I’m trying out new formats for reviews until I find one I like, so please bear with my construction. Thank you!
Oh wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. Coherence and summary below the cut.
Synopsis from GoodReads:
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 maritime 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.
Wow again. This novel blew me away.
I picked it up mostly on a whim and because Mira Grant is a pseudonym of Seanan McGuire, whose books I mostly enjoy (Grant is the name McGuire uses when she’s writing more on the scientific side of speculative fiction as compared to the fantastic side, for those who care about that sort of thing). Also, look at that cover. It’s gorgeous.
And Into the Drowning Deep is an amazing novel. The horrific beats were spot on for me, slowly ratcheting up the tension and the terror until, well, people started dying. Then it just kept going and going and I loved every moment of it. Provided it was daylight outside because boy did this book raise my adrenaline and paranoia levels. And I don’t even live near an ocean!
Set a few years into the future (most of the story takes place in 2022), the habitats of the world have shifted thanks to man-caused disasters, natural disasters affecting man-made structures, etc. ItDD explores what this would have done to the habits of other species, specifically the undersea creatures alluded to in the summary. On top of this, Grant uses mythology and gives it a scientific explanation – as so much mythology has gotten in this day and age – while making sure it retains the goosebumps-up-your-arms chill that all good monster stories should have.
The large and well-fleshed out cast is composed mostly of scientists, of course, come to study the ocean near the Mariana Trench and Challenger Deep in general and deep sea megafauna in particular. Most have different disciplines and all have their own feel and bring their own biases and wants to the exploration. I loved the glimpses both of friendship and cooperation, on the one hand, and jealously guarded research and political sparring on the other.
And, this might sound crazy to those who have read the novels, but I think two of my favorite characters were Jacques and Michi Abney. Not because they’re nice people – they’re really not – or because I agree with what they do and why – I really really don’t – but because they felt like such real people. I loved seeing inside their heads and watching them and just…everything.
In fact, I loved most of the characters. Not all, of course, but most of them had something about them that drew me in to their view, which is good since a lot of characters get to have some kind of a say via the rotating Third Person Limited perspective of the novel. I would be hard-pressed to pick a true favorite, but Jillian Toth is probably pretty high up there for me. She’s just so committed, she knows her value and what she can and can’t do, she kept her head and did what was needed and stayed out of the way when that was her best course of action. Also, her memories both of her husband and of the Atargatis voyage really helped tie everything together for me.
(A funny thing that I think helped get me into the book a bit more: there are two deaf characters in this novel and sign language plays a somewhat vital role, and not just for those two scientists. Currently, I’m learning a bit of sign language because of a show I’m working on. Just one of those funny little coincidences that pop up now and again, I guess, but it did make me more than a little excited.)
My one complaint, the reason this isn’t a five star rating, is that I felt the climax wasn’t as good of a pay-off as the tension deserved. It felt more like a balloon had been punctured without being released and it just slowly deflated.
If you’re looking for scientific horror dealing with the oceans, sort of Pacific Rim but science instead of action, I highly recommend this novel! But keep in mind – this book is scary and it is a bit gory.
4.5 stars. So much love. So much fear.
*There is, apparently, a prequel novella to this novel, one that tells the story of the Atargatis. I didn’t realize this until after I wrote this review and it had no effect on my being able to follow the story.
**For those who care, there is a queer (f/f) romance in this novel. It’s not the main thread, but steer clear if this is going to turn you off from an amazing novel.