Read enough genre fiction and you’ll notice a pattern to every story. It’s a commonly used template known to comparative mythology students as the hero’s journey.
This monomyth has been around a long time and appears in every culture—from Gilgamesh to Star Wars, Moses to Captain Marvel and Buddha to The Lion King. It’s the foundation of every Disney and Marvel movie you’ll ever see.
There’s a bunch of well-defined steps in the hero’s journey (for specifics, check out The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell), but the journey starts with the call to adventure and ends back at home with some sort of accomplishment and enlightenment.
You can tell author Jill Morgan is familiar with the hero’s journey because her 1992 underwater actioner is a transparent swipe of Campbell’s monomyth.
Being versed in protomythology isn’t a crime. If it were, every college professor teaching screenwriting would be behind bars right now. It’s only a problem when an author sticks to the template in a facile way. And that, unfortunately, is the problem with Between the Devil and the Deep.
During a search and rescue mission in an underground river 80 miles below Death Valley, Kelsey Chase discovers a prehistoric nest with 10 large petrified eggs. For a chilling moment, the cave diver feels the ghost-like presence of a mother dinosaur guarding her nest of young. The experience changes his outlook on life irrevocably.
Later, when Chase is offered an opportunity to travel to Scotland and hunt the Loch Ness monster, he hears his call to adventure. Coming face to face with Nessie (and a nasty 600-foot eel), Chase is humbled by the majesty of 65 million years of earthly creation. As a result of his encounter, he decides not to kill the creature, but to protect it.
During his time in the Scottish Highlands, there’s a lot of chitchat about Chase’s journey. Everybody in his orbit understands that he’s on some sort of ineffable quest. Says one: “Each man must follow the path of his journey to where the circle ends.”
After a mad jumble of monomyth exposition, the novel concludes with Chase back at home with his girlfriend. “He embraced her in the place where his journey had begun; and he knew the peace that comes with reaching the journey’s end.”
[Between the Devil and the Deep / By J.M. Morgan / First Printing: June 1992 / ISBN: 9780671737009]