Science and horror go together like peanut butter and jelly and have remained enduringly popular as topics, from Mary Shelley’s original tale of the ethics of scientific creation to the several thousand zombie virus novels that have been published over the last decades (including one of Mira Grant’s). Sci-fi horror forces us to confront and examine our fears of engineered nature, of contamination, and of scientific advancement beyond our control. Grant adds a new kind of fear to this canon, one centered on the interaction of scientific discovery and financial interest.
Behind the Pen
Urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire uses the Mira Grant pen name for her forays into horror. An incredibly prolific and highly-regarded author, Grant has won a Nebula, a Hugo, and a Locus. In 2013, she was nominated for a Hugo Award an impressive five times in a single year (twice as Mira Grant and three times as Seanan McGuire). Though her catalogue is fairly large and varied, Grant tends to return to the tensions that inhabit spaces where science and capitalism are inextricably mixed—Into the Drowning Deep is no different.
A No-Spoiler Summary
Into the Drowning Deep takes the reader on a Jurassic Park-style journey where the only mystery is “How badly will this go?” The novel opens with the disastrous voyage of the Atargatis, a ship staffed with a film crew who intend to make an “edutainment” film in the style of the Discovery Channel’s Mermaids: The Body Found. When the crew accidentally finds mermaids instead, the creatures promptly slaughter every person aboard; the film is leaked and the funding company, Imagine Media, is disgraced. The rest of the novel follows Imagine’s second voyage to the Mariana Trench in the fortified Melusine. Thinking themselves prepared for the mission, the voyagers range from the sister of an Atargatis victim looking for answers to a PhD “sirenologist” who is treated like a huckster by the larger academy. In the shadows lurks the dying CEO of Imagine Media, hoping to bolster his image by proving mermaids are real no matter the cost. As expected, things go poorly, and the mysteries of the Mariana Trench are revealed in horrifying detail.
Voices from Within
HOWLS was thoroughly split on this book, with some members loving every bit of it and some put off by the length, though the group agreed that Grant poured an outstanding level of research and scientific detail into the novel. The general opinion was summed up by one HOWLer, who said “I get that she’s really fastidiously building a world and wants to make it as believable as possible, but she’s also drawing out situations and repeating information ad nauseam. Like just in those last two chapters: how many times did Dr. Toth repeat some variation of, ‘There’s something I’m missing. Something right in front of me.’ At least three.”
The group was also impressed with the breadth of representation in the novel. Readers of the novel get to meet characters of different backgrounds who are queer, neurodivergent, deaf, or from populations typically underrepresented in oceanic research, and Grant treats each with care and respect, avoiding the pitfalls that so many authors fall into when writing diverse casts of characters. As one user put it, “Also disability representation that isn’t just for representation’s sake. That drives me insane when it feels so gimmicky. Grant is doing it right.”
Best Scenes: The Challenger Deep and the Necropsy
Worst Scenes: Dolphin Consent and The Very Sexy Poachers
Welcome to the Blurbs: HOWL Society Members’ Reviews in Their Own Words
- Very strong story reads like a great Hollywood blockbuster. Held back by a serious case of overwriting and some very silly characters.
- The writing was sometimes a little shallow, but I fell for this book hook, line, and sinker! I had a whale of a time, this is off-FISH-ally the most fun book I’ve read with this group. I give this one my SEAL of approval! (Srsly though, it’s very good and very scary)
- Pour 1 gal ice-cold water into bowl. Add 2 tbsp salt. Stir until dissolved, then add 3 cups dangerous creatures. In separate container, combine 1 boat, 1 cup eccentric characters, 1 tbsp conflicting goals. Add to mixture. Stir until frightened.
- This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is soooo nerdy with some amazing science facts, not to mention it has excellent queer and disability representation. This is an action movie in book form, or perhaps a very adult Disney film with blood and teeth and some science labs. It is just so much fun. I really enjoyed all the characters, and I enjoyed this book just as much on my second read as I did on the first. Highly recommend!!
- Literary equivalent of a SyFy Channel monster movie but with a better script and more believable science.
- Seven years ago, everyone aboard the Atargatis was eaten by mermaids. Now, the world’s best and brightest scientists board a cruise ship to try to find the carnivorous sea maidens residing in the depths of the Mariana Trench. Despite the depths of the waters, this book isn’t particularly deep, but the ride is thoroughly enjoyable and has great LGBT+ and disability rep.
- After abandoning Feed by Mira Grant, I was wary to dive back into her work, but members of HOWLS raved about Into the Drowning Deep. This book lacked in character development, was mired in lengthy, repetitive exposition, and had me scratching my head at choices made by our heroes. The mermaids were cool, though, the science was interesting, and the diversity was inclusive of many different communities.
- This is a fun book with the atmosphere of a creature-feature movie.
- Grant’s novel features immaculately designed creatures and fascinating science, but suffers from bloated content and a cast too large and static to care much about.
Into the Drowning Deep is a popcorn read. If you’re looking for deep literary allusions, heavy symbolism, or hypnotic writing, this book is not for you. If you want to see somebody take a killer mermaid to the face while you relax, this is perfect. As someone noted, “I’m truly having a BLAST with this book. I didn’t know I needed these killer mermaids in my life but I’m sure glad they crawled over the deck railings and into my heart.”