This is more what I thought I’d be reviewing on this site: the first book in a series, by an author I trust to be good, but a book that I haven’t read yet. Well, I’ve read it now—how else could I review it? But I hadn’t read it before I read it to review it here¹.
This is your official warning for spoilers, by the way. If you want the spoiler free version, head to the version I posted on goodreads.
Anyway! This book is about science, sympathetic characters, morality and the modern world, with a dash of horror movie tropes given enough of a refresh to be nostalgic without being cheesy. A hard line to walk, but one Mira Grant does flawlessly.
The genre of this book is somewhere between science fiction and horror, and I wouldn’t recommend reading if you’ve booked a cruise anytime in the near future. Disclaimers complete, let’s get on with the review!
Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.
Rating: 5 stars
I really loved this book for all the reasons, but I’ll do my best to break it down here. This won’t be spoiler free, but I’ll do my best not to spoil any major plot points, because I think everyone, everywhere should read this book, and I’d hate to ruin it for you if you’re reading this review before you’ve got your hands on a copy.
We’re starting with the cons this time, because that’s how cool and exciting I am! A maverick, always changing things up. No, we’re starting with the cons because there’s only one, and it’s that there’s not more book to read. I want the sequel now. Now on to the pros!
I loved the layout of the book. A nerdy start to the list of pros, I know, but I do. Something about the ‘News article/quote/ominous excerpt at the start of a chapter’ thing just really works for this genre. I loved it in Mira Grant’s previous Newsflesh and Parasitology series², and I love it here. A sneaky way to avoid infodumps in the meat of the novel, it’s also the written equivalent of a change of background music in a nature documentary.
You know the ones—there’s footage of a mouse cleaning its little mouse face with its paws, really cute, then the narrator starts talking about snakes and the music changes and you know you’re about to see that little mouse face disappear into a snake, but it’s still thrilling? That’s what this book is³.
A nature documentary is a good comparison, because this book is about the perils of exploring nature, with some timely messages about climate change, the environment, and the way mankind treats intelligent species. It has obvious parallels to colonialism and slavery, without becoming heavy-handed or insensitive with it.
There are messages about the dangerous consequences of capitalism run amok4, the detrimental effects of heteronormativity and neurotypicality and whatever you call it when parents assume their children will be abled5, and some not-at-all-veiled digs at companies that keep intelligent sea-life contained. The themes in this book are amazing, and some tiresome tropes are subverted (this book does not bury its gays, that’s a spoiler, but I think its important to know).
With all this commentary, you might wonder if a book about killer-mermaids does such heavy issues justice—it does6. As summed up in my favourite line from this book (that I would also wear out of context on a t-shirt to disturb fellow commuters on public transport), below.
“The smarter you are, the more likely you are to want to eat the world.”
I loved the representation in this book. Characters that are deaf, characters with autism, characters that are bisexual, characters that are POC, strong, empowered women that deal with the issues women face in STEM fields. There’s a character that’s a lesbian, there’s a character with social anxiety and autism, there’s a character who has chronic pain from an injury (some of the characters even have more than one of these traits at a time! Imagine!).
I loved the characters in this book. They were flawed, charming, witty, diverse and all-around human. I want to know more and see more and I really hope the series continues long enough to explore Olivia, Luis, Jillian and Theo’s families a little more. There are also some promising relationships developing between some characters, romantic or otherwise. I want to see where that goes.
I loved the character motivations woven seamlessly into the book. Everyone is given reasons and purpose for being where they are, doing what they do, and, in some cases, paying the ultimate price. The best parts of a horror movie (Inevitable yet thrilling demise of the guilty! Unexpected and triumphant return of the good! Everyone ultimately getting what they ‘deserve’ and perfect opportunities for main characters to prove their mettle!).
I loved the scientific exploration of mermaids in this book. Much like the Newsflesh series made zombies seem plausible, and figured out a way around their limitations. (Corpses don’t last long, but there’s a lot of them and more get made all the time) this book explores the horror of mermaids if they actually existed.
tl;dr: In turns scientific, philosophical, satisfying and entertaining—Into the Drowning Deep is a fantastic read, and a great beginning to what promises to be an intriguing and rich series
Rating again, now that you know why I gave it: 5 stars
¹If you understood that nightmare of a sentence, congratulations!
²Because series is already a plural I should specify that that’s two series, set in two alternate versions of our world, connected only by author. They’re also both a fantastic read, 10/10, would recommend.
³That’s a compliment to the book, if you couldn’t tell. I like nature documentaries.
4Without giving away too much, the pressure to produce marketable footage now has dire consequences
5Is ablenormativity a word? My spellcheck doesn’t think so, and the fact I don’t even know the word is probably a great example of the assumption that an abled person is the default state of humanity.
6 Disclaimer: In my opinion alone, etc etc