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Vintage Treasures: The Deep by John Crowley

Saturday, September 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Deep John Crowley back-small The Deep-spine-small The Deep John Crowley-small

I bounced off John Crowley when I first tried him. It was 1977, I was thirteen years old, and the Science Fiction Book Club had just shipped me his second novel, Beasts, because I forgot to return their stupid monthly request form. The cover featured a lion-man in a broken cage, and I figured, eh, what the hell. I got about five pages in before I gave up, and re-read Robert Silverberg’s Collision Course instead (that book rocks).

That probably would have been it for me and John Crowley, if it hadn’t been for his fourth novel, the landmark Little, Big, which won the World Fantasy Award in 1982, and was nominated for every major award the genre had to offer. It wasn’t long before my friends were talking about it excitedly, and I was forced to re-examine John Crowley. (Mark Rigney did a brilliant analysis of Little, Big for us here, if you somehow missed it.)

It was Bantam Spectra who got me re-interested in his early novels, though.

Beasts, Science Fiction Book CLub edition. Cover by John Cayea

Beasts, Science Fiction Book Club edition. Cover by John Cayea

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

After the success of the paperback edition of Little, Big (released October 1983), Bantam re-issued his three prior books, one every month, starting with Beasts (November 1983), and then Engine Summer (December 1983), and The Deep (January 1984), all with marvelous covers by Yvonne Gilbert.

The Deep, Crowley’s first published novel, retells the tale of the English Civil War, but in a very unusual setting that looks a lot like fantasy, but ultimately is revealed as something very different.

After quite a bit of searching, I finally completed my collection of the Bantam editions by getting a copy of The Deep this week. They make a handsome four-book set on my shelves. I still have the Science Fiction Book Club edition of Beasts, but I haven’t opened that one in almost 40 years.

The Deep was published in hardcover by Doubleday in April 1975, and reprinted in January 1984 by Bantam Spectra. The Bantam edition is 176 pages, priced at $2.50, with a cover by Yvonne Gilbert.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

10 Comments »

  1. I’m currently re-reading LITTLE, BIG, after having slogged through the much more difficult THE SOLITUDES (part one).

    I’ve also been working my way, one story every two weeks or so, through his short story collection, NOVELTIES AND SOUVENIRS. Highly recommended.

    I’ll be keeping an eye out for THE DEEP.

    Comment by markrigney - September 26, 2015 2:23 pm

  2. Yvonne Gilbert is right up there with Michael Whelan in that she can make *any* book look enticing if she does the cover.

    Comment by Nebuchadnezzar - September 26, 2015 2:36 pm

  3. It took me a couple of false starts to make it through Little, Big. Often for me “successful” reading is mostly a matter of getting in synch with a book’s rhythm and finding the best reading pace. For me at least, Little, Big (and probably Crowley as a whole) is made for slow, steady reading – which makes him different from a lot of fantasy and SF.

    Comment by Thomas Parker - September 26, 2015 3:06 pm

  4. The only Crowley I’ve read was Little, Big, which I probably have to revisit one of these days.

    I have that paperback of The Deep — love the cover! For the longest time, I kept thinking it had some association with the 1977 movie of the same name.

    … I’m not always the brightest bulb on the tree …

    Comment by Joe H. - September 26, 2015 10:57 pm

  5. > I’ve also been working my way, one story every two weeks or so, through his short
    > story collection, NOVELTIES AND SOUVENIRS. Highly recommended.

    Mark,

    Thanks for the rec. I’ve always wondered if Crowley’s strengths as a novelist carried over in his short fiction. I bought it over ten years ago, believing it likely had a small print run… but astonishingly, it’s still in print!

    Comment by John ONeill - September 28, 2015 12:24 pm

  6. > Yvonne Gilbert is right up there with Michael Whelan in that she can make *any* book look enticing if she does the cover.

    Nebuchadnezzar,

    I’m embarrassed to admit I’m not familiar with her. Do you know what else she’s done?

    Comment by John ONeill - September 28, 2015 12:25 pm

  7. > For me at least, Little, Big (and probably Crowley as a whole) is made for
    > slow, steady reading – which makes him different from a lot of fantasy and SF.

    Thomas,

    Exactly right. Most of us came to fantasy through adventure tales, be it King Arthur or Beowulf, Lord of the Rings or Conan. Fantasy has always had a tradition of more slow-paced tales, of course (just look at the work of William Morris or E. R. Eddision), but those aren’t the ones the genre is usually remembered for.

    Comment by John ONeill - September 28, 2015 12:34 pm

  8. > For the longest time, I kept thinking it had some association with the 1977 movie of the same name.

    Joe,

    Ha! I bet you’re not the only one.

    Comment by John ONeill - September 28, 2015 12:34 pm

  9. John,

    Gilbert provided alternate covers for reprints of Le Guin’s Earthsea books; more recently she provided the cover as well as interior illustrations for the hardcover of GRRM’s ‘The Ice Dragon.’ Wikipedia has a list of several dozen other covers she’s done.

    Her style reminds me of another favorite cover artist, Thomas Canty.

    Comment by Nebuchadnezzar - September 28, 2015 10:56 pm

  10. THE DEEP is weird and excellent, and ENGINE SUMMER is one of the greatest SF books of all time. I write about it here: http://rrhorton.blogspot.com/2015/03/an-appreciation-of-john-crowleys-engine.html

    Comment by Rich Horton - September 29, 2015 9:55 pm


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