Book Review: Deep Time

Deep Time cover image

We were delighted to find out that Deep Time has been recently written about on the fantastic Gods & Radicals website. We have below published a small extract of the article, and encourage you to read the whole thing on their website.

New Landscape Radicals

(Article by Kevan Manwaring reviewing Ecozoa by Helen Moore, Spoken Idylls: everyday illuminations by Peter Please and Deep Time by Anthony Nanson)

In early 2015 three titles were published, independently, which seem to herald a grassroots resurgence in the long tradition of the literature of the environment: a novel, a collection of poems, and a nature-writing memoir. On the surface they might not seem like they share many commonalities, but each is linked by a deep awareness of time, place, and planet.

Collectively I see them spearheading a new form of landscape radicalism, deconstructing notions of the ‘rural idyll’, benign ‘nature’, and environmental apathy. They offer provocative interventions to the hidden discourses of the mainstream – both in their form and content: small press productions with big messages, they punch above their weight in many ways.

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 by storyteller Anthony Nanson. This project has been a long time in gestation, from the initial inspiration in the mid-80s, to the protracted process of research and writing a novel of over 300 thousand words in length. The bulk of the labour of drafting has been done over an entire decade, and for the sheer effort (and sustained skill) of that endeavour Nanson’s tome deserves respect. It is no light holiday read in either sense. In its scope and seriousness of intentions it runs counter to much mainstream commercial fiction, and to the general consensual dumbing down in popular culture.

Essentially the novel is a quest narrative, but one in the tradition of the classics of Travel Literature, the accounts of early explorers, Marco Polo, Livingstone, Nansen (whom the author has portrayed in a storytelling performance). Yet it is perhaps closest to Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle in its zoological and evolutionary concerns. In its exhaustive quest for the origins of life and even the source of time, the novel provides an arena for what have been called ‘God Games’ (Clute; Grant, 1995). The team assembled by Merlie to conduct an ecological survey of a zone threatened by civil war (the ponderous, bookish Portia; the vulnerable, good Christian Vince, the rapacious Alpha-male Curtis, and the sublime, mysterious Salome) slowly get whittled down by the travails of their journey and the perils they face, until an archetypal struggle is enacted by the survivors, one which seems to play out the dynamic of the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve and the Serpent. It will not be giving too much away to reveal that the team stumble upon a refugium of ‘deep time’ (the various epochs of evolutionary cycles stretching over hundreds of millions of years referred to as palaeomes). As they transect these, they encounter increasingly primitive (or sophisticated in some senses) forms of life, until inevitably they find themselves walking with dinosaurs.

Read the full article (highly recommended) here…

Deep Time is now out of print but is available as an ebook: Epub: 9781907359651; Kindle/Mobi: B07DW4VKKT