Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: 'The Depths' by Kirk Kjeldsen

‘Who were you? And how could I have been so blind?’

Kirk Kjeldsen simply has it! Having worked through the hoops of preparation - an MFA from USC and serving as an assistant professor of cinematic arts at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts - Kirk lived in Shanghai, taught at Fudan University in Shanghai, the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin, and the Polish National Film School in Łódź. He adapted the poetry of Yarjei Vesaas into a feature film, and has a résumé that reads like an actor's tryout for heavy movie roles. His previous novel LAND OF HIDDEN FIRES was listed as one of the ten best books of 2017 by the New Jersey Star-Ledger. He now lives Essen, Germany with his family.

But to have all that background and then come to the literary table with a third novel THE DEPTHS (his other novels being TOMORROW CITY and LAND OF HIDDEN FIRES) he has become well established as a novelist of the first rank. His use of language is so appropriate and filtered free of extraneous clutter that the reader soon understands that to lose attention for a moment on a page will be like falling off a cliff!

Kirk’s poetic fluid style deserves an example for those new to his gifts: ‘The fog appeared after they passed over Mount Kinabalu. At first, it looked like a tuft of dirty cotton. Then it looked like a spreading ink stain. Before long, it filled the horizon. It rolled over them like a slow, gray wave, swallowing them whole.’ Eloquent writing, conjuring the atmosphere for his new book.

In this novel Kirk covers the experiences of a strained expat couple that gets taken hostage while vacationing in Malaysia. As Kurt summarizes the plot, we read ‘After trailing spouse Marah Lenaerts suffers her third miscarriage in as many years, her husband Eden surprises her with a vacation to Malaysia, hoping it will lift her spirits. And it does, as they enjoy trading the bustle of their Shanghai life behind for the idyllic tropical paradise. But while on a diving excursion, they're taken hostage by a group of terrorists, who take them to a remote island and hold them there for ransom. The longer that time drags on, though, the more doubts Marah begins to have about their captors' true motivations.’ 

Kirk’s ability to use this richly colorful atmosphere to brew a tale of terror and mystery is equal to the finest authors. He steadily climbs toward the top of the list of important contemporary writers. Highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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