the monstrous bugs from ever reaching the surface.
Verkhoen owns the Van Gotts Ngomo Mine where gold is mined in dangerous conditions that have killed several workers, something he will go to any lengths to cover up. He hires a team with an experimental machine which allows safer and deeper digging to see if it can increase profits. When it breaks through into a hidden diamond cavern, the mutant insects that live there are released into the mine, tracking down and killing the workers as they seek an exit...
I very much liked the idea of this one. Who doesn't like the sound of big mutant beasties slithering and crawling their way through a mine, killing anyone they encounter? And of course the cover gives you the idea of what at least one of the monsters is going to look like. As well as the mutant scorpions there are giant spiders and other nasties, which was good. I also liked the setting of the mine with plenty dark places for danger to lurk and a large cast to kill off. The plot had a lot of potential to be exciting and interesting. So why did I only give it two stars? The answer is simple-the way it was written and the characters.
Firstly lets look at the characters. Alan was an obsessed man, working himself into the ground during this test as it is the last chance for financial stability for his company. I understand his focus and his stress but I can't say I particularly liked him. We step straight away into monster book cliche territory by having Alan and the female biologist Eve being attracted to each other at first sight. Of course-we can't possibly have men and women working together without the romance element being thrown in. What makes it worse is that it is a dumb romance element. Eve is not bothered by missing and dead men as long as she gets to flirt with Alan. When they are fleeing from giant mutant spiders, Eve takes the time and opportunity to rub her breasts against Alan to try and get his attention. Now that is seriously pathetic! Men are dying under attack by giant spiders and she are more interested in getting laid. She is a dreadful character.
Vince is there as an employee of Alan and is meant to be checking the machine that will save his job and the company but instead he starts stealing diamonds. Nice. How exactly does this idiot think he'll get away with it? Verkhoen is the steriotype mad rich guy who is happy to sacrifice all his workers to get the gold and diamonds from the mine, even murdering people who are ready to expose his shady work ethics. He knows that the monsters are down there and has covered up the proof of them eating employees, in order to continue mining. Duchamps the security chief also decides that after killing one of Alan's men, he is going to steal diamonds and then flee, setting the monsters loose as a diversion to kill everyone else. Oh it's a great bunch of people we have in this mine. I don't think I cared if they all died.
The other thing that I really didn't enjoy was the way the story was delivered. There are a lot of info dumps about mining and science that went way over my head and I found it pretty boring. I don't need to know every detail of Alan's wonder machine, just enough to understand what it is doing. The jargon was way too technical and I just didn't see the point in being overloaded with all this stuff that we didn't need to know. The descriptions of everything were complex and hard to imagine, and I felt that this was at the expense of basic storytelling skills. It was as if the author was trying to show how clever they were-but it really fell flat for me.
The actual setting was very confusing. I understand that the author was working off a set idea of what this mine looked like but when they were talking about levels and sub levels all the time, it was very difficult to work out where everyone was in the mine, how close to the exit they were and how close or distant each group was from the other groups. To be honest I needed a map to keep it all clear in my head. It was a bit confusing at times. Having info dumps, complex descriptions, and confusing settings did not make it an easy story to follow in places. I also found a lack of tension in the monster scenes as the workers had no way to defend themselves so you knew they'd all die.
This was a book with good ideas that lacked on delivery. I wouldn't actually try any more books by the author as the writing was not to my personal taste.
Read October 2016.