Book Review: Deep Dive by Ron Walters
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: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Angry Robot (January 11, 2022)
Length: 400 pages
Deep Dive by Ron Walters is truly the perfect book for the video game lover, but fans of thrillers and stories with deep family themes should also thoroughly enjoy this one.
Our story follows Peter Banuk, a developer for a small gaming company called Omega Studios that is struggling to stay afloat after their last game ended up being a commercial failure. Now Peter is working on a new project, a VR game that he desperately needs to succeed. As a result, work has been dominating his life, to the point where he has been neglecting family obligations, much to the disappointment of his wife Alana and young daughters Evie and Cassie.
The novel opens on Evie’s birthday which should have been Peter’s day off, but when he is suddenly called into the office by his business partner and best friend Bradley with a invitation to check out a ground-breaking new VR technology that could help his game, what choice did he have? After a promise to his daughter that he will be back in time to celebrate her big day, Peter goes to meet with Bradley and discovers that that new tech to be tested involves a highly advanced, top-secret virtual reality headset that his friend had developed. Code named Deep Dive, the headset is the first of its kind, offering full VR immersion. Unable to resist testing out the technology for himself, Peter plugs in…
…And wakes up in his truck in the middle of the night with no recollection of the entire day. All he knows is that he has missed Evie’s birthday and that there will be hell to pay with Alana. But when he arrives home, he is greeted by an unfamiliar place. His daughters are not in their beds. In fact, Evie and Cassie’s rooms don’t exist at all. There’s no evidence in his house that any kids have ever lived there. When he wakes Alana in a panic, she merely confirms his nightmare, looking at him like he’s crazy, telling him that they don’t have children. On the other hand though, his career has taken off, after the runaway success of his last game, the one Peter remembers being a flop. Overwhelmed with grief, terror, and confusion, Peter knows this world can’t be his, and that he needs to find a way out fast—for the longer he stays, the harder it will be to tell what is real or not.
Many similarities have been drawn between Deep Dive and Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, and for good reason. The two books explore a few common themes, and both stories unfold at a breakneck pace. Ron Walters brings a unique hook, however, with his knowledge of video games and his clear enthusiasm for the subject. Granted, you don’t have to be an avid gamer to enjoy Deep Dive, but those who can catch all the references and Easter Eggs from everything like The Last of Us to God of War and what I imagine are some of the author’s favorite games will definitely gain a deeper appreciation for the story.
But what elevated Deep Dive to another level for me was the human element. To put it another way, I came for the gaming angle, but stayed for Peter’s journey to find his way back to his family. I knew as soon as I read the synopsis that I would love the deeper conflict at the heart of this book, because I cannot even imagine waking up one day to essentially find out that everything you thought you knew was but a dream, and to be told that the children you have watched be born, held in your arms, and watched grow up have never actually existed at all. Honestly, I feel gutted just thinking about it, and it is this premise that the novel holds at its core, never losing sight of the fact that seeing his little girls’ faces again is what keeps Peter going. The author does a phenomenal job of conveying his protagonist’s guilt, desperation and love, which made it all the easier to relate to him and root for him.
For all the sullen themes present in Deep Dive though, the story remained positively thrilling. Walters always manages to balance Peter’s complex emotions with his drive to constantly move forward and find answers, which adds up to an action-packed adventure full of mystery and entertainment. If anything, at times I felt the plot was actually moving too fast. That said, even though Deep Dive was not perfect because we do run into a few pacing issues, on the whole I felt it was an excellent debut and a solid four-star book. I’ll be eagerly awaiting his next novel.