Review: We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep by Andrew Kelly Stewart
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor.com (March 9, 2021)
Length: 160 pages
Deep beneath the sea, the last surviving nuclear submarine Leviathan carries a crew made up of a fundamentalist order of monks who believe they hold the power to bringing about the Second Coming, to be unleashed when the time is right. Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep follows Remy, our protagonist who was rescued from the surface and raised to be a Cantor, singing the Hours in a choir of young boys.
But Remy has a secret. He is in fact a she, the only girl on board—a truth known only to the “Caplain” of the Leviathan. Because of this, he bestows upon Remy the missile launch key before he dies, trusting her judgment to keep it safe and make the right call when the time comes. As a new Caplain comes into power with his own ideas and unbending view of how to run the ship, Remy finds it increasingly difficult to keep all she knows concealed, especially when a close friend of hers returns from a surface raid describing the disturbing things he witnessed. Moreover, a prisoner from above is also brought on board, revealing to Remy even more truths about the outside world and further altering her frame of mind.
You know how some books, no matter how hard you try, might just not be for you? This was my experience with We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep. I even restarted it multiple times, as each time I had stalled not long after I began. At first, I blamed the various distractions in my life from pulling me away from it, but eventually, I had to face the truth. I was just not gelling with this book. Everything about this story from its concept to the atmosphere should have pulled me in, and that’s how I’d wanted it to be, but it didn’t happen. My attention would consistently wander while trying to read, and I was always struggling to immerse myself.
Part of the problem is the writing style. It’s not the easiest to get into, and this being a novella, its short length meant I never really got a chance to get used to it. That said, I want to make it clear the technical aspects of the writing were mostly great, even too crisp and rigid in some places. Some might describe the prose as lyrical, but for me it felt clunky and lacking in personality, resulting in certain action sequences and emotionally charged scenes feeling too sterile.
There’s also not much of a plot, yet somehow it still felt like there wasn’t enough story to fill the relatively small number of pages. World-building was on the sparser side as well, and most of the time I felt disconnected to Remy and had a hard time getting into her headspace to understand what made her click. The singing was an intriguing element, I’ll admit, but like so many other aspects of the world, it felt untethered from the rest of Remy’s reality. Even if it had been the author’s intent, I still think this idea should have been better conveyed, not to mention the ending left things off feeling slightly unfinished.
Credit where credit’s due though, one area I thought the book excelled was its atmosphere. It’s claustrophobic and oppressive, and given how most of the story takes place in the ocean’s depths within the guts of a nuclear submarine with a fanatical doomsday cult onboard, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
But at the end of the day, it’s a shame to come to a book and not feel adequately prepared or in the right mood to enjoy it, and although I tried my best, ultimately this might just be a case of not the right book for me. Still, there are clearly good qualities, and judging from the loads of positive reviews from other readers who loved the book, it’s probably worth checking out if the premise speaks to you.