Pressure is a far cry from Brian Keene's previous release, The Complex, earlier this year. Whereas the latter was a tight horror-action romp that hardly slowed down, let alone paused to catch a breath, Pressure is a more leisurely and tepid thriller. Here, Keene delivers a twist on the sea monster creature-feature, with a sort of Crichton-esque flavor, or perhaps a bit of Lincoln & Child reminiscence.
The sea floor of the Mauritius is falling into "The Mouth of Hell," and strange stirrings are afoot with the discovery of a new, massive predator. World-class free diver, Carrie Anderson, is working on behalf of a biotech firm to learn about the collapsing sea-floor but business takes a personal turn after her diving partner's demise and a close encounter with an unclassified underwater monster.
Pressure is filled with several great ideas that could have been truly terrific if given a little more room to build and develop. It's a short book, and it feels like some elements could have used more time to bake. Since the book was pitched as "Jaws meets Alien," two of my favorite films, and written by Keene, whose work in The Complex I enjoyed tremendously, I had ridiculously high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, my expectations were not quite met, although I would say Pressure is nonetheless a good and certainly enjoyable read. But, it's also a read that I think needs to be approached with any preconceived notions firmly in check, especially if you're expecting a gory horror fest that Keene is typically known for.
Pressure is at its best when the characters are on the high sea, dealing with the mysterious and massive threat lurking below the water. The flip-side, however, is that this particular element is nearly a C-plot to the book. I had expected, and indeed hoped for, it to be the primary focus of the novel. I wanted to see lots of aquatic horror, and I didn't really get it. What was there was all kinds of salty and violent fun, but entirely too short-lived.
I kept expecting the characters to make their way back to the water, but Keene was more focused on driving this toward a land-based thriller where the real villains are an evil corporation and their gun-toting thugs. I suspect this book will appeal to a lot of readers looking for a disposable beach read - not that there's anything wrong with that. Personally, I was looking for more horror, more action, more scares, and definitely way more in the way of monster mayhem. This particular book was built to be just a little too mainstream for my tastes, and didn't quite deliver what I wanted-slash-expected.
I will give it a few extra points for some Clickers Easter eggs, as well a number of Alpinus Bio security guys whose names are borrowed from a number of well-known horror authors. I just dig stuff like that. I also hope that Pressure helps lead new readers into Keene's other works.
[Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for review.]