Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Orbit Books (November 2017)
448 pages; $18.57 hardcover; $15.99 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Mermaids? Scary? Nope, this isn’t a joke, and if you’re familiar with Mira “Seanan McGuire” Grant, queen of the Feed series, you know she’s capable of some horrific storytelling. Imagine if Michael Crichton and Stephen King mind-melded with someone brave enough to tackle a creature that most readers would not take seriously. The result would be a novel that’s scientifically based, utterly plausible, and with enough rich characters to make you cringe every time a dark corner is turned. Add to that the sheer lyricism of Grant/McGuire’s prose and Into the Drowning Deep is born, a horror novel that’s as frightening as Aliens and mind-bending as Jurassic Park (the concepts, not the dinos themselves).
The plot goes something like this: Imagine, an entertainment corporation which seems part reality show machine and part “Umbrella Corp,” sends a cruise ship into the heart of the Pacific, specifically towards the Mariana Trench, in search of a fictional beast they believe will steer millions straight through televisions into their pockets. Except, of course, something goes wrong and everyone on board goes missing. Only a secret video and splatters of blood remain.
Victoria’s sister was one of the victims on that first boat. Now, Imagine wants the marine biologist to be a part of the second ship to prove that mermaids actually exist. She’s grouped with a college professor who’s devoted her life to the research of this cryptology; the woman’s husband and guru; a pair of deaf twin sisters who are geniuses in their given fields; and a plethora of other characters. What’s fascinating is that not one of the secondary personalities is poorly drawn. Everyone has a backstory that works here without it overwhelming the story.
The ship, of course, has its own mysteries and things obviously go wrong, but not in a typical bad horror movie way. The creatures find them and all hell breaks loose, but not in a manner that’s expected. Fans of Grant’s Feed series know that blood and gore will not be avoided, yet is not exploited, either. Despite all the carnage, the cast and crew of the ship remain committed to solving this scifi horror mystery of the how’s and the why’s of the mermaids, not just how to survive them.
In lesser hands, this novel could have been a throwaway “B-movie” type story. Yet Grant/McGuire captures the lives of the characters in a manner that most cannot. Even the unlikable people evoke sympathy from the reader and the suspense between the covers is genuine because of it. The science rings true, while not as hardcore as in Crichton’s dino park (thankfully), it is fascinating, teaching the reader about the mysteries of the deep sea and what we don’t know—yet.
With very few parts that lag, Drowning Deep rolls through the currents fast and hard, pushing the reader to keep up with the story. Yet McGuire deftly paces the story, making sure we all know what’s going on and why.
A great read.