At the tipping point between horror and adventure, Beneath the Rising ultimately falls on the side of adventure, and if that’s a major consideration for choosing your fiction, its best you know in advance. The style here is overtly Lovecraftian, but there isn’t the weird or the hopelessness to match those emblematic horrors. There is darkness, certainly, and immense, cosmic threat waiting to engulf us all, but if you’ve ever hidden behind the sofa at an episode of Doctor Who, that’ll tell you the kind of fear to expect. That’s not to disparage this story, because if there is a spirit of Doctor Who to this book, it is Who at its very finest, and richer still than that.
Nick is the classic companion: earnest, somewhat in awe, somewhat in love, but all too aware of how far above him the superhumanly gifted Joanna( “Johnny”) is. She’s this incomprehensibly gifted child prodigy, who invents the future and shapes the world, but now she’s invented a tech that threatens to end it by allowing a terrible evil in from the beyond.
If you are a fan of Who, it’s possibly because of the appeal of a seemingly godlike hero, powered—essentially—by a desire to do good, but at the same time utterly reckless and seriously damaged. Johnny occupies that same character space, but here the damage proves more deep rooted. And, like the best Who, when the companions are able to steal the show, that’s when the truly epic stories appear. Premee Mohamed has harnessed this focus, letting Nick tell and, in a way, direct the story, rising above the part of sidekick to a space more like that of Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby: dictating the temperament of the moment and seeing the big pictures that Johnny can’t. It’s the interaction between these two characters that makes this book great; the friendship is rich, and authentic, and flawed, and the voices are attractive and engaging.
The protagonist is thinner, and there’s more of a sense of thriller plotting to the race to undo Johnny’s mistakes than horror. But once you buy into the adventure stakes, the chase is good. It’s too short, and runs at its resolution like a train, but the ride is thrilling. And threatening. It won’t terrify, but I’m not sure Mohamed really tried to do so. More important is that you’ll care about these two—and you need to in a book so sparsely populated with characters—and any threat to what you care for is a genuine one.
This ARC was provided by the publisher is return for an honest review.