Dungeon crawling is a classic gaming trope. The band of heroes descending into the earth to purge it of evil beings. Of course, gathering treasure along the way is a nice bonus. Rarely do I find mention of it in mainstream literature, but these books are an exception.
The up-front review:
The Descent: A must read for gamers. A very well written trip to the Underdark with Tom Clancy overtones. Complete with demons to slay and a visit with Satan himself!
The premise of “The Descent” is simple: that there is a secret world under the earth, populated by mutant humans. Mutants that occasionally surface to capture slaves and generally cause havoc. Twenty-first century civilization discovers the “subterrain” and its inhabitants, the “Hadalites.” So named because of their physical defects, such as horns and tails. The Hadalites are a cruel, primitive civilization and the sole inhabitants of a resource-rich underworld. Hadalites enjoy cannibalism and torture like we enjoy baseball. Expect explicit depiction of some really sick stuff in both of these books. You are warned.
Manifest destiny, long dormant but never truly dead, awakens. Every major power, including large corporations, dispatch armies and colonists to take over the new world and exploit its riches.
The first part of the book covers the discovery and initial exploration of the underworld. Battles are fought, colonies established and line of control drawn. The underworld takes on a wild-west feel, complete with chronic lawlessness and rough men seeking their fortunes.
The second part of the book follows the Helios Corporation expedition. They plan on going deeper and further than any other above-world human, hoping to secure the underworld for their corporate masters.
I cannot really discuss the characters by name, since it would be something of a spoiler. Suffice it to say it is an interesting and varied group, filled with hidden agendas and genocidal plans. All the while, facing the underworld’s threats and the incessant Hadalite attacks. Surprises abound and characters actually develop though the journey. The author is a professional mountain climber and you can really feel his knowledge during the sequences underground.
Just a friendly warning. Do not take this book too seriously. Thinking too hard will ruin it for you. One incident in the book involves 23,000 special forces soldiers getting wiped out by a bunch of club wielding primitives, at their main base. I am willing to accept an underwold with pseudo-demonic creatures in it, but the author just goes way overboard. Clubs and swords versus modern weapons at a fortified location and the modern soldiers lose?
I cannot endorse this book enough. Every gamer who hunted a mind-flayer should read it. It was a great ride.
As for the sequel, “Deeper, ” avoid it like the plague. This disaster ruins great characters, introduces a completely “out of left-field” spiritual component and serves as a simplistic allegory on the “war on terror.” Regardless of your politics, bad political satire is just not worth reading. I include it here in case you are really interested in seeing how it all turns out. Stop at “The Descent,” you will be happier for it.
Full Disclosure: I linked to my Amazon astore, so I do get a small commision should you choose to buy one these books.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer