Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is an adult science-fiction horror novel that I checked-out (on Sir Betrothed’s account because mine was maxed out at the time, oops) from the library about a month ago. It caught my interest due to all of the excitement and buzz that was surrounding it, and I have also been in a mood for literature with mermaids. Because it was so hyped, I had always been reluctant to purchase it off the bat, like I normally do for sci-fi and fantasy books, and after reading the novel, I am happy that I opted out of buying it as it’s not something that was for me, unfortunately.
Into the Drowning Deep takes place in and above the Mariana Trench where seven years ago, an expedition aboard the ship, Atargatis, set-off on a trip to film a “mockumentary.” The focus of the mockumentary was on mythological marine creatures. However, a mysterious tragedy befell the ship and the whole crew was lost at sea. Now, during the present time, a new crew has been assembled for the sole purpose of uncovering what precisely occurred aboard the Atargatis all those years ago. For one woman, Victoria Stewart, the mission is about much more—it’s about learning the fate of her sister lost at sea, and to finally bring peace to her grieving heart.
There were plenty of things that irked me about this book, but before I hop into the ugly pile, let’s take a look at more of the promising elements.
The science, particularly where marine biology and underwater acoustics are concerned, are brilliant. They are presented with tons of lush details and easy-to-understand language that can make anyone—even if you aren’t typically a fan of complex sciences—appreciate the fields and how they apply to the story. Some of the biological aspects took some creative liberties later down the road, but thus is the evolution and nature of fiction!
There are tons of diverse characters. The main character, Victoria, is a lesbian whose romantic interest is a woman with severe social anxiety and autism. Victoria’s professional partner is either a Hispanic or Latinx individual. There are some women who have disabilities yet have prominent, respectable positions in the fields of their relative scientific specialities, mostly to do with the study of the ocean. You even have an interracial couple as well. The load of diversity was one of the things I noticed immediately as more and more cast members were introduced, and is one of my favourite aspects about Into the Drowning Deep.
The action sequences and horrific portions of the book are written excellently, truly capturing the anxiety and tension that goes in hand-in-hand with this type of genre. I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages during these parts, hungry to see how things would play out. The descriptions of the blood and violence, the brutality of many of the deaths, were so tight and suspenseful, I felt like I was watching a film within my imagination. I probably wouldn’t mind a properly developed film of the book, actually. This very specific quality is the number one reason I kept from DNFing (not finishing) the book because everything else was an immense struggle.
My two largest complaints about Into the Drowning Deep pertain to the walls of textual information and the absolutely horrid build-up to get the ball rolling on all of the actiony and frightening bits. Let’s address the first part.
Whenever we have one of the character’s perspectives, there tends to be boundless ramblings of inner-monologue, whether it has to do with learning about their pasts, their current frustrations, emotions, feelings, etc. I understand that a certain level of explanation is required to help create a well-crafted character and to help the audience find traits with which to relate to the respective character. But so much information is given, and nearly in every single occurrence of the specific character’s POV that it felt like overkill to me. There was very little mystery left. I like intrigue and a bit of ambiguity. A lot of this also came off as disjointed, depending on when it would happen. For example, characters will have dialogue, then a pause is initiated in the conversation to offer paragraphs of information on what is going through the character’s mind at that moment. It disrupts the fluidity of a natural conversation. I began to feel bored and started to mentally check out of these scenes more often that I care to admit.
The second part, the build-up to the main meat of everything, was sensationally paced. It takes about 200-215 pages for that to happen. There is a shit ton of groundwork done to get the crew gathered up and get the ship out on its journey. Then there’s more foundation laid out as the characters get comfortable and situated to their impending mission. Then finally about 150-160 pages in, we have our first real shocking event take place. Afterwards, it takes about another 80-90 pages of more preparation before things begin to get super serious and tense. The narrative is only 438 pages long and we’ve already blown through (quite slowly) about 230 them.
I was beyond restless, impatient, and more bored than I was intrigued. Whatever intrigue or interest I had seemed to have dissipated during the waiting period. Even when things turned into a mad, hot mess of scariness, there were points where more textual information was shared, once again unsettling the flow and natural order of the story.
I believe this just may be an issue that I have with the author itself, as her other books (Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire), such as Every Heart a Doorway or her urban fantasy series, October Daye, tend to have sluggish starts to them that sticks around faintly from beginning to end. I don’t mind slower books—Japanese literature and adult fantasy tend to be very paced—and find great pleasure in many of them, but when it comes to my science-fiction, particularly a horror one, I don’t want to spend more than half the book waiting for shit to get real. I believe that McGuire is much more suited to writing fantasy than she is sci-fi, particularly after the frustrating experience that was Into the Drowning Deep, because her writing style works for that genre. It doesn’t for this one.
All in all, Into the Drowning Deep was a colossal fucking disappointment to me. It could have been from the hype, or the eagerness I felt when I learned of mermaids being viewed from a strictly scientific point-of-view (meaning there was no fantasy element to the book at all), or just how fascinating the premise sounded. Whatever the reason, I had gotten my hopes up and it left me falling fast and hard, so much so that I even fell into a reading slump. I’ve been trying to read this damn book for nearly three weeks now, which is very unlike me.
I recommend it if you do not mind a meticulously created build-up for a horrific and action-packed situation that will only last about one third to one quarter of the book. I also recommend it if you like good, hard sciences, specifically ones that deal with marine life and aquatics, oh and mermaids too. I do not recommend the book if you prefer much more fast-paced science-fiction novels or are not a fan of textual walls.
2.75 mermaids outta 5.
Thank you so much for visiting me tonight. Until next time, happy reading and happy otakuing! ❤️
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