Into the Drowning Deep
by Mira Grant
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.
I’ve never really been into mermaid books, but I couldn’t resist picking up Mira Grant’s novella, Rolling in the Deep, back in 2015. I mean in what world am I not going to want to read a book by one of my favourite authors about killer mermaids told in a found footage format?
As soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted more from Grant about these creatures, so this novel-length follow-up has been on my TBR since its release in 2017 and I’m so glad I finally got to it.
Set seven years after the events of Rolling in the Deep (while I do recommend reading the novella because it’s such good fun, I wouldn’t say you couldn’t understand this novel if you happened to pick it up first), Into the Drowning Deep follows Victoria “Tory” Stewart, a woman whose older sister, Anne, was killed when the ship she was on, the Atargatis, was attacked by creatures which most of the world still don’t believe exist.
Imagine Entertainment funded the Atargatis‘s expedition to search for mermaids, but ever since no one from that expedition returned alive and footage was found showing killer mermaids, the company has been fighting to regain their reputation amidst rumours that the whole thing was a sick hoax.
Tory is one of many scientists, as well as a couple of hunters and some of Imagine’s employees (such as a presenter), who are hired by Imagine to set out on another expedition to prove the existence of mermaids and clean up their reputation. What they inevitably find makes a lot of them wish they’d stayed at home…
This is a difficult one for me to review, because while I did enjoy it, and I’m glad I read it, I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed by it – and that makes me so sad!
Tory is our main protagonist and I liked her a lot, and there are several other characters we follow whom I also enjoyed – particularly Jillian Toth, who’s the kind of grumpy older woman I always find myself rooting for when I read SFF, and Olivia – but, personally, I never quite felt like I got to know all of them well enough to really care if they died.
I wanted Tory and Olivia to make it (I’m thrilled to have found a horror novel with a budding f/f romance) and I didn’t want anything to happen to Dr Toth either, but as I mentioned in my review of HEX, if I don’t really, really care about characters in horror then I find it difficult to really, really care if there’s a chance they might die. I promise I can hear how heartless that sounds, too, but horror novels with so many characters work a little like slasher films for me in that regard. If you think of any slasher film you’ve seen, was there ever an instance where every single character death broke your heart? Or any of them, for that matter?
One of the reasons IT: Chapter One worked so well for me was because it made me care about those kids so much that I didn’t want Pennywise to eat them. Into the Drowning Deep had the issue, for me, that not only did I not care about all of the major characters as much as I wanted to, but because they were colleagues, and not necessarily friends, there was no emotional attachment to all of the other characters that I could feel vicariously through them either.
There are characters who are friends, lovers, siblings, sure, but so many of these characters were scientists that, when the first person is killed, they celebrate finding a mermaid rather than mourning the loss of their colleague and I found that a little difficult to believe. Surely even a scientist would want to go back home as soon as they realised that a) mermaids are real and b) they’re very hungry?
I’m not sure I really know what I’m saying, there was just some kind of barrier between me and the characters that meant I didn’t love this novel as much as I wanted to. I also felt like the ending was a little rushed, and I’m not sure how to feel about the conclusion which didn’t exactly feel like a conclusion. Perhaps there are more books planned in this series, and I’ll definitely read them if there are, but if not I’m not sure the ending solved anything.
That aside, I love the way Grant meshes myth with science in her science fiction. The way she writes science and the biology of her version of mermaids makes me want to be a cryptozoologist, despite not being scientifically brained in the slightest. Rather than writing a fantasy novel that follows the conventional mermaids we have in our folklore, Grant considers what these kinds of creatures would actually be like if they were real, much like the way Marie Brennan writes about dragons in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series, and that’s what makes this book so fresh.
This’ll sound weird, I know, but Grant’s science fiction makes me wish she’d been my science teacher at school. She makes science cool, which is more than my science teachers ever managed to do for me.
So Into the Drowning Deep isn’t the new favourite I hoped it would be, but I enjoyed it and Grant’s science fiction continues to be the kind of science fiction I love.