Deep Black Sea by David M. Salkin

A team of scientists and sailors plan on living in a 5 story sphere on the bottom of the ocean, at 20,000 feet, next to an underwater volcano, for a year with no way to be contacted by the outside world and where rising to the surface could take days. What could go wrong?

Deep Black Sea
by David M. Salkin
Permuted Press
June 2014

In 2020, a new president is voted in office who believes that instead of focusing on different planets, like Mars, we should focus on the planet we still haven’t fully explored: ours, in the deepest oceans. So he pulls funding from Mars missions and fully funds an ultra-deep water sea lab that is meant to stay under water at over 20,000 feet for a year. He staffs it with the best and brightest from the Navy, NASA, and NOAA. These seven people – a skipper, a ship doctor, a mechanic/ sub specialist, a former top sonar man/ scientist, and three dedicated scientists – were trained and prepared far in advance and selected for their abilities and skills. The problem is that not everyone has the same agenda.

The NASA scientist Ted Bell, upset at being scrapped from the Mars mission determines that this trip is the perfect opportunity for him to do some human experimentation with exposure to a bacteria that lives in the most inhospitable place on the earth, with no oxygen, no food, and a toxic environment like none other – except for deep space. When he purposefully changes the landing site then introduced the dangerous bacteria to a crew member things quickly go downhill.

This book’s set up reminded me quite a bit of many films and books of similar setup: scientists mess with something that maybe they weren’t prepared for leaving the crew in a life or death situation where we know that many if not most won’t make it out alive. Think: the film Deep Blue Sea (1999), Jurassic Park (1990 book, 1993 film), and so on. This is not to say that this is derivative. But this is a tried and true formula to set up character dramas, thrills, and ultimately chills. It can be done really, really poorly or really, really well. Salkin fits firmly into the second category. This is a very taunt, fun read and very well done thriller.

Unlike most horror-thrillers, Salkin’s characters are interesting and their thought process and decision making makes sense and is credible. No “hey, let’s hide in the shed with all the hanging knifes” moments. Characters like Theresa go back and forth between Ted’s view and the other scientist’s views as she struggles between scientific discovery and her abhorrence to Ted’s methods. The main example of over characterizations would be in the relationship between two characters who seem to want to have sex in nearly every scene, and sometimes at both the start and end of scenes, once they start hooking up (no spoilers).

In my opinion, this book is perfectly set up for being made for a movie. It has everything that other survival horror movies has but it’s in a situation that hasn’t been done often or for a while. There have been some movies set at these depths but not many. And the pace of this book is very similar to that of a movie. I read most of it in a single night – not wanting to put it down. Very cinematic.

If you enjoy science driven horror/ thrillers, or survival horror stories this is a very well done book that I believe won’t disappoint.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.