Review: Drowning by T.J. Newman

You’ve barely turned the first page of T.J. Newman’s Drowning before it kicks into high gear — and then it remains relentless. Forget the tried-and-tested routine of steadily building tension: Drowning is all suspense, all the time.

Like the best disaster movies, the plot here is simple: Flight 1421 has crashed into the Pacific Ocean a mere six minutes after take off. Those who don’t perish immediately must choose between evacuating into jet fuel-soaked water, or remaining in the fuselage as it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Twelve passengers decide on the latter. Now they need to be rescued — before their air runs out.

In terms of sheer craftsmanship, this is a superb thriller. It’s not easy writing action on this scale, or maintaining a breathless pace without exhausting the reader and making characters feel like storytelling devices rather than real people whose survival we genuinely care about. As the hours pass, the accumulation of little details about their lives makes them whole.

The thing is, we really don’t know who is going to make it out alive. In a movie, we can assume the top-billed cast will be okay. Dwayne Johnson is not going to die. Keanu Reeves might get a few scrapes and bruises, but we know he’s making it off that plane. But in this format there are no such assumptions, and Newman takes full advantage.

The action is spectacular and brilliantly choreographed. Its grand set-pieces are visceral and stomach-churning. Depending on the scene, it can feel epic or claustrophobic. The technical detail is stunning. And the emotional strokes pack a surprising wallop. Drowning does everything a great thriller should do.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s