Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Orbit, 2017. Hardcover. 440 pages.
*Note before review: There is a prequel novella, Rolling in the Deep, that I was not aware of and did not read before this book. It's not necessary to read it, but it's one that you would be fine reading or not reading first and that I personally will go back and read. It basically tells of the events that led to the events of Into the Drowning Deep.**
Into the Drowning Deep is one of those books that lingers in your mind every time you put it down. It is delightfully creepy, immensely compelling, and a book that I desperately want more of.
Seven years before the events of this book, a "mockumentary" company sent a large ship into the Mariana Trench to determine whether or not mermaids actually exist. Tragedy struck when the ship was attacked and the entire crew was killed, presumably by the horrifying creatures that live in the depths of the water. Some people do not believe this tragic event was real and unplanned by the company, while others are convinced that mermaids are real. This book begins when the company sends a new vessel with a new crew of many scientists and new crew members back into the deep to find out exactly what happened to the original ship and whether mermaids do or do not exist
Into the Drowning Deep is, at its core, as story about terrifying, violent mermaids and the quest to uncover the truth behind the mysterious creatures that are believed to dwell in the Mariana Trench. Along the way to this discovery, however, we realize that there is much more to this story than just that. This story is also about science and how scientists work, the moral and ethics of using, training, and killing animals, what is considered a sentient being or an animal, and many more fascinating topics.
This is a fascinating book that is written in an incredibly accessible manner. There are a lot of topics in this book that are very intricate and specialized in nature, which causes Grant to include a rather hefty amount of info-dump style areas throughout this book. I found this a bit cumbersome at times, but a part of me also appreciated getting a crash course in things like marine biology and sound waves--things which I really didn't know the fine details of until now. I definitely feel like I've come away smarter after reading this book than I was before. These info dumps also make it clear that Grant did a lot of research for this book, which is always appreciated, but I do still wish she had cleaned them up slightly. Despite this, I still found myself incredibly bewitched by this story and how carefully it was told. This isn't a super fast-paced novel, but it's definitely not slow, either. Grant seems to have captured the ability to write a wonderfully paced horror book that reveals just enough details and hints at just the right times.
There are a lot of interesting characters in this book that I enjoyed following, whether they were likable or not--and there are plenty of unlikable characters int his book. I also really liked that Grant included some LGBT representation (though I cannot speak on behalf of whether the representation is considered good or not, it seemed very positive), a deaf character, and more that added so much to this book. The main protagonist that we follow is Victoria Stewart, whose sister was lost in the original accident. Her goal on this ship is twofold: 1) to advance science and discover mermaids, and 2) to discover the truth of her sister's death. Victoria is an exceptionally capable, intelligent woman with an interesting storyline. I can't say that she was my favorite character, but I was definitely interested in her and was intrigued by what she brought to the story. Victoria is accompanied on this trip by her lab partner, Luis Martines, who brings with hi his own unique personality that is both amusing and also obsessive. Among other characters are the owner of the company, Theo Blackwell; a professional academic in the field of mermaid research, Dr. Jillian Toth; two big game hunters that are brought along for protection (but who each personally want the acclaim of being the first two to ever hunt mermaids), Jacques and Michi Abney; and a spokesperson/host for the company's new vessel, Olivia. Whether I liked all of these characters or not, I loved what they added to the story and was invested in all of their storylines. I also found myself yelling at almost all of them at some point to stop being so stupid, but I feel like that's part of any classic horror story, so it felt right to be doing that.
Into the Drowning Deep was such a fascinating book. I personally love books like this that explore new territories and test out theories about beings or myths that could be real. There's something about the potentially horrifying unknown that majorly entices me and led me to really enjoy this book. What I particularly loved about the mythical mermaids in this book was how well Grant made them realistic. They weren't some mythical being that defied reality, but beings that seemed scientifically plausible and more developed by Grant in a way that seemed authentic in appearance and anatomy. It made them so much creepier and left me on the edge of my seat for the entire book. Also as a head's up--this book is very violent and gory, so if you think reading about mermaids brutally attacking people and the aftermath of that might bother you, you might want to read this book with caution.
On a final note: I've always had a slight fear of the ocean, and I'm pretty sure this book confirmed it. It's not that I think there are mermaids (but, I mean, there are some whacky
Overall, I've given Into the Drowning Deep four stars! Despite the occasionally dense writing, I enjoyed this book so much and I cannot recommend it enough. I so badly want a sequel, but I don't know if we'll get one.
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