A combination of folklore and fantasy brewed alongside a healthy dose of “What If…”, The Deep is a tale of the water-breathing descendants of African women who were tossed overboard during the slave trade travels and adapted to survive. Interestingly, The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, is a large survival metaphor of the endurance all Africans underwent during the devastation of slavery.
Solomon’s narrative is confusing at times, yet also beautifully dream like.
That narrative, with one fin exclusively swimming in the tides of fantasy with all its fantastically unpronounceable names, focuses on Yetu, a historian for an undersea community that calls itself Wajinru. Yetu is a dreamer and prefers to live more in a shamanistic dreamlike state rather than deal with the current, ahem, current. This is where Solomon’s talent is the strongest. The word play floats and bubbles along. The dialogue, unfortunately, becomes a sinking anchor at times as the lyrical nature cedes to mere genre-speak. An interlude remembering – even foreshadowing – war with those nasty surface dwellers, which is meant to build as an integral action-piece, also drowns into a mono drumbeat whose rhythm is never solidly established.
Solomon works at building a beautiful society and a caring character, one that can be read as an imaginary tale or as a sad allegory. When Yetu flees from her home in an impulse of surrendering all responsibilities, however, the lore begins to drift. Yetu’s plight becomes well documented but the equally-compelling Wajinru are mostly lost in the wake.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Saga Press/Simon and Schuster for the awarding of a preview copy.