WOW. I don’t typically read horror, but this was fantasy horror, and WOW. I picked up the novella precursor to this sometime last year – I never reviewed it here, probably because it was barely over 100 pages, but it was fascinating and haunting all the same. Rolling in the Deep told the story of the Atargatis, a ship sent out to the Mariana Trench to stage a mockumentary – supposedly looking for mermaids, but equipped with actors who could swim with mermaid tails. They never planned to find anything. Except they did. And they all died. One by one at first, a few people picked off, then the entire ship swarmed and eaten. The reader sees this happen, but to anyone not on the ship, the only thing they find is some footage on an abandoned ship.
Into the Drowning Deep fast forwards a few years; the production company, Imagine Network, is not doing so well, and they want to prove that the footage wasn’t a hoax. So they assemble a new mission, this one with a lot more security. (Though they still picked security with an eye for what would look good on TV, rather than what would be effective, which was a poor choice.) The reader, of course, knows that the mermaids are real, and that they are dangerous, so you spend much of the first part of the book in a state of suspense waiting for them to show up. (I actually thought it took a little too long for them to finally show up, but the time was used for character-building.)
The book is very Lovecraftian, actually – from the strong, building sense of foreboding doom to the creatures that should not exist, to the kind of gibbering insanity near the end. It’s probably why I liked the book so much; Lovecraft is about the only kind of horror writing I like, and I get the same feeling from Grant’s writing.
So yes, the book is about mermaids. But these aren’t mermaids as you’ve seen them before. They’re not cute, they’re not seductive, they don’t want to live on land, and they’re definitely not friendly. These mermaids are predators. Intelligent predators, but predators. And humans, apparently, are delicious.
Most of the characters in the book are scientists trying to prove mermaids exist, so there’s a lot of science happening aboard the ship, and Grant doesn’t shy away from it happening on the page as well. She also includes a pair of deaf scientist twins, and their interpreter sibling, which is important because the mermaids use a form of sign language as well. Most of the main characters are women, which is also great to see in such a large concentration of fictional scientists.
If you like fantasy horror, i.e. Lovecraft, you should definitely pick this up. Rolling in the Deep is also worth reading first – I think it definitely adds another layer to the sense of foreboding doom.
Technically this is billed as #1 in the series, which gives me hope for more. I’m counting it for PopSugar’s “next book in a series you started” because Rolling in the Deep came out two years prior and is a prequel. (It’s listed as #.5)
From the cover of Into the Drowning Deep:
From the cover of Rolling in the Deep:
When the Imagine Network commissioned a documentary on mermaids, to be filmed from the cruise ship Atargatis, they expected what they had always received before: an assortment of eyewitness reports that proved nothing, some footage that proved even less, and the kind of ratings that only came from peddling imaginary creatures to the masses.
They didn’t expect actual mermaids. They certainly didn’t expect those mermaids to have teeth.
This is the story of the Atargatis, lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy. Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the bathypelagic zone in the Mariana Trench…and the depths are very good at keeping secrets.