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New Release Review


Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Book Name: Into the Drowning Deep
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher(s): Orbit
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Horror / Fantasy / Science Fiction
Release Date: November 14, 2017

When I first said I wanted to review this book, I mentioned the prologue as what drew me in. That wasn’t entirely true. While I did enjoy the prologue (and I’ll mention the chills it gave me later on), it was the title that really caught my eye. How could it not? There’s something enticing about such alliteration, something almost poetic.

(I was, partway through the book, told it was also the title of a song. It made a great deal of sense.)

I went into the book expecting something chilling, something to do with murder, and, based on the tweet that alerted me to this book’s existence, something kind of gay. Did I get what I was after? Well, sort of. I got something wonderful, anyhow, and that’s what matters most.

The book opens on board a ship sent out to make a mockumentary about mermaids. In true sci-fi/fantasy/horror tradition, the “mock” part soon drops, and the crew and passengers aboard the Atargatis find exactly what they were looking for. Unfortunately, these mermaids tend to be less Ariel than anglerfish, and they look far more like creatures from the depths than anyone on the ship surely expected. They also act far more like creatures from the depths than anyone expected, or wished for.

The prologue is a window into terror: the ship is overrun by mermaids who are busily devouring everyone on board, and one calls out with the voice of someone who had worked for the mockumentary’s production company. One fortunate (or perhaps not-so-fortunate) man manages to film the slaughter before he himself is killed. The footage is leaked to the internet, the company faces a massive scandal, and everyone wonders whether it was a hoax.

Then, five years later, it all begins again.

As with my statement about what drew me in, that isn’t true either. What happens in 2022 is not a repeat of what happened aboard the Atargatis so much as it is a sequel, even if in-universe it might feel a bit like a reboot. The same company that sent out the Atargatis has sponsored this new ship (with yet another name based on mermaid lore: the Melusine), and among the crew is the sister of a woman who died on the original voyage. This time, however, it’s not just a trip into the ocean to come up with some decent science for a believable mockumentary. It’s a chance to understand what happened all those years ago, and for some, a chance for revenge.

The book is exactly what I had been looking for, even though I hadn’t realized it. It supplied a bit of comforting familiarity, with everyone full of the hubris that comes with the best expedition novels, from the scientists to the big game hunters. At one point I told my sibling that scientists should simply not be trusted near science, due to at least two deaths which could have been avoided thanks to common sense.

I highly doubt it’s a spoiler to say that in this novel, people die. When you open with a prologue of mermaids taking over a ship and devouring everyone aboard, then send another ship out to find those same mermaids, it would be rather disappointing if all the characters walked away unscathed. It would also be disappointing if they didn’t find any mermaids and the book became some three hundred pages on, say, the mating habits of orcas. This book hit all the points it needed to. The mermaids show up, what follows is exactly what you would expect, and then the author just keeps going.

I’m not much of a horror watcher. The last horror movie I saw was Get Out back when it was still in theaters. However, it’s such a pervasive and parodied genre that I know when the beats come and where. In this case, it almost felt like one of the beats came early, and I soon realized that was exactly the case. Mira Grant stretched out the climax so she could embed a secondary climax within, one that pushed the book right up against the boundaries of sci-fi and fantasy. Up to then, I had been thinking of the book as something of a twist on urban fantasy. Yes, it takes place in the middle of the ocean rather than in a city, and yes, most of the characters are scientists and there’s a whole lot of information on marine biology, but it has mermaids. Surely if it has mermaids it must count as fantasy.

But the further I read, the more it reminded me of a movie I saw years ago that straddled the line between hard sci-fi and horror: Europa Report. The main similarity between the two is isolation. One crew is out on the ocean, the other in interplanetary space. However, in both, there is a single moment of wonder a moment of realization that there may be far more on earth and in the heavens than is dreamt of in any philosophy. In both, I found myself gasping in amazement.

This book stands so well on its own that I don’t know if I want to read the accompanying novella, at least not yet. I don’t even know if I want this to become its own genre of hard science cryptids. I just don’t think anyone else could really do this sort of story justice.

(Well, maybe Diane Duane.)


One Comment

  1. Avatar Elfy says:

    This was good, but the novella Rolling in the Deep is even better. Extraordinarily well done.

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