Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.
This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.
Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .
So, full disclosure, I wanted to be on this book tour so badly. I’m a big fan of Alma Katsu. If you’ve hung around here long enough, you’ve probably seen me mention her writing once or twice, but if not then I am excited to introduce the two of you. Readers, meet Alma Katsu: the absolute master of historical horror fiction.
I read The Hunger, my debut into Katsu’s work, a couple of years ago and have been a fan ever since. The Hunger follows The Donner Party on their doomed journey, while adding an entirely new facet to the mystery along the way. I was riveted throughout the whole thing. This being said, I had a lot of high hopes for The Deep once I got my hands on it.
The Deep may follow a different time and story than her first novel, but they share so many of Katsu’s strengths: research, creativity, and the spookiest atmosphere. The Deep re-examines the story of the Titanic and Britannic and Katsu does what she does best from page one: uses history to infuse life, color, and delicious fear into her incredible stories. I never know how she is going to twist a story or tease out its secrets, but the way she writes about these historical moments always surprises and delights me.
This book is also told in two parallel storylines, and in this case I enjoyed that a lot. Watching and waiting for things to happen in one story, only to know that they were going to rear their ugly head again years later in the other, created a sense of tension that I think a lot of writers yearn for. The Deep isn’t “scary,” per se, but what Katsu does here is to create a cold, foggy, unsettling atmosphere that both the characters and the reader must traverse with only faith to guide them.
Another thing that I always appreciate about Alma Katsu is that, despite writing in time periods where diversity was even more of a challenge than now, she manages to make room for it in her novels all the same. Whether its diversity of color, class, or faith, Katsu’s characters range between them and I appreciate the spectrum of views that are provided in her stories. I like reading a historical piece that doesn’t ignore that humanity is not a monolith. She does this so well and I think it bears special mention, because that can’t be easy.
The Deep is a great read and I highly recommend it to all of you. It was an eerie, slow-burn of a novel, and also a fascinating and creative new take on a story that we’ve all heard before. I will continue to check out Katsu’s work as she writes more, and I recommend you keep an eye on her too. Her work is only getting better.
“A ship so massive, and here we are, trapped on it, nowhere to run.” She shivered “One is always trapped within oneself though.”
”I know firsthand how easy it is for this kind of thing to happen in a confined space with few distractions. Someone gives voice to a concern and before long, it’s on everyone’s lips. Paranoia is itself a kind of contagion.”
“But these are no guests, only survivors, each with a story tucked inside their bandages—wounds, pains, visions of shrapnel, explosions, and terrors she can’t fathom.”
“For all that was said about the Titanic, how superior it was, how well designed, how glorious and noble – as though it were a person, with a person’s traits – it would do nothing to save them. The Titanic was indifferent to the humans crawling on its decks and would willingly sacrifice them to the sea.”
Alma Katsu is the author of The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist. The Hunger made NPR’s list of the 100 Best Horror Stories, was named one of the best novels of 2018 by the Observer, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (and more), and was nominated for a Stoker and Locus Award for best horror novel.
The Taker, her debut novel, has been compared to the early works of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining historical, the supernatural, and fantasy into one story. The Taker was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by Booklist, was nominated for a Goodreads Readers Choice award, and has been published in over 10 languages. It is the first in an award-winning trilogy that includes The Reckoning and The Descent.
Ms. Katsu lives outside of Washington DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. In addition to her novels, she has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and a contributor to the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Program and Brandeis University, where she studied with novelist John Irving. She also is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
Prior to publication of her first novel, Ms. Katsu had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies. Additional information can be found on Wikipedia and in this interview with Ozy.com.
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See you all soon! x