Tom Piccirilli

Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital; Crossroad Press / 363 pages / Digital edition (September 24, 2011)


Fans of Tom Piccirilli’s Self stories have waited a long time for a novel about their favourite necromancer and his wise-cracking, remorseless familiar. In answer to that demand, A Lower Deep will not fail to delight and disgust his most ardent admirers. The Necromancer and Self are back, and back with a literal vengeance. This is going to be an encounter that may leave none of the bizarre cast of characters alive. Or, as alive as they were at the beginning of the book.

Ten years after the devastating destruction of his old coven, the man known only as Necromancer finds himself being drawn back to the site of the disaster by the corrupt, insane leader responsible for so many deaths. Among those deaths was the Necromancer’s only love, whose resurrection is the bait being used to lure him back for another ill-advised try.

Necromancer and Self (without doubt, the most endearing and exasperating demon ever envisioned) would choose to continue their aimless wanderings and the occasional redeeming act to finish out their miserable days. That isn’t going to happen. The will of the new coven, the strength of biblical and satanic prophecy, and the intervention of demented servants of greater powers, have made certain that they will be drawn back into the leader’s demented bid for power.

Piccirilli has an amazing gift for working exhaustive research seamlessly into a compelling narrative, without losing a particle of momentum. This is not a simple tale, but one rich in detail and texture. This is not a throw-away read; for the fullest enjoyment, read A Lower Deep in long stretches, to avoid becoming lost in layers of background and projection. Make no mistake; it is well worth the effort, but this is not an “easy read.”

Which reminds me: if you are familiar with Piccirilli’s work, you should be quite aware that his fiction is not wholesome family fare. This is more of the NC-17 stuff — gore, sex, violence, prolonged suffering. It is very dark fantasy, after all, but you’re ready for it.

If his work was only sensationalism, it would not be worth it… in fact, you wouldn’t see it here, but his writing offers so much more. Character studies. Psychological struggles. Examinations on the true nature of good and evil and the blurred line between the two. The effect of actions on the mind. And harsh, honest, fine writing.

Should A Lower Deep hit big, expect an incoherent debate, the likes of which accompanies any work of fiction dealing with touchy religious issues. Not that that would be such a bad thing — a crackling, good book burning is advertising you just can’t pay for, and Piccirilli’s works deserve as much attention as a good boycott would stir up.

Or, we could all just calm down and read A Lower Deep for the challenging piece of fiction that it is…