Deep Devotion by M.C. Norris

After becoming bored with supernatural horror novels, I turned to creature horror novels.  To make a long story short, I can’t get into novels about land creatures and nobody will ever convince me that I’m missing out, but I’ve been falling madly in love with aquatic horror, specifically where it involves things with tentacles and parasitic offspring.  The ocean is a scary place.  If you’ll excuse me going off track a little, allow me to say that I used to love going to the beach and swimming around but now you couldn’t pay me to step a foot into the water.  By foot, I mean my foot, not the distance.  Aquatic horror plays on everything that terrifies me about the ocean, which is a) why you can’t get me into the ocean ever again and b) why I can’t get enough of the literary subgenre.  Deep Devotion is a worthy contribution to the aquatic horror subgenre, though it isn’t without its flaws.  Follow me into the ins and outs of this novel, and please try not to throw up over the parasitic octopus parasite things that you’ll be hearing a lot about.  If I can handle it relatively well with my fears of the ocean and my fears of food poisoning, I think anyone can.

Deep Devotion begins simply enough at an exotic seafood restaurant Ryuu where a young man named Collin proposes to his girlfriend Sarah.  The two are so excited about starting their new life, but of course readers know better.  Minutes later, Collin collapses on the floor and vomits up his lobster and crabcakes (which, spoiler alert, are important to future events in the novel).  Sarah freaks out and takes him back to his apartment (because in horror novel land, nobody is capable of making genuinely intelligent decisions).  Collin gets even worse, going into a catatonic state except when he talks about needing to return to the sea.  He is picked up by an ambulance and a nurse, Kate Browning, discusses the situation with Sarah.  Sarah eventually reveals that when she looked in Collin’s eyes at one point, she couldn’t see him and knew this was more than a regular case of food poisoning.  Kate takes Sarah’s concerns seriously because there were other patients in the hospital that she had worked with earlier in the day who had the same reaction.  Long story short, the crabcakes and other crab dishes served at Ryuu were infected with microscopic one-eyed tentacle parasites that could affect their hosts’ minds and couldn’t be removed through force.  The only way to speed up the process of removing them from their human hosts was to take the hosts to the ocean and let the parasites remove themselves.   Problem:  The parasites were offspring of a monstrous octopus/squid/dinosaur entity who was not happy about humans interfering with them in any way.  The only way that Kate and a marine biologist she teamed with could save the patients was to kill the mother entity.  Are they successful?  Well, I’m not going to spoil the very ending for you.  I guess you should check out Amazon for a copy of the book.  It’s worth the cost.

I have to be honest with you and state that although I recommend it, Deep Devotion isn’t 100% perfect.  It’s missing this something that makes other horror novels gripping.  I’m not quite sure what the word I’m looking for is, so bear with me as I try to explain it.  I would say that as soon as the focus of the book moves from the food poisoning/parasite infection to Kate’s relationship with the marine biologist, there’s less of that desire to keep reading word-for-word.  Don’t get me wrong, the love story isn’t the main focus of the novel as a whole.  It does, in fact, have significance to the very last page of the novel.  If you want to know about the octopus/squid/dinosaur entity’s capacity to recognize human emotions, you have to accept Kate’s relationship as being genuine and meaningful.  It’s just that, well, why did there need to be that love story interrupting scenes of urgency and in some cases straight-up horror?  This may be because when I go into a horror novel I expect horror above everything else and I keep my horror separate from my romance, but I felt like the relationship was when Deep Devotion lost its energy.  I admit that I skipped around so that I didn’t have to read the blah blah blah descriptions of the relationship formation.

If you are a reader who enjoys mixing genres and/or can overlook the relationship, there’s not much else I can gripe about.  I mean, yes there was content I wanted more of.  You know what kept me interested in this novel?  I was a big fan of the infection/possession from the offspring and the mystery surrounding what was happening to the patients.  More of that, please.  I don’t necessarily mean that M.C. Norris needs to pull this edition and rewrite it to have more of these elements, but this was what I mean when I say I want that something.  One thing I thought was interesting about this novel was that it was relatively “clean” as far as the bloodshed content.  Don’t get me wrong, there was copious amounts of blood concerning the parasitic tentacle offspring removing themselves from their hosts’ bodies, but it wasn’t a bloodbath for the sake of having blood and gore in the novel.  I realize this makes very little sense if you haven’t also read Deep Devotion, but I guess what I’m trying to get at is that the disgusting straight-up horror elements of the novel are necessary to the story.

The best way to summarize how I felt about Deep Devotion is that if you read all the positive reviews about it on Amazon, they’re much nicer than my own review but they’re not wrong.  This is definitely an aquatic horror novel I recommend you all add to your collection of horror novels.  It’s on Amazon in print and Kindle editions and also Severed Press, its publishing company’s website.  A bit of an aside, but one of my favorite horror authors, Tim Curran, is published by Severed Press. Interestingly enough, Mr. Curran also has an aquatic horror novel (well, novella titled Leviathan) that I highly recommend.  In short, I feel safe recommending not only the book Deep Devotion but the publishing company Severed Press.

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