Review: Dead Underground

BY Sachin Dev IN A, action, Science Fiction, Thriller NO COMMENTS YET

By Jaideep Bhoosreddy.  Alec Mercer # 1. Grade: A

 A futuristic thriller set in 2026 that combines nuclear weapons, the lone secret service agent-turned-rogue as a one-man army against the system? Written by a young Indian author?

Dead Underground

Set in 2026, this adrenaline pumping spy fiction thriller revolves around a spy by the alias Alec Mercer and the world-renowned researcher in particle physics Dr. Élénoré Bassét as they take on the world, dominated by international corporations, corrupt governments and loyal but ignorant soldiers.

They find themselves placed on top of the international terror watch-lists and hunted by every covert actions and intelligence agencies, hot on their trail, either to kill them or to capture them, they escape from the jaws of death, surviving off-the-grid. They soon realize that the recent turn of events which threw them in a lashing torrent, did not happen simply because of bad luck, but was a result of individual dreadful events in their past, which had entwined their fates into that twirling vortex which made them run the gauntlet for their lives’.

The year is 2026. It is both grim and dark. The world is on the verge of destabilization. Our world is no more sustainable. The energy crisis. Immediate profits are destroying any future hope. International tensions arise as the balance of power shifts. And the masterminds of these elaborate schemes are so powerful and influential that none can stop them.

History is repeating itself… question is, will they survive?

Piqued your interest, didn’t it? So Dead Underground is the debut by young Jaideep Bhoosreddy featuring the daredevil Alec Mercer – an indie publication. The book is really a mile-a-minute thriller that paints all the right numbers in terms of being a scorching read.  Vrooming from zero to one-eighty before you hit the end of the first few chapters. You’re hanging onto that seat belt as the narrative flies without a breather – going from a nuclear research laboratory set in the Swiss Alps to the humid crowded streets of Brazil. Alec Mercer is an agent in disguise, the one-man protection detail for a nuclear physicist Ellenor who is harbouring the secrets to solving the energy crisis for the world. When her base laboratory is destroyed by mercenaries on hire by corporate bigwigs in a race to acquire the data files and trade secrets to this energy source, the lovely Ellenor and Mercer are the only ones who escape. Now they are on the run with pretty much all the secret service agents and goons on hire for big corporate honchos hot on their trial. The book follows them in a deadly cat-and-mouse chase. Can the ruthlessly efficient Mercer turn the tables against his adversaries with such high odds stacked up against him?

The allusion to the book being set in 2026 is pretty hurriedly dealt with – a looming energy crisis. Ecological disaster in the making and the whole world scrambling in an arms-up race to get a solution/ready itself. Jaideep uses clever plot devices like BBC Broadcasts and Newspaper clippings as running commentaries to give us background into the energy crisis. A prologue sets up a back history to the entire research aspect as well. Jaideep cranks up the tension lever to high right into the second or third chapter where we encounter the research facility where Ellenor works being infiltrated by highly trained mercenaries to acquire the data files and from here on, the story just takes off on jet-fuel.

The author writes his action sequences pretty well and the plot has its mandatory twists and massive reveals for a thriller. Mercer comes across as an unbelievably efficient lone survivor against the system – a regular menacing badass who can give it back in full measure to the villains.

Coming to minor quibbles that annoyed me: I wasn’t completely convinced about Ellenor’s part – maybe because she sadly doesn’t get much feature time. Maybe this was a conscious decision as the author introducing us to Mercer wanted to give full attention to our hero. Jaideep sacrifices a lot of the plot in favour of pacing. Maybe for a thriller, this was apt but I wasn’t buying into the same. Also being an indie publication, the book suffers from a lot of grammatical errors and could do with some structural edits. A deft editor could do wonders as the plot goes slack in a lot of places and the writing could be a lot tighter. But I would put that down as the initial hiccups of a debut author – Jaideep tends to get carried away by the action, just a little. Not that I didn’t enjoy it. And try as I might – didn’t get around to understand why the story was set in 2026 and was also labelled as sci-fi. Apart from the looming energy crisis of course.

Overall, a commendable effort from a youngster getting into the choppy waters of writing a thriller. Passion and love for the genre shines through. Earnest writing that could definitely benefit from some good editing. Dead Underground gives us a new badass hero to root for and a bright new talent.