Review: Deep Time by Anthony Nanson

This review of Deep Time was written by Pauline Morgan for the British Fantasy Society website. Many thanks to Pauline for her insight.


There are a number of things that will put a reader off choosing a book. Sometimes it is something about the cover, the layout or the prose style that cause avoidance. Those criteria shouldn’t deter anyone from selecting Deep Time. The cover, production and style are all delightful. What is daunting is the sheer size of the book. The quality of the paper used in the production makes it heavy and a tome of nearly 700 pages means that even a fast reader will have to be prepared to invest time in reading it. It is, none-the-less well worth it.

Brendan Merlie arrives in a Central African country to carry out what he hopes will be the survey that will restore his reputation. While it is the dream of many a zoologist to find living fossils, Merlie spent many of his early years trying to prove the existence of creatures such as the Loch Ness monster only to have his ideas discredited. Now, he is being sponsored by a tabloid newspaper to explore an area of rainforest which could yield animals and plants new to science. His starting point is an eco-commune on the edge of a pristine forest. His team are Curtis Wilder, a survivalist who he knew at Cambridge, Salome Boann, the botanist and guide, Vince Peters, the expedition’s photographer and Portia Penhaligan foisted on him a representative of the newspaper.

The political situation is unstable with armed rebels roaming the area so it is with relief that the expedition heads into the forest. With two vehicles and plenty of supplies plus internet connectivity and GPS, the trip begins easily enough but as they press in further, their electronics begin to fail. Brendan begins to notice that animals thought extinct are still living in the deep forest. Portia finds the going tough and tensions between Curtis and Salome rise as he wants to kill animals for meat and she believes that his actions are wrong.

As they penetrate deeper into the forest following Salome’s directions, the climate begins to change and the animals begin to resemble the prehistoric creatures Brendan has always wanted to find. Gradually, he begins to realise that the route Salome is taking them is actually a path backwards through time. It is only when Portia suffers heatstroke that they have to turn back, arriving in the heart of the civil war.

The second expedition, after safe passage has been negotiated for Portia back to London, flees the carnage of the war. Only as they travel deeper into time do the true natures of the protagonists begin to fully reveal themselves and the dynamics of the group changes.

This novel explores evolution and puts flesh on creatures and plants only known from fossil records. Whether or not this is accurate is not important as anyone to reaches the end will discover. More important is the baggage each character carries with them – physical and psychological – and which is gradually shed. Beliefs and attitudes change to keep in step with the need for survival.

This may be a large book but it is well worth the journey.

Buy the book here…

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

More about the British Fantasy Society here…

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

Review: Deep Time

Deep Time cover image

This review of Anthony Nanson’s Deep Time was written by Adam Randall of the Trusty Water Blog; a link to his website is included at the foot of the page. Our thanks to him for this thoughtful and enthusiastic review.

Deep Time tells the story of an African expedition lead by cryptzoologist Brendan Merlie who is hoping to find some evidence that certain extinct species might still be living deep in the jungle.

You may think this sounds like a fairly standard adventure story (and indeed, Anthony says in the author’s notes that he was inspired by the classic adventure novels) but it’s so much more than that. This book covers environmentalism, religion, science, morality, sexuality, ancient history and so much more (without it ever seeming forced).

But I think, most of all, what I loved about Deep Time was its characters. Brendan, Salome, Curtis and Vince are four characters who I grew to like immensely. All of them were very different, all of them had their own motivations, beliefs and ideologies, all of them had their flaws, all of them had their qualities and all were very believeable. I really cared about what happened to all of them, and that’s just the main characters! There were several smaller characters that I grew to like just as much.

It was Brendan and Salome that I was the most fond of, however. Brendan is a scientist and often hides behind a slight degree of rational detatchment to protect himself, but he certainly doesn’t lack emotion and it’s clear that many things affect him to a large extent. He always tries to be pleasant and upbeat, even in the face of disaster, and I think this makes him hugely likeable.

Salome, meanwhile, is quite different to Brendan and is frustrated by the ordered nature of science. She’s very much a free spirit, but with strong moral convictions and I always loved to see her standing up for the things she believed in. At times, I felt like she was a little mean to the other characters, but then there are so many terrible things that happen to her throughout the duration of the novel, that she can be forgiven for occasionally seeming short tempered.

One thing about Deep Time and something which might put some people off, is that there is quite a lot of sex and violence in it. These are things I don’t usually enjoy in fiction, because I tend to find them used in tasteless ways that feel a bit on the nose. In Deep Time, every act of violence and every instance of sexual interaction felt perfectly natural. The sex and violence really complimented the story because, in a way, Deep Time provides a critique of human nature, and are not sex and violence large parts of human nature? Something else I really appreciated was that there was a lot of nudity in it, but that there was a strong emphasis on nudity as a non-sexual thing, which is a perspective I have a great deal of respect for, but which I don’t encounter too often.

I could go on for a long time about why this is an absolutely superb book, but I’ll wrap it up now to avoid this review becoming too long. Deep Time is a fantastic sci-fi adventure novel, wrapped in lots of scientific language which helps makes the unbelieveabe believeable, while also telling a deeply emotional story. At times you’ll laugh at lighthearted interactions between characters and at times you’ll find things utterly heartbreaking. It’s definitely worth a read and I hope it will be remembered for years to come and that Brendan and Salome will enter the pantheon of great literary characters.

Read Adam Randall’s blog here…

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

Book Review: Deep Time

Deep Time cover image

Anthony Nanson’s Deep Time reviewed by Nimue Brown on her blog, originally posted on the 1st July. A link to her blog can be found at the bottom of the page – big thank-yous to this fantastic writer.

Most of the wilderness fiction I’ve read is historical. Last of the Mohicans, Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, assorted American transcendentalists, – books whose authors who had the advantage of writing about places and environments that were largely unknown, unpredictable and clearly dangerous. While people still go off on adventures, exploring less known places, mobile phones and GPS make that a very different game. The places untouched by humans are far scarcer than they were two hundred years ago. And yet we have this collective attraction to the unknown, the untouched. For the greater part, fiction has replaced the wilderness with fantasy worlds, and the science fiction bid to seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly split infinitives where no one has split them before.

Anthony Nanson’s Deep Time is a real stand out as a piece of modern wilderness writing. It is a speculative novel, but at the same time so rooted in observation and detail, that it is able to create a sense of adventure and mystery right on the edge of human experience. Where fantasy and science fiction can tend towards the escapist, Deep Time brings us back to ourselves, to the land, to the idea of wilderness as something precious that we ought to preserve. It also, by cunning means, encourages us to look at our own time and place with fresh eyes, seeing connections and possibilities we might otherwise have missed. It delivers all of this, and more, in a fast placed action adventure plot that does not let up for some 700 pages.

I’ve heard genre fiction defined as ‘everything happens and no one thinks about it’ versus literature as ‘very little happens and everyone thinks about it a great deal.’ It frequently bothers me that modern publishing often defines ‘literary’ as something dull, worthy, tediously real and lacking in pace. Very little happens. Everyone thinks about it a lot. At the same time, more creative plots and unreal settings fall into the low brow pop culture bracket, and are not to be taken seriously. Shakespeare could write about faeries, Dickens could write about ghosts and be taken seriously, but they probably wouldn’t get away with it these days.

I know that it is possible to have books with pace, action, adventure and speculative elements that are also powerful literary pieces. The quality of writing, the kind of depth that can be woven into a plot, the way in which speculation can reflect the world back more meaningfully than representation can. The unfamiliar requires us to think, to test assumptions and the boundaries of our own reality, and you just can’t achieve that by giving people the wholly familiar. Anthony Nanson has entirely proved my point, creating an entirely modern novel, with great literary depth and the kind of narrative that would readily adapt into a summer blockbuster movie. We can have books that are exciting and profound. We can have meaning and enjoyment on the same pages. We can still have wilderness, it hasn’t all gone, and we can protect what remains and recognise what we’ve got.

Deep Time is not suitable for younger readers (I’d suggest 14 and up) and I heartily recommend it as a fantastic read.

Read the original post here…

Visit Anthony Nanson’s blog here…

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

Deep Time and ECOZOA joint launch in Bath

Deep Time cover image

You are invited to a joint launch event in Bath!

Thursday May 21st, 6:30 for 7:00pm.

Anthony’s novel of prehistory, Deep Time, and Helen’s acclaimed poetry collection, ECOZOA will be introduced by Richard Kerridge of Bath Spa University. The authors will discuss their interconnected ideas about evolutionary history and the vision of a sustainable future, and read from their new books.

‘Anthony Nanson’s stirring novel takes the reader on an extraordinary journey deep into the prodigious heart of Africa and across evolutionary regions of time.’

Lindsay Clarke

‘ECOZOA … is a milestone in the journey of ecopoetics.’

Professor John Kinsella

FREE admission. Event includes question time, book signing, and refreshments. Waterstones, Milsom St, Bath. Doors 6.30 p.m. Talks start 7.00 p.m. Contact: 01225 448515 / 01453 840887.

Remember that if you pre-order Deep Time through our website before the 9th of May, you will not be charged any postage!

See the Deep Time page for more details.