I was first introduced to Keith Deininger last year when I read “The New Flesh.” Since I enjoyed that book, I was instantly curious about his new novella from DarkFuse, “Marrow’s Pit,” and dug into this short novella with more than a little anticipation and high expectations.
The Machine was all that its denizens had ever known. The Machine encompassed a large expanse of dead earth and kept the people alive inside of its ever-working depths. Their world was filled with the sounds of The Machines mechanical life. To them, The Machine was not just their world but it was everything to them, including their god.
Ballard is different from everyone else he knows. Even though his father raised him in the ways of The Machine and he performed his job in service to The Machine, he found life to be tedious and meaningless not did he see the divinity or the higher purpose of The Machine. He is finally driven to the brink of madness by his mundane existence and takes action that ensures that he will never be accepted as one of The Machine’s disciples ever again. Ballard may have always dreamed of a different way of life but that does not mean that he is prepared to face it.
“Marrow’s Pit” is a fusion of horror and steampunk science fiction that combines to form something moving and powerful. The reader is instantly transported into a world that is very different from his own while at the same time remaining close enough to reality to drive the point of the story home. The Machine can easily be seen as an analogy for the mundane flow of the modern world in which the people have become obsessed with technology to the point that it rules their life. Just as the people in “Marrow’s Pit” worship the machine, many in our own world have become so caught up in technology and progress such as the internet that this virtual world has become more real to them than reality. It is easy to become lost inside of this world of designed existence rather than the ever changing and thus unsure natural world. Technology provides structure that both numbs the mind and shifts reality into a comfortably shifting pattern of anticipated and recognizable events.
In “Marrow’s Pit,” Deininger crafts an intricate world that is barely touched upon in this novella. This is a short novella that is effective in its exploration of reality and morality but that left me wishing for more. The brevity of the story leaves a lot of the story open to the reader’s interpretation which suits the story well. What is reality? Are those who choose to follow their own path heroes or free thinkers or are they simply nonconformists that threaten society for everyone else. “Marrow’s Pit” seems to tackle some of these weighty issues to create and interesting read but one that ultimately left me wanting for more. I can only hope that Deininger will return to this world and explore some of the many possibilities that are created in this novella.
I would like to give a special thank you to DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advanced review copy. “Marrow’s Pit” will be released by DarkFuse in March 2014 and is available for preorder now.