Extracts from reviews of Deep Time:
Anthony Nanson’s ‘Deep Time’ is a real stand out as a piece of modern wilderness writing. It is a speculative novel, but at the same time so rooted in observation and detail, that it is able to create a sense of adventure and mystery right on the edge of human experience. Where fantasy and science fiction can tend towards the escapist, Deep Time brings us back to ourselves, to the land, to the idea of wilderness as something precious that we ought to preserve. It also, by cunning means, encourages us to look at our own time and place with fresh eyes, seeing connections and possibilities we might otherwise have missed. It delivers all of this, and more, in a fast placed action adventure plot that does not let up for some 700 pages … it is possible to have books with pace, action, adventure and speculative elements that are also powerful literary pieces. The quality of writing, the kind of depth that can be woven into a plot, the way in which speculation can reflect the world back more meaningfully than representation can … Anthony Nanson has entirely proved my point, creating an entirely modern novel, with great literary depth and the kind of narrative that would readily adapt into a summer blockbuster movie.
Nimue Brown, Druid Life
It is a really remarkable, thoughtful, well-researched, beautiful book. I felt pulled along as powerfully as the main characters did, always seeking to ‘go deeper’. The biologic/evolutionary descriptions are wonderful, and were remarkable both in setting the scene and to frame the main character's worldview. The author does a fantastic job of hitting upon some very deep themes in subtle ways that emerge over the book: man as ‘modern human’ versus man as homo sapiens (what makes us ‘human’ versus animal?); impact of humans on environment; drive for ‘more’ versus acceptance of place; impact of past impacting future; unity/connection of spirit and flesh; seek for truth; the influence of egoic framing on communication and connection; and more. For me this was a hugely emotional and existential read, but I was coming from a pretty existential place to begin with. It elicited much sadness, desperation, and angst, as well as forced me to acknowledge that deeply human need for connection … You know it's a well-crafted novel if your emotions very much parallel that of the main character throughout the journey. And you know it is superbly crafted if you absorb the characters' drives as your own and no matter what push deeper and deeper.
This is a highly evocative novel that is set against a fantastical but believable backdrop. At times there are hints of Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World and a sense of boys' comics from the '60s and '70s. Yet this novel is very much written in the modern age, and with a greater understanding of the natural world. The novel is also set, as the name suggests, in the geological history of the Earth, and reminds us that it has met near environmental destruction before ... This is a phenomenal work that is well written and readable, whilst reminding the reader that it is penned by someone with a great deal of ecological knowledge.
Helene Hewett, Cotswold Life
In Anthony Nanson's entertaining and memorable new novel, a modern scientific expedition to the jungle of Central Africa finds its way into extraordinary adventures and inter-personal dramas … Dr Merlie is our narrator as the expedition goes into the jungle, and it becomes gradually apparent that Salome is not merely leading them a normal course across unexplored country. They do begin to find species that were thought to be extinct, and gradually it becomes clear that Salome is guiding them somewhere it is not normally possible to go - a science-fiction device that is rather neatly handled: well thought-out but not over-explained … the novel is in some ways a modern story in the spirit of classic jungle adventure stories (King Solomon's Mines, The Lost World, perhaps). In other ways it is a study of the human spirit challenged by new environments and the breakdown of normal society (like The Heart of Darkness, or Lord of the Flies, perhaps). The author clearly has an ecological agenda, but - to my relief - does not allow the book to be derailed into an eco-sermon or eco-rant … It's a long book, but is admirably paced all the way to the unpredictable and cautiously encouraging ending.
This ambitious new novel takes adventure and fantasy in the vein of 'The Lost World', 'Journey To The Centre of The Earth' etc, and brings them bang up to date. The small cast of characters - good, because you really get to know them when they let you - and their quest into an Africa of the deepest kind carry the reader along with an almost breath-taking intensity. The exceptional detail of flora, fauna and topography brings the settings vividly to life … there is a message here about the fragility of life on this planet - its past and its future, but this is a great story to be enjoyed on many levels.
It’s a good story, both old fashioned and up to the minute at the same time, and contains some very good writing … As well as being a good, swash-buckling, tale there is a lot of modern thinking about ecology, conservation and global warming included here - and what we can and can’t do about it … Anthony Nanson is a well known storyteller and the whole plot hinges on local legends and travellers tales. It won’t win the Booker Prize but it hooked me.
Pete Castle, Facts & Fiction
Surrounded by civil war, this is a tale of an expedition into an African rainforest enclave where lost tribes tell vivid tales of possibly extinct creatures. The expedition ‘team’ as such includes among others gun-toting Curtis: exploitative, unpredictable, at times fearsome. He’s an estranged friend of ‘cryptozoologist’ Merlie, the narrator, who dreams of restoring his reputation. Battling his English shyness, Merlie is enchanted by semi-native Salome, who holds the key to tracking the historical depths of the forest. Salome implores Merlie to stop and enjoy the immediate surroundings. At times he does stop, and treats us to breathtaking and exquisitely detailed descriptions of the natural world and events. Little known creatures and fauna begin to appear … The plot never fails to move on: it brings surprises, anticipation, and at times almost tragical mistakes. The novel is thorough and cohesive throughout, right to the end. It is evident that a lifetime of research has gone into Deep Time. To me, it felt deeply real and poignant … For me, this book joins the ranks of some of the largest great novels. Its size may put some off, but for me this was an epic adventure. I am almost through my second read already and thoroughly enjoying the journey again. Be prepared for a long, gripping, nail-biting ride - and there is plenty of spice along the way!
‘Deep Time’ is an excellent book: an adventure story, a romance and a time travelling saga … The story is enlivened by an interesting mix of characters: Some I could root for, some I was annoyed with, and some that I was simply flummoxed by. The narrator tells a fascinating tale, full of danger, both mundane and mysterious, and to my delight the plot took some really unexpected turns. There is a real sense of location, of the places visited, the people and animals encountered. I was swept along the trail the narrator takes, and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Though I was extremely happy I was doing it from the safety of my own kitchen.
Deep Time tells the story of an African expedition led by cryptzoologist Brendan Merlie who is hoping to find some evidence that certain extinct species might still be living deep in the jungle … I think, most of all, what I loved about Deep Time was its characters … All of them were very different, all of them had their own motivations, beliefs and ideologies, all of them had their flaws, all of them had their qualities and all were very believable … The sex and violence really complemented the story because, in a way, Deep Time provides a critique of human nature, and are not sex and violence large parts of human nature? Something else I really appreciated was that there was a lot of nudity in it, but that there was a strong emphasis on nudity as a non-sexual thing … Deep Time is a fantastic sci-fi adventure novel, wrapped in lots of scientific language which helps makes the unbelievable believable, while also telling a deeply emotional story … It's definitely worth a read and I hope it will be remembered for years to come and that Brendan and Salome will enter the pantheon of great literary characters.
Adam Randall, Trusty Water
From all the books that I've read this year, Deep Time remained with me the most after I've finished it. It is extremely rare for a book to make me feel now as I've felt when I was reading as a child. Deep Time has all the qualities of A Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle or The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but none of its problems related to race or the treatment of women. Deep time took me on a incredible journey through the heart and soul of time, of nature and of the human being. I'm certain I will not read a more powerful book this year. My mind was blown away [by] it.
Tudor Ciocharlie, Amazon
This book transports one into an utterly different realm, a time shift set within modern time, rendered believable by Anthony Nanson, with scholarly precision and narrative intrigue … he succeeds in keeping the reader enthralled in this quest to the very end of 699 pages. Hawthorn Press trusted this book to deliver on its own terms, allowing Nanson to develop his plot and let it run its very long course, through aeons of time and into and out of many episodes as a small group of mismatched people attempt a challenging journey in a secret, lost heart of Africa where they encounter more than they were prepared for, both physically and mentally. The personalities have different priorities and the group tensions inform a large part of the narrative's tight hold on one's interest … Nanson's fascination with anthropology, botany, ecology, geography, geology, and our evolutionary ancestry accounts for the detail that is often thrown in peripherally but is patently a result of long study. There is romance too, and beauty in many lyrical passages … This is an inspiring read from an accomplished writer.
excellent book, a bit overlong but worth the time … and it kept me absorbed till the end … very powerful first person narrative, panoramic trip through the zoological history of Earth (including dinosaurs, but much more), excellent characters … language that's more explicit on occasion than in sff but comparable with current mainstream fiction … overall, excellent stuff and highly recommended and a top 10 novel of 2015 as well as a top 10 read for 2016
‘I was lost in the heart of the forest. It’s a long story.’ So Dr Brendan Merlie, time-torn zoologist, summarizes somewhat euphemistically the epic journey into the heart of Africa and the origins of life described by this 700 page novel … a sense of orality informs the prose, giving it often a toothsome suppleness, most palpably in the action sequences, which are vivid and visceral … Within these pages there is a profound, life-affirming humanity and a deep sensuality - not only the exotic but the natural is eroticised. Nanson channels elements of DH Lawrence in his protracted descriptions of the physical - an ‘earthiness’ in both senses - and he captures the crackle of sexual current between the sexes well … Deep Time is a paean to Creation and to whatever sung it into being (the nature of which the author wisely leaves to the reader to decide). Its huge ambition is admirable, and it should be regarded as an important work of eco-literature from a masterful storyteller, a novelist I hope to see more from - a voice in the wilderness, but a vital one nevertheless.
Kevan Manwaring, Storylines