“Something was down there. Something that could slaughter sperm whales and leave research vessels floating abandoned and unmanned. Something that mimicked the sounds it heard, using them to lure its prey. Something that defied belief.”
You know what we don’t see enough of? Violent and evil mermaids. Luckily Mira Grant has come to save the day. In 2015 she released a novella called Into The Rolling Deep (you can read my review HERE) which follows a TV crew, scientists, and some actresses into the Marianas Trench. They’re trying to “prove” the existence of mermaids. Aka they’ll put some actresses in the water, film them, and claim it’s mermaids. Unfortunately, mermaids are very real, and very dangerous. One night they make quick work of the ship, Atargatis, and it’s found floating empty in the ocean soon after.
Two years later Mira Grant published Into the Drowning Deep which is our follow up to this story. Imagine Entertainment had a lot of backlash after the mystery of Atargatis and the loss of a lot of innocent lives. But they managed to get out of it without too much PR damage. The navy released the footage that was captured on the ship, but the everyday viewership believes it was faked. Because mermaids can’t be real...right?
In this new story we follow Tory, the sister of Anne who died on Atargatis. She’s a scientist who focuses on sonar in the Marianas Trench. Her and her lab partner Luis are determined to find what exactly happened that fateful night. And they’re finally given their chance. Theo Blackwell approaches them with an offer. Imagine is sending out a new ship, Melusine, to find out what happened and to prove the existence of mermaids. This time they’re taking it more seriously and have gathered a huge team of scientists, three trained dolphins, a TV host, a cameraman and have created an almost impenetrable ship. That’s if the damn shutters would work. But they’ll worry about that when the time comes.
Our main characters are of course Tory and her partner Luis, Theo Blackwell who works for Imagine, Dr. Jillian Roth who is the world’s expert on mermaids, and Olivia, the new host of the show. It’s an incredible cast of characters that Grant has very thoughtfully fleshed out. Within a few pages of meeting everyone you’re in complete understanding of their motives and who they are.
FULL SPOILERS GOING FORWARD - TURN BACK NOW
Here’s what I loved - I’m going straight in and talking about the mermaids. They are TERRIFYING. And as we discover near the end, they’re actually more akin to sirens than mermaids. They’re clever, they’re quick, they’re out for blood. They’re built like terrifying sharks but with the evolution of a human. They hunt like a pack and are able to breathe below water and above. They’re also mimics and use that to their advantage when they’re hunting, luring animals and humans to their deaths with just a change of their voice. Sirens, in this book, are the most aggressive predators that have ever existed.
Dr. Roth spends a lot of time wondering about how they’ve gone unnoticed for so long, why they retreated to live in the Trench when they could easily take down man. And that’s such an interesting part to the story. “Nothing more nor less than an equal. One whose mastery of the waters outpaced our own, and left us with the choice to flee as predators, or to live as prey…”
It’s an interesting take on sirens because they are shown as monsters, but near the end you realize there is a part of humanity within them. I’m not sure if that’s scarier, but it sure feels like it.
The descriptions of the sirens are also terrifying and Grant is so great at creating a clear image in your mind. “Its face was something like a viperfish’s and something like a mummified ape’s and something like the shadows that sometimes chased her through her dreams.” They’re also completely ruthless and continually show new and more evil ways of being able to kill a person. It’s such an amazing monster story!
The horror in this book is well done, you feel incredibly tense reading some parts and there are moments that will genuinely catch you off guard which I find is hard to find in horror fiction. The ship is well thought through and feels realistic for its setting. The gore isn’t too over the top which I appreciate, sometimes horror fiction just goes hardcore on the gore and it just ends up being boring writing.
I also love the political stance that Grant takes within the writing, it’s never shoved down your throat, but if you read between the lines, it’s there. And it’s the stance of humans protecting the ocean and its creatures because without it, we’re fucked. “This is not for us. Be careful, be careful, for this is not ours to claim.” As I’m sure most of you are aware, Marianas Trench has never been fully explored and there’s so many things down there left to be discovered. It can make you feel incredibly small, but also reminds you that the ocean is stronger than us, and cannot and should not defeat or destroy it.
Challenger Deep - did ya’ll know this existed?! It’s the deepest known point in Earth’s seabed. It’s at the southern end of the Marianas Trench and is 36,037 feet. By comparison, Mount Everest stands at 29,026 feet above sea level meaning the deepest part of the Trench is 7,044 feet DEEPER than Everest is TALL. Just this past May 4th the DSV Limiting Factor completed four manned dives to the bottom of Challenger Deep. Like...that JUST happened. How fucking insane is that? You can check that out HERE.
So here’s the thing, the ocean is fucking scary and is still very much unknown. That makes this story so much more believable because you just never know. And it’s what makes it so terrifying - humanity is naturally curious, and one day it’s going to bite us in the ass.
I highly recommend Into the Drowning Deep but make sure you read the prequel novella first so you can get just a taste of this horror before diving into the full length. Mira Grant has completely outdone herself here and this will most likely make my Top 10 list of the year!
“Biologists and the laws of evolution on Earth said humanity had started, like everything else, in the sea. Maybe that explained fearing the dark. An ancestral memory of this sort of all consuming nothingness would have been enough to terrify anyone.”
Want more spooky read recommendations? Just search below: