In his new book, Submergence, the Scottish writer J. M. Ledgard calls spirits from the vasty deep — the Hadal zone, to be precise, 20,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. He calls them from the wadis and salt flats of the Somali desert; from the firelit intimacy of a hotel in winter on the coast of France; and from that deepest, vastiest place of all, the solitary confinement of consciousness. And they do come, all of them — forming, together, the best novel I’ve read so far this year.
As the book unfolds, Danny, unaware of James’s plight, sets off to explore the hydrothermal vents beneath the North Atlantic. James, meanwhile, is beaten, interrogated, and dragged by his captors from place to place: an improvised prison in Kismayo, a makeshift camp in the Somali badlands, a skiff on the Indian Ocean laden with weapons and the carcasses of sharks, a mangrove swamp where the jihadists hide out from American forces.