Astrid Scholte’s sophomore novel, The Vanishing Deep, dives into the deepest depths of sisterly love and explores the moral question of what would it mean if you could bring someone back from the dead… for a price.
Everything about this story thrilled me; the world, the characters, the ideas, they were like a breath of fresh air for my weary soul.
This sci-fi, dystopian thriller gushes with originality, with the setting taking place in a future earth where “Great Waves” have covered the planet in water. The only pieces of land left are floating, man-made, metal “Reefs” and the tops of mountains. The remnants of the “Old World” are now dives sites, where treasure hunters dive down into the depths, looking for anything of value in the sunken cities.
The story follows seventeen year-old Tempest, aka “Tempe,” a grief hardened, treasure diver, who is desperately trying to resurrect her recently deceased sister, Elysea. Thanks to the incredible technology at the highly secretive, science lab Palindromena, the dead are able to be resurrected for only 24 hours for a large fee. But Tempe does not want to merely tell her sister goodbye, she wants one to ask one question—Why did Elysea kill their parents?
After successfully being revived at Palindromena, Elysea declares her innocence and convinces Tempe to break her out of the facility to discover the truth about their parents’ murder. For the next 24 hours, Tempe and Elysea race against the clock till Elysea impending, second death, in a desperate search for answers, with Palindromena and the true cost of the revival process hot on their heels.
As someone who is in the process of getting their scuba diving certification, I fell in love with the world immediately. I could feel the salt stinging my skin. I could perfectly envision Tempe as she explored the sunken cities with the bioluminescent coral. I could taste the citrus laced ceviche at the market on Equinox. This world is deadly, cold, and bleak, yet seductive and mesmerizing in its beauty.
The characters of Tempe, Elysea, and Lor also felt realistic. Tempe is angry, unsmiling, and rightfully so. This girl has lost everything. Yet, Scholte is able to make the reader truly feel for her and want to be on her side. Elysea is truly a sweetheart, and her interaction with Tempe felt believable. Scholte managed to balance Elysea’s soft, ethereal nature with a deep melancholy and personal darkness, that I rarely see done well with the more “gentle, sugary sweet” kind of characters. Lor is perhaps the weakest of the main three in regard to character, but his portrayal of survivor’s guilt also felt realistic. I appreciated that while he was attracted to Tempe, their “romance” was not a main focus in the slightest, since both Lor and Tempe had other higher priorities to deal with. This story is not a story of romantic love, but of familial love.
Lastly, while I could see the plot twists from a mile away, the moral questions Palindromena’s revival process presents are worth thinking about. I will not reveal what the questions are for the sake of remaining spoiler-free, but I know these questions will be ones I ponder for quite some time.
So, if you are a fan of water-soaked, dystopian worlds, philosophical questions about value of life, or stories centered on sister relationships, The Vanishing Deep is an adventure you will want to dive into and soak in.