Mermaids, but make it science and make them ready to eat you.
I picked up Into the Drowning Deep when on vacation in New York in March (we flew home the same day Covid-19 really got going there, I’m thankful we were there when we were and not any later). I remembered that I had seen it on a list of f/f adult SFF somewhere, so I took the opportunity to pick it up. And fuck, I’m so glad that I did.
Into the Drowning Deep is one of my top five books this year (yes, I know the year is only half over, it’s just that good). I think that this was a really interesting take on mermaids. Mermaids have seemed to be a pretty big deal in LGBT fiction recently, but I love that Into the Drowning Deep took what would normally be a fantasy element and made it based in science (and horror).
Into the Drowning Deep is a near future science fiction horror novel set seven years after The Atargatis disappeared on its voyage to film suspected mermaids in the Mariana Trench. While video of the slaughter surfaced, many have believed it was a hoax. Now, another scientific crew is following their path to find out, once and for all, if the mermaids in the video are real.
The writing is vivid and engaging, the action was on point, the character motivations were clear and realistic, and the science felt well researched – bringing a whole new level to the novel. This really felt like a masterful work.
Some examples of characters and their motivations include:
Victoria “Tory” Stewart – A bisexual graduate student studying acoustic marine biology who is seeking closure after her sister disappeared as part of The Atargatis expedition.
Olivia Sanderson – Autistic lesbian entertainment reporter trying to break into other areas of reporting, instead of just the comic convention. Uses the camera as an aid in social situations.
Dr. Jillian Toth – Half Hawaiin Marine Biologist, professor, and siren expert who is struggling with her guilt over not being on the first expedition which set off based on her research and were unprepared for the reality of what they would face.
Hallie Wilson – Older sister, and thus built in translator, of deaf identical twins. She is also a linguist (or other scientist, I can’t remember specifics) who somewhat resents the ways her life has been controlled by her sisters’ deafness.
Holly Wilson – Deaf organic chemist who doesn’t understand her twin’s need be defined by herself.
Heather Wilson – Deaf deep-water submersible pilot/diver. She is focused on her goal to get to the bottom of the challenger deep.
These are just a few examples of the motivations of different characters in the book. All of the conflicting interests and motivations of each character influences how they interact with each other, and it was just *chef’s kiss*. And as much as I truly hated Tory’s ex-boyfriend, who weaseled his way onto the crew because of his connection with Tory, his motivation and characterization were so incredibly consistent. And this can be said of any of the characters, even non-POV characters.
Not to mention, Grant (Seanan McGuire) brought all sorts of representation to the table. A young bisexual grad student, an autistic lesbian entertainment reporter, a deaf chemist and her deaf deep sea submersible piloting twin sister, a Hawaiian scientist and professor, and physically disabled entertainment corporation representative, to name a few. Even where characters were not as developed, they had incredibly consistent characterization that lended itself well to the story.
The building tension, wonderful descriptions, and powerful motivations kept me reading page after page. This is the type of writing that I aspire to, honestly. I thought that it combined plot with character motivation beautifully. The story came to a super satisfying climax and close. I want, but don’t need, more of this story.
And of course, I can’t review this book without talking about the sapphic romance. While not the focus of the book by any means, I thought that the budding romance between Tory and Olivia was sweet and realistic. While Tory at first resents what Olivia represents (because she has the same role on the ship as Tory’s sister had on The Atargatis), their forced time together in the close quarters of a ship changes that.
In my opinion, Into the Drowning Deep, was a fantastic book and I highly recommend it, even for those of you who aren’t super keen on horror.