Pros: Fantastic tension, characters, and attention to detail
Rating: 5 out of 5
Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep is a follow-on to her Rolling in the Deep. In that installment, a ship called the Atargatis sets sail to film a mockumentary about mermaids. Unfortunately it encounters the real thing and discovers that reality is much more deadly than fiction. The vessel was found adrift and empty, with only a few hotly-debated pieces of film to indicate what had happened. Now, seven years later, the film company is sending another vessel. This one is much larger, with many scientists on board. There are special security systems, and the company has hired two big game hunters and plenty of photogenic security to keep people safe. The scientists on board include Victoria “Tory” Stewart, whose sister Anne was an ‘on-air personality’ on the first boat. Also Jillian Toth, who is the scientist whose research dictated the Atargatis’s path. Olivia has what would have been Anne’s job, and a pair of deaf sisters named Heather and Holly (with their hearing translator and older sister Hallie) have their own relevant areas of expertise. The timing of the new expedition is based partially on Tory’s research, which has turned up sonar of what she believes is the mermaids mimicking the sounds of the Atargatis.
Into the Drowning Deep is not a short book, but it kept me hooked from the very beginning. It’s riveting and everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Early on Heather takes her submersible down into the very depths and comes face-to-face with the mermaids themselves. The level of detail wrapped me up in the events and the tension just grabbed hold. Did I mention the unbearable tension?
That was how you found things, in the sea. Be delicious.
I’m still surprised at how well this book held up for its full length. In some places it seems like there aren’t many big things happening, but it feels like it’s teeming with activity. The detail and characters have a great deal to do with that. Each death hits home, even when we haven’t known someone long or don’t like them. Everything feels real.
The presence of Olivia as a reporter for the entertainment company running the show allows her to extract explanations from the scientists that are somewhere closer to sound-bite than info-dump. Even once people stop caring about speaking to the camera, the fact that the various scientists are often in semi-related fields keeps things smart but brief. It’s a perfect compromise.
One of the details that most interested me was Hallie’s place in things. Sure, she came as a translator for her sisters, but she came for herself too. The mermaids have a signing language (they know that from the scraps of footage from the first attack), so she’s there to hopefully analyze and learn some of that language. All of the characters have plenty of a role to play; no one feels extraneous. The characters were also individualistic enough that I never had trouble remembering who was who, which can get challenging in books this long.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in recent weeks, and I’ve read some good ones. I’d absolutely recommend anything by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire). She takes my favorite genre, horror, and amps it up completely!