The Descent by Jeff LongThe Descent by Jeff Long

The Descent

byJeff Long

Mass Market Paperback | November 1, 2001

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We are not alone…In a cave in the Himalayas, a guide discovers a self-mutilated body with the warning--Satan exists. In the Kalahari Desert, a nun unearths evidence of a proto-human species and a deity called Older-than-Old. In Bosnia, something has been feeding upon the dead in a mass grave. So begins mankind’s most shocking realization: that the underworld is a vast geological labyrinth populated by another race of beings. Some call them devils or demons. But they are real. They are down there. And they are waiting for us to find them…
Jeff Long is a veteran climber and traveler in the Himalayas. He has worked as a journalist and an elections supervisor for Bosnia’s first democratic election. The Descent is his fourth novel. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.
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Title:The DescentFormat:Mass Market PaperbackPublished:November 1, 2001Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:051513175X

ISBN - 13:9780515131758

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Keeps you Reading for Hours WOW!!! This book captures the reader right from the start. I spent hours reading this book and the time just flew by! Highly Recommend, can't wait to read other books by him.
Date published: 2008-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! This book is addictive! I read it once a few years ago & wanted to read it again but couldn't remember who wrote it or what it was called, so I had to search through Chapters online entire Horror section to find it again. I bought another copy and I hardly put it down until it was finished. It is a fictional account of "hell" and the entire subsytem that exists belowground, closer to the earths core. It is believable, haunting and the ending is sudden and swift. I highly recommend it, it's a great read & I really feel they should make a movie of this - the only reason I can't think of why it hasn't been done already is that no screenwriter has actually read it!
Date published: 2007-01-14

Read from the Book

Chapter 1: IkeIt is easy to go down into Hell . . . ; but to climb back again, to retrace one's steps to the upper air-there’s the rub. . . —Virgil, AeneidThe Himalayas,Tibet Autonomous Region1988In the beginning was the word.Or words.Whatever these were.They kept their lights turned off. The exhausted trekkers huddled in thedark cave and faced the peculiar writing. Scrawled with a twig, possibly,dipped in liquid radium or some other radioactive paint, the fluorescentpictographs floated in the black recesses. Ike let them savor thedistraction. None of them seemed quite ready to focus on the storm beatingagainst the mountainside outside.With night descending and the trail erased by snow and wind and their yakherders in mutinous flight with most of the gear and food, Ike was relievedto have shelter of any kind. He was still pretending for them that this waspart of their trip. In fact they were off the map. He'd never heardof this hole-in-the-wall hideout. Nor seen glow-in-the-dark caveman graffiti."Runes," gushed a knowing female voice. "Sacred runes left by a wandering monk."The alien calligraphy glowed with soft violet light in the cave's coldbowels. The luminous hieroglyphics reminded Ike of his old dorm wall withits black-light posters. All he needed was a lash of Hendrix plunderingDylan's anthem, say, and a whiff of plump Hawaiian red sinsemilla. Anythingto vanquish the howl of awful wind. Outside in the cold distance, a wildcatdid growl. . . ."Those are no runes," said a man. "It's Bonpo." A Brooklyn beat, the accentmeant Owen. Ike had nine clients here, only two of them male. They wereeasy to keep straight."Bonpo!" one of the women barked at Owen. The coven seemed to takecollective delight in savaging Owen and Bernard, the other man. Ike hadbeen spared so far. They treated him as a harmless Himalayan hillbilly.Fine with him."But the Bonpo were pre-Buddhist," the woman expounded.The women were mostly Buddhist students from a New Age university. Thesethings mattered very much to them.Their goal was-or had been-Mount Kailash, the pyramidal giant just east ofthe Indian border. "A Canterbury Tale for the World Pilgrim" was how he'dadvertised the trip. A kor-a Tibetan walkabout-to and around the holiestmountain in the world. Eight thousand per head, incense included. Theproblem was, somewhere along the trail he'd managed to misplace themountain. It galled him. They were lost. Beginning at dawn today, the skyhad changed from blue to milky gray. The herders had quietly bolted withthe yaks. He had yet to announce that their tents and food were history.The first sloppy snowflakes had started kissing their Gore-Tex hoods justan hour ago, and Ike had taken this cave for shelter. It was a good call.He was the only one who knew it, but they were now about to get sodomizedby an old-fashioned Himalayan tempest.Ike felt his jacket being tugged to one side, and knew it would be Kora,wanting a private word. "How bad is it?" she whispered. Depending on thehour and day, Kora was his lover, base-camp shotgun, or business associate.Of late, it was a challenge estimating which came first for her, thebusiness of adventure or the adventure of business. Either way, theirlittle trekking company was no longer charming to her.Ike saw no reason to front-load it with negatives. "We've got a greatcave," he said."Gee.""We're still in the black, head-count-wise.""The itinerary's in ruins. We were behind as it was.""We're fine. We'll take it out of the Siddhartha's Birthplace segment." Hekept the worry out of his voice, but for once his sixth sense, or whateverit was, had come up short, and that bothered him. "Besides, getting alittle lost will give them bragging rights.""They don't want bragging rights. They want schedule. You don't know thesepeople. They're not your friends. We'll get sued if they don't make theirThai Air flight on the nineteenth.""These are the mountains," said Ike. "They'll understand." People forgot.Up here, it was a mistake to take even your next breath for granted."No, Ike. They won't understand. They have real jobs. Real obligations.Families." That was the rub. Again. Kora wanted more from life. She wantedmore from her pathless Pathfinder."I'm doing the best I can," Ike said.Outside, the storm went on horsewhipping the cave mouth. Barely May, itwasn't supposed to be this way. There should have been plenty of time toget his bunch to, around, and back from Kailash. The bane of mountaineers,the monsoon normally didn't spill across the mountains this far north. Butas a former Everester himself, Ike should have known better than to believein rain shadows or in schedules. Or in luck. They were in for it this time.The snow would seal their pass shut until late August. That meant he wasgoing to have to buy space on a Chinese truck and shuttle them home viaLhasa—and that came out of his land costs. He tried calculating in hishead, but their quarrel overcame him."You do know what I mean by Bonpo," a woman said. Nineteen days into thetrip, and Ike still couldn't link their spirit nicknames with the names intheir passports. One woman, was it Ethel or Winifred, now preferred GreenTara, mother deity of Tibet. A pert Doris Day look-alike swore she wasspecial friends with the Dalai Lama. For weeks now Ike had been listeningto them celebrate the life of cavewomen. Well, he thought, here's yourcave, ladies. Slum away.They were sure his name—Dwight David Crockett—was an invention like theirown. Nothing could convince them he wasn't one of them, a dabbler in pastlives. One evening around a campfire in northern Nepal, he'd regaled themwith tales of Andrew Jackson, pirates on the Mississippi, and his ownlegendary death at the Alamo. He'd meant it as a joke, but only Kora gotit."You should know perfectly well," the woman went on, "there was no writtenlanguage in Tibet before the late fifth century.""No written language that we know about," Owen said."Next you'll be saying this is Yeti language."It had been like this for days. You'd think they'd run out of air. But thehigher they went, the more they argued."This is what we get for pandering to civilians," Kora muttered to Ike.Civilians was her catch-all: eco-tourists, pantheist charlatans, trustfunders, the overeducated. She was a street girl at heart."They're not so bad," he said. "They're just looking for a way into Oz,same as us.""Civilians."Ike sighed. At times like this, he questioned his self-imposed exile.Living apart from the world was not easy. There was a price to be paid forchoosing the less-traveled road. Little things, bigger ones. He was no longer that rosy-cheeked ladwho had come with the Peace Corps. He still had the cheekbones and cowledbrow and careless mane. But a dermatologist on one of his treks had advisedhim to stay out of the high-altitude sun before his face turned to bootleather. Ike had never considered himself God's gift to women, but he sawno reason to trash what looks he still had. He'd lost two of his backmolars to Nepal's dearth of dentists, and another tooth to a falling rockon the backside of Everest. And not so long ago, in his Johnnie WalkerBlack and Camels days, he'd taken to serious self-abuse, even flirting withthe lethal west face of Makalu. He'd quit the smoke and booze cold whensome British nurse told him his voice sounded like a Rudyard Kiplingpunchline. Makalu still needed slaying, of course. Though many mornings heeven wondered about that.Exile went deeper than the cosmetics or even prime health, of course.Self-doubt came with the territory, a wondering about what might have been,had he stayed the course back in Jackson. Rig work. Stone masonry. Maybemountain guiding in the Tetons, or outfitting for hunters. No telling. He'dspent the last eight years in Nepal and Tibet watching himself slowlydevolve from the Golden Boy of the Himalayas into one more forgottensurrogate of the American empire. He'd grown old inside. Even now therewere days when Ike felt eighty. Next week was his thirty-first birthday."Would you look at this?" rose a cry. "What kind of mandala is that? The lines are all twisty."Ike looked at the circle. It was hanging on the wall like a luminous moon.Mandalas were meditation aids, blueprints for divinity's palaces. Normallythey consisted of circles within circles containing squared lines. Byvisualizing it just so, a 3-D architecture was supposed to appear above themandala's flat surface. This one, though, looked like scrambled snakes.Ike turned on his light. End of mystery, he congratulated himself.ven he was stunned by the sight."My God," said Kora.Where, a moment before, the fluorescent words had hung in magical suspense,a nude corpse stood rigidly propped upon a stone shelf along the back wall.The words weren't written on stone. They were written on him. The mandalawas separate, painted on the wall to his right side.A set of rocks formed a crude stairway up to his stage, and variouspassersby had attached katas—long white prayer scarves—to cracks in thestone ceiling. The katas sucked back and forth in the draft like gentlydisturbed ghosts.The man's grimace was slightly bucktoothed from mummification, and his eyeswere calcified to chalky blue marbles. Otherwise the extreme cold and highaltitude had left him perfectly preserved. Under the harsh beam of Ike'sheadlamp, the lettering was faint and red upon his emaciated limbs andbelly and chest.That he was a traveler was self-evident. In these regions, everyone was apilgrim or a nomad or a salt trader or a refugee. But, judging from hisscars and unhealed wounds and a metal collar around his neck and a warped,badly mended broken left arm, this particular Marco Polo had endured ajourney beyond imagination. If flesh is memory, his body cried out a wholehistory of abuse and enslavement.They stood beneath the shelf and goggled at the suffering. Three of thewomen—and Owen—began weeping. Ike alone approached. Probing here and therewith his light beam, he reached out to touch one shin with his ice ax: hardas fossil wood.Of all the obvious insults, the one that stood out most was his partialcastration. One of the man's testicles had been yanked away, not cut, noteven bitten—the edges of the tear were too ragged—and the wound had beencauterized with fire. The burn scars radiated out from his groin in ahairless keloid starburst. Ike couldn't get over the raw scorn of it. Man'stenderest part, mutilated, then doctored with a torch."Look," someone whimpered. "What did they do to his nose?"Midcenter on the battered face was a ring unlike anything he'd ever seenbefore. This was no silvery Gen-X body piercing. The ring, three inchesacross and crusted with blood, was plugged deep in his septum, almost upinto the skull. It hung to his bottom lip, as black as his beard. It was,thought Ike, utilitarian, large enough to control cattle.Then he got a little closer and his repulsion altered. The ring was brutal.Blood and smoke and filth had coated it almost black, but Ike could plainlysee the dull gleam of solid gold.Ike turned to his people and saw nine pairs of frightened eyes beseechinghim from beneath hoods and visors. Everyone had their lights on now. No onewas arguing."Why?" wept one of the women.A couple of the Buddhists had reverted to Christianity and were on theirknees, crossing themselves. Owen was rocking from side to side, murmuringKaddish.Kora came close. "You beautiful bastard." She giggled. Ike started. She wastalking to the corpse."What did you say?""We're off the hook. They're not going to hit us up for refunds after all.We don't have to provide their holy mountain anymore. They've got somethingbetter.""Let up, Kora. Give them some credit. They're not ghouls.""No? Look around, Ike."Sure enough, cameras were stealing into view in ones and twos. There was aflash, then another. Their shock gave way to tabloid voyeurism.In no time the entire cast was blazing away with eight-hundred-dollarpoint-and-shoots. Motor drives made an insect hum. The lifeless fleshflared in their artificial lightning. Ike moved out of frame, and welcomedthe corpse like a savior. It was unbelievable. Famished, cold, and lost,they couldn't have been happier.One of the women had climbed the stepping-stones andwas kneeling to one side of the nude, her head tilted sideways.She looked down at them. "But he's one of us," she said."What's that supposed to mean?""Us. You and me. A white man."Someone else framed it in less vulgar terms. "A Caucasian male?""That's crazy," someone objected. "Here? In the middle of nowhere?"Ike knew she was right. The white flesh, the hair on its forearms andchest, the blue eyes, the cheekbones so obviously non-Mongoloid. But thewoman wasn't pointing to his hairy arms or blue eyes or slender cheekbones.She was pointing at the hieroglyphics painted on his thigh. Ike aimed hislight at the other thigh. And froze.The text was in English. Modern English. Only upside down.It came to him. The body hadn't been written upon after death. The man hadwritten upon himself in life. He'd used his own body as a blank page.Upside down. He'd inscribed his journal notes on the only parchmentguaranteed to travel with him. Now Ike saw how the lettering wasn't justpainted on, but crudely tattooed.Wherever he could reach, the man had jotted bits of testimony. Abrasionsand filth obscured some of the writing, particularly below the knees andaround his ankles. The rest of it could easily have been dismissed asrandom and lunatic. Numbers mixed with words and phrases, especially on theouter edges of each thigh, where he'd apparently decided there was extraroom for new entries. The clearest passage lay across his lower stomach." 'All the world will be in love with night,' " Ike read aloud, " 'and payno worship to the garish sun.' ""Gibberish," snapped Owen, badly spooked."Bible talk," Ike sympathized."No, it's not," piped up Kora. "That's not from the Bible. It's Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet."Ike felt the group's repugnance. Indeed, why would this tortured creature choose for his obituary the most famous love story ever written? A story about opposing clans. A tale of love transcending violence. The poor stiff had been out of his gourd on thin air andsolitude. It was no coincidence that in the highest monasteries on earth,men endlessly obsessed about delusion. Hallucinations were a given up here.Even the Dalai Lama joked about it."And so," Ike said, "he's white. He knew his Shakespeare. That makes him noolder than two or three hundred years."It was becoming a parlor game. Their fear was shifting to morbid delight.Forensics as recreation."Who is this guy?" one woman asked."A slave?""An escaped prisoner?"Ike said nothing. He went nose-to-nose with the gaunt face, hunting forclues. Tell your journey, he thought. Speak your escape. Who shackled youwith gold? Nothing. The marble eyes ignored their curiosity. The grimaceenjoyed its voiceless riddles.Owen had joined them on the shelf, reading from the opposite shoulder. "RAF."Sure enough, the left deltoid bore a tattoo with the letters RAF beneath aneagle. It was right side up and of commercial quality. Ike grasped the coldarm."Royal Air Force," he translated.The puzzle assembled. It even half-explained the Shakespeare, if not thechosen lines."He was a pilot?" asked the Paris bob. She seemed charmed."Pilot. Navigator. Bombardier." Ike shrugged. "Who knows?"Like a cryptographer, he bent to inspect the words and numbers twining theflesh. Line after line, he traced each clue to its dead end. Here and therehe punctuated complete thoughts with a jab of his fingertip. The trekkersbacked away, letting him work through the cyphers. He seemed to know whathe was doing.Ike circled back and tried a string in reverse. It made sense this time.Yet it made no sense. He got out his topographical map of the Himalayanchain and found the longitude and latitude, but snorted at their nexus. Noway, he thought, and lifted his gaze across the wreckage of a human body.He looked back at the map. Could it be?"Have some." The smell of French-pressed gourmet coffee made him blink. Aplastic mug slid into view. Ike glanced up. Kora's blue eyes wereforgiving. That warmed him more than the coffee. He took the cup withmurmured thanks and realized he had a terrific headache. Hours had passed.Shadows lay pooled in the deeper cave like wet sewage.Ike saw a small group squatting Neanderthal-style around a small Bluet gasstove, melting snow and brewing joe. The clearest proof of their miraclewas that Owen had broken down and was actually sharing his private stock ofcoffee. There was one hand-grinding the beans in a plastic machine, anothersqueezing the filter press, yet another grating a bit of cinnamon on top ofeach cupful. They were actually cooperating. For the first time in a month,Ike almost liked them."You okay?" Kora asked."Me?" It sounded strange, someone asking after his well-being. Especially her.As if he needed any more to ponder, Ike suspected Kora was going to leavehim. Before setting off from Kathmandu, she'd announced this was her finaltrek for the company. And since Himalayan High Journeys was nothing morethan her and him, it implied a larger dissatisfaction. He would have mindedless if her reason was another man, another country, better profits, orhigher risks. But her reason was him. Ike had broken her heart because hewas Ike, full of dreams and childlike naÔvetÈ. A drifter on life's stream.What had attracted her to him in the first place now disturbed her, hislone wolf/high mountains way. She thought he knew nothing about the waypeople really worked, like this notion of a lawsuit, and maybe there was some truth to that. He'd been hoping the trek would somehowbridge their gap, that it would draw her back to the magic that drew him.Over the past two years she'd grown weary, though. Storms and bankruptcy nolonger spelled magic for her."I've been studying this mandala," she said, indicating the painted circlefilled with squirming lines. In the darkness, its colors had been brilliantand alive. In their light, the drawing was bland. "I've seen hundreds ofmandalas, but I can't make heads or tails out of this one. It looks likechaos, all those lines and squiggles. It does seem to have a center,though." She glanced up at the mummy, then at Ike's notes. "How about you?Getting anywhere?"He'd drawn the oddest sketch, pinning words and text in cartoon balloons todifferent positions on the body and linking them with a mess of arrows andlines.Ike sipped at the coffee. Where to begin? The flesh declared a maze, bothin the way it told the story and in the story it told. The man had writtenhis evidence as it occurred to him, apparently, adding and revising andcontradicting himself, wandering with his truths. He was like a shipwreckeddiarist who had suddenly found a pen and couldn't quit filling in olddetails."First of all," he began, "his name was Isaac.""Isaac?" asked Darlene from the assembly line of coffee makers. They hadstopped what they were doing to listen to him.Ike ran his finger from nipple to nipple. The declaration was clear.Partially clear. I am Isaac, it said, followed by In my exile / In my agonyof Light."See these numbers?" said Ike. "I figure this must be a serial number. And10/03/23 could be his birthday, right?""Nineteen twenty-three?" someone asked. Their disappointment verged onchildlike. Seventy-five years old evidently didn't qualify as a genuineantique."Sorry," he said, then continued. "See this other date here?" He brushedaside what remained of the pubic patch. "4/7/44. The day of his shoot-down,I'm guessing.""Shoot-down?""Or crash."They were bewildered. He started over, this time telling them the story hewas piecing together. "Look at him. Once upon a time, he was a kid.Twenty-one years old. World War II was on. He signed up or got drafted.That's the RAF tattoo. They sent him to India. His job was to fly theHump.""Hump?" someone echoed. It was Bernard. He was furiously tapping the newsinto his laptop."That's what pilots called it when they flew supplies to bases in Tibet andChina," Ike said. "The Himalayan chain. Back then, this whole region waspart of an Oriental Western Front. It was a rough go. Every now and then aplane went down. The crews rarely survived.""A fallen angel," sighed Owen. He wasn't alone. They were all becominginfatuated."I don't see how you've drawn all that from a couple of strands ofnumbers," said Bernard. He aimed his pencil at Ike's latter set of numbers."You call that the date of his shoot-down. Why not the date of hismarriage, or his graduation from Oxford, or the date he lost his virginity?What I mean is, this guy's no kid. He looks forty. If you ask me, hewandered away from some scientific or mountain-climbing expedition withinthe last couple years. He sure as snow didn't die in 1944 at the age oftwenty-one.""I agree," Ike said, and Bernard looked instantly deflated. "He refers to aperiod of captivity. A long stretch. Darkness. Starvation. Hard labor." Thesacred deep."A prisoner of war. Of the Japanese?""I don't know about that," Ike said."Chinese Communists, maybe?""Russians?" someone else tried."Nazis?""Drug lords?""Tibetan bandits!"The guesses weren't so wild. Tibet had long been a chessboard for the GreatGame."We saw you checking the map. You were looking for something.""Origins," Ike said. "A starting point.""And?"With both hands, Ike smoothed down the thigh hair and exposed another setof numbers. "These are map coordinates.""For where he got shot down. It makes perfect sense." Bernard was with him now."You mean his airplane might be somewhere close?"Mount Kailash was forgotten. The prospect of a crash site thrilled them."Not exactly," Ike said."Spit it out, man. Where did he go down?"Here's where it got a little fantastic. Mildly, Ike said, "East of here.""How far east?""Just above Burma.""Burma!" Bernard and Cleopatra registered the incredibility. The rest satmute, perplexed within their own ignorance."On the north side of the range," said Ike, "slightly inside Tibet.""But that's over a thousand miles away.""I know."It was well past midnight. Between their cafe lattes and adrenaline, sleepwas unlikely for hours to come. They sat erect or stood in the cave whilethe enormity of this character's journey sank in."How did he get here?""I don't know.""I thought you said he was a prisoner."Ike exhaled cautiously. "Something like that.""Something?""Well." He cleared his throat softly. "More like a pet.""What!""I don't know. It's a phrase he uses, right here: 'favored cosset.' That'sa pet calf or something, isn't it?""Ah, get out, Ike. If you don't know, don't make it up."He hunched. It sounded like crazed drivel to him, too."Actually it's a French term," a voice interjected. It was Cleo, thelibrarian. "Cosset means lamb, not calf. Ike's right, though. It does referto a pet. One that is fondled and enjoyed.""Lamb?" someone objected, as if Cleo-or the dead man, or both-wereinsulting their pooled intelligence."Yes," Cleo answered, "lamb. But that bothers me less than the other word,'favored.' That's a pretty provocative term, don't you think?"By the group's silence, they clearly had not thought about it."This?" she asked them, and almost touched the body with her fingers. "Thisis favored? Favored over what others? And above all, favored by whom? In mymind, anyway, it suggests some sort of master.""You're inventing," a woman said. They didn't want it to be true."I wish I were," said Cleo. "But there is this, too."Ike had to squint at the faint lettering where she was pointing. Corvée, itsaid."What's that?""More of the same," she answered. "Subjugation. Maybe he was a prisoner ofthe Japanese. It sounds like The Bridge on the River Kwai or something.""Except I never heard of the Japanese putting nose rings in theirprisoners," Ike said."The history of domination is complex.""But nose rings?""All kinds of unspeakable things have been done."Ike made it more emphatic. "Gold nose rings?""Gold?" She blinked as he played his light on the dull gleam."You said it yourself. A favored lamb. And you asked the question, Who favored this lamb?""You know?""Put it this way. He thought he did. See this?" Ike pushed at one ice-cold leg. It was a single word almost hidden on the lef quadricep."Satan," she lip-read to herself."There's more," he said, and gently rotated the skin.Exists, it said."This is part of it, too." He showed her. It was assembled on the fleshlike a prayer or a poem. Bone of my bones / flesh of my flesh. "FromGenesis, right? The Garden of Eden."He could sense Kora struggling to orchestrate some sort of rebuttal. "Hewas a prisoner," she tried. "He was writing about evil. In general. It'snothing. He hated his captors. He called them Satan. The worst name heknew.""You're doing what I did," Ike said. "You're fighting the evidence.""I don't think so.""What happened to him was evil. But he didn't hate it.""Of course he did.""And yet there's something here," Ike said."I'm not so sure," Kora said."It's in between the words. A tone. Don't you feel it?"Kora did—her frown was clear—but she refused to admit it. Her warinessseemed more than academic."There are no warnings here," Ike said. "No 'Beware.' No 'Keep Out.' ""What's your point.""Doesn't it bother you that he quotes Romeo and Juliet? And talks aboutSatan the way Adam talked about Eve?"Kora winced."He didn't mind the slavery.""How can you say that?" she whispered."Kora." She looked at him. A tear was starting in one eye. "He wasgrateful. It was written all over his body."She shook her head in denial."You know it's true.""No, I don't know what you're talking about.""Yes, you do," Ike said. "He was in love."—Reprinted from The Descent by Jeff Long by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999, Jeff Long. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Editorial Reviews

“An imaginative tour de force...equal parts Ray Bradbury and Robert Stone, Michael Crichton and T.C. Boyle. It is a rip-roaring good read. Jeff Long has written a remarkable novel...that somehow succeeds both as a sober-minded allegory and a nail-biting thriller.” —Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air “Would give Stephen King and Dean Koontz the night sweats. A flat-out, gears-grinding, bumper-car ride into the pits of hell. Jeff Long has delivered what is bound to be this summer’s really hot read.” —Lorenzo Carcaterra, author of Sleepers and Apaches“The Descent is simply the best horror novel since Ghost Story, and, on pure literary merit, it could even be called a masterpiece.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram“A return to the fantastic epics readers associate with H.G. Wells or Jules Verne…[A] high-spirited tale of good versus evil, faith versus reason, and the power of the human heart to overcome even the darkest obstacles.” —Chicago Tribune“As frightening and exhilarating as anything in heaven or hell...[and] impossible to set down. Part thriller, part horror story and part mystery...an all-engulfing reading experience.” —Denver Rocky Mountain News“Perfect...right out of the stephen king mold, with a touch of Dante’s Inferno.” —Denver Post“Deeply piercing terror. A sweeping, dark epic.Entertains the senses and challenges the mind [with] new levels of visual wonder.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel“Horrific...takes the reader into a Dantesque world,a journey to the center of the earth for the new millennium…Long deftly blends science, myth, and a superb imagination to provide an entrancingly dark novel...a novel for the thinking reader—bright and scintillating, illuminating the darkness it so smartly depicts.” —Baltimore Sun“A dizzying synthesis of supernatural horror, lost-race fantasy and military SF...Like the subterranean trail blazed by its adventurers, the narrative twists, turns, dead-ends and backtracks. Brims with energy, ideas and excitement.” —Publishers Weekly