Toothy Sirens and the People They “Love”: Mira Grant’s Into The Drowning Deep

A few weeks ago I reviewed Mira Grant’s Rolling in the Deep. It’s a sharp little novella that gave us a peek into a world that not only thinks that mermaids might exist, but sets out to prove it. The results are disastrous (and it’s not a spoiler to tell you that; the back cover copy says so very plainly). I hadn’t read the novella prior to finding out that a sequel was in the works for late last year. I’m glad that I waited to read Rolling in the Deep because I didn’t have a long wait for the followup novel, Into the Drowning Deep. Once I started reading, I couldn’t seem to stop. I ended up reading this over New Year’s weekend, while I was stuck in bed with the plague. If you are to begin the new year as you mean to continue with it, then I suppose I’m in good shape (aside from the whole part where I was rather sick).

Into the Drowning Deep (2017)
Written by: Mira Grant
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Pages: 448 (Kindle)
Series: Book One of Rolling in the Deep
Publisher: Orbit

Why I Chose It: Grant’s a favorite writer of mine. Pretty much, if she writes it, I’ll read it. In this case I was itching to read about the aftermath of the events that took place in Rolling in the Deep.

Premise:

The ocean is home to many myths,
 
But some are deadly…
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 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.
Some minor spoilers, no plot points revealed.


When the novel opens, we are introduced to Victoria Stewart. For those who’ve read Rolling in the Deep, the name “Stewart” should be familiar. Anne Stewart was the television personality who accompanied the Atargatis on her ill-fated final mission. I was pleased that we got to share some of Victoria’s earlier memories with her sister in the beginning of the novel. It reminds the reader that, even if we don’t get to know them well, these characters are fully developed. This is one of Grant’s strengths. Even the not-so-likeable characters are given layers and quirks that humanize them. Victoria’s ex-boyfriend enjoys needlepoint, for example. This isn’t a major plot point, but it’s something that Grant takes the time to tell us, giving us more information about the character than we would have otherwise received. By telling us that this particular person not only does needlepoint, but that he does the complex kits and enters them in contests, we learn that he’s an ambitious, motivated, and detail-obsessed individual. I love it. It’s this kind of description that brings characters to life, and we are fortunate as readers to have writers who care to give us such details.

Once the new ship, the Melusine, arrives at the Trench, the terrifying sirens waste little time in harvesting tasty, delicious humans from what is essentially a floating buffet. The Imagine Network made efforts for this voyage to be more successful than that of the Atargatis. Security teams were hired. Special shutters were built into the ship to let it lock down and keep everything in or out as needed. A team of seasoned hunters is on board. Between all of these things, the voyage should have gone smoothly…right? Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law was in full effect. The fancy, high-tech shutters? Malfunction constantly. The security personnel? Was chosen largely because of their looks and on-camera presence and didn’t receive much training. As for the hunters…I’m not going to spoil their story. They’re a fascinating pair and I enjoyed their story, even as I found them a bit personally offensive (which I believe is the point).

As for the sirens themselves (as Dr. Jillian Toth, the foremost sirenologist in the field, points out during a dissection of one of the sirens, they aren’t properly “mermaids”), they are as monstrous and terrifying as ever. The sheer speed of these creatures boggles the mind. We are told, over and over, that they move faster than one can imagine and are armed with a mouthful of needle sharp teeth. They kill quickly and efficiently. Worse? They are sentient beings who communicate with each other, plan their attacks, and learn from their past experiences. They are equally or perhaps even more intelligent than a human being. They aren’t, however, humans who happen to have fish tails. The end of Rolling in the Deep contained a simply stated, ominous fact:

The female anglerfish is several hundred times the size of the male.
They can be found in oceans and coastal regions around the world.

(Location 1182, Kindle edition)

It is fairly obvious what Grant is implying with this information. We have an evolved cousin of the anglerfish, and it’s figured out how to work on land as well as in the deep water. Furthermore, it’s never explicitly stated that the sirens we meet in the novella are the males of the species, but one suspects. This is confirmed in Into the Drowning Deep. Grant thoughtfully provides a brief passage from the matriarch’s point of view. She is terrifying, enormous, and ancient. If she was what finished off the crew of the Atargatis, I hope that it was quick.

As always with Grant’s work, a wide swatch of humanity is represented here, from all walks of life. Rather importantly, a pair of deaf scientists, Dr. Holly Wilson and her twin sister Heather, require an interpreter. Fortunately, their older sister, Dr. Hallie Wilson, has been assisting her sisters throughout their lives. Hallie, as an expert in sign language, is instrumental in one of the voyage’s many goals: see if humans can learn to communicate with the sirens, who have been seen communicating with each other using their own version of sign language. I wish that this particular plot thread had been given more time to develop, but given the circumstances, I can understand why it wasn’t. We receive just enough to hint at the potential for bigger things, should this book be given a sequel.

In Conclusion: If you loved Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid and want to hold on to that image of happy, singing merfolk, avoid this book. If you just love dolphins and can’t bear to read about bad things happening to them, maybe skip it. If you’re a horror aficionado, especially if you appreciate marine science, read this. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

2 Comments

  • Shara White January 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve still got to get my grubby eyeballs on this one. Looking forward to it!

    Reply
  • Weasel of Doom January 11, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    I read it in mid-December, and liked it LOTS! The ending seemed a little rushed, but I am hoping for a sequel 🙂

    Reply

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