“The filming of Lovely Ladies of the Sea: The True Story of the Mariana Mermaids should have been routine. Imagine filled a ship with scientists, actors, and camera crews, and sent it out into the Pacific Ocean.
Communications were lost on May 17. The ship was found six weeks later, adrift and abandoned.
No bodies have ever been recovered.
-From Monster Midas: An Unathorized Biography of James Golden, by Alexis Bowman, originally published 2018.”
Guys I might babble, because I love this book so much. Into the Drowning Deep is the first of Mira Grant’s books that I have ever read, and I already have another lined up. The novel follows Tory, a young scientist dedicated to solving the mystery of what happened to her sister. Ten years ago, a TV studio sent out a boat full of everything and everyone one might need to film a mockumentary on mermaids. The Atargatis sailed out to the Mariana Trench, and never sailed back. Into The Drowning Deep is presented in a multi-textual format – which, by the way, I am an absolute sucker for – presenting Tory’s experiences sandwiched between extracts from talks I wish I could attend, studies I wish I could read and discussions of documentaries I wish I could watch.
‘Do I think they found mermaids?
Yes. Of course I do.
And I think the mermaids ate them all.’
I am both fascinated by and terrified of the ocean, I am not the strongest of swimmers and it was only this last year at the age of 22 that I mastered floating on my back in a pool without panicking about imminent drowning. So why read a book about the horrors of the ocean? Precisely because it terrifies me. What can I say? Apparently I’m a masochist. Mira Grant succeeds at taking the idea of ‘killer mermaids’ and making it genuinely chilling and horrifyingly possible. The ‘mermaids’ are viewed through a very scientific lense. Imagine Entertainment wanted scientists on board to make the documentary realistic, but the research they carry out isn’t for show. As someone who firmly believes in the importance of science, but has very little scientific ability – good with words, very bad with numbers – and who finds marine sciences especially fascinating, this was basically my ideal book. A horror novel with mermaids and marine biology? Yes please.
“An adult bumphead parrotfish can weigh more than a hundred pounds. This one tipped the scales at slightly over seventy, larger than a human child. But when the thin, strong hands reached up from below and dragged it down, it didn’t break away. It couldn’t.”
Phrases like ‘worldbuilding’ are usually saved for deep-dive genre fiction, like fantasy or sci-fi where the world the story takes place in will differ radically from our own. This novel is based in this world, slightly ahead of us in terms of time, but still contains some incredibly wonderful world building. We see a world disintegrating under the impact of climate change – here it is scarily similar to our own – with wildfires and coastal flooding aplenty. Once the characters set foot aboard the Melusine, however, the rest of the world is irrelevant. The enormous ship becomes its own world, far from home and far from help, floating serenely above the creatures of the deep. More than creating an entirely new world, the worldbuilding in Into The Drowning Deep for me is more the depth and detail Grant manages to include in her writing. Her character work is phenomenal – I cared so much about these people (well, most of them, there’s a couple of big game hunters and an ex boyfriend of Tory’s regarding whom I am less enthusiastic became big game hunting is awful and there’s no excuse for being a dick to your partner). The cast of characters are diverse and incredibly complex. There is bisexual and lesbian representation, a character living and thriving with autism, deaf scientists who excel in a world that refuses to learn how to communicate with them…all without feeling like Grant is ‘box ticking’ as it sometimes feels when people shoehorn representation into their works and inevitably make it te main character trait and sole purpose of whoever is introduced. Also, ALL THE WOMEN IN STEM AND ACADEMIA.
Daniel glared at her. ‘I have a PhD.’
‘That’s nice. So do I.’
‘I also have two master’s degrees, and I’ve addressed the United Nations.’
‘I can run in four-inch heels. Are we done playing “who has the bigger dick”? Because I have things to accomplish, and I need you to stand in front of the siren.’
Now this is horror, and the mermaids are definitely man-eating, but it’s far from a straight-up gore fest. There is a body count, quote a high one, and those who don’t like to read about blood, autopsies and marine murder frenzies might not be a fan of this book. The mermaids are horrifying, and their hunting techniques even more so, and nobody is safe. Honestly I flew through the end of this book because I needed to know who lived, if anybody made it out alive. I’m not a fan of ‘gore for the sake of gore’ and will swiftly DNF a book if it seems to be going down that path but never fear, this one doesn’t.
“It took him,” she said. “It took him into the water.” She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering for reasons that had nothing to do with the chill.
“It took him,” she said again.
No one else said anything.
I loved this book from start to finish. It was an intelligent, terrifying piece of fiction that discusses the very real fears many of us have about what lurks beneath the surface of the ocean deep and what might happen if they were down there looking back up at us. The mermaids are so realistically done it’s hard to believe they don’t actually exist, and the characters are wonderful. Keep your eyes peeled for more Mira Grant reviews on your feed, because I will definitely be reading more of her writing.
Overall rating: 5 books out of 5