Ahoy me mateys! Recently, I learned that HBO added one of my favourite popcorn-films to their catalogue, The Meg, and it made me feel very excited. I’m a huge aficionado of creature features and I’m also quite obsessed with megalodons. Oh, and I loved the book that this film is based off of. As I sat down for my happy re-watching of The Meg, I became inspired to share with you a list of book recommendations that revolve around stories taking place on or beneath the ocean!
Oceanic environments are some of my favourites, particularly in literature as the potential for creativity can be astronomical. Chalk it up to my Polynesian blood or the fact the ocean is just so fricking beautiful and mysterious. No matter the reason behind my passion for it, usually the narratives involving oceans can be rather cliché for the sake of being cliché. The stories are too safe or don’t illustrate the sheer fortitude of this natural beast; most of the time. Out of all of the aquatic novels that I have read, these five are the ones that truly exhibit how frightening, enigmatic, and/or majestic this setting can be, and how brilliantly it can be utilised in the storytelling art. I also believe that there is book on this list for nearly every sort of reader. If you’ve ever had any interest in seafaring settings, check out my list below!
05. Meg by Steve Alten
Meg is a science-fiction, action adventure book that is the first instalment in a long series (only the first two books are worth reading, honestly speaking) that follows a guy named Jonas who works with many people in trying to hunt down an ancient shark that escapes the depths of the Mariana Trench and wreaks havoc in the ocean, completely disrupting the natural balance of the aquatic ecosystem in the process.
Since it is the inspiration behind this post today, naturally, it had to be on the list somewhere. Originally, I had read the novel because a prehistoric shark was too fucking yummy to pass up, and I love cheesy, action-adventure books every once in a while. The cheese can be quite strong in this story, but it is also wonderfully researched with meticulous use of genuine science to tell an outrageous tale. In fact, it does it so well that it can be rather realistic for the majority of the ride. Fans of actiony creature-features won’t want to pass this up. The sequel, The Trench, is even better!
04. The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
The Girl Who Came Home is a British historical fiction, stand-alone novel—from one of my genre faves—about a young woman who goes on a journey to help her great-grandmother in discovering family and acceptance upon listening to the elder lady’s story on everything she had lost in the wake of leaving Ireland to make Titanic’s maiden voyage and how she ultimately survived the tragedy.
My first-time reading through this book, I had some mixed feelings about it, particularly where the clichés came into play. Yet, on the second reading, I had a much deeper appreciation for these clichés because they help tell a classic story of coming home and learning to finally put the past behind you. I would recommend this to folks who like gradual historical narratives that focus a lot on interpersonal connections rather than a super strict storyline, alternating time periods, and for anyone who isn’t uncomfortable with reading about the Titanic tragedy (including traumatic deaths and suffering).
03. Deep Fathom by James Rollins
Deep Fathom is a science-fiction, action thriller authored by one of my favourite writers of the genre and is about a former Navy SEAL named Jack Kirkland. He rises from the pits of an oceanic salvage mission to discover the world burning via unusual natural disasters. After learning about the causes behind the chaos, he realises that in order to save the world from a terrible apocalypse he must return to the ocean in his deep-sea submersible, Deep Fathom.
Deep Fathom is a true oceanic romp, but far more intellectual and scientifically precise than something like Meg. The action is also a bit more fine-tuned and the dialogue less raunchy. This is a book for people who prefer to be challenged to a certain degree while reading. I also adored the descriptions of the underwater environments as they can be quite claustrophobic yet alluring.
02. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Daughter of the Pirate King is a young adult, high fantasy novel, and the first book in a duology, that revolves around young female pirate, Captain Alosa. She’s hunting a rare map that will lead her to a legendary treasure horde. In order to locate the map, she allows herself to be captured by her enemies so she can search their ship. While aboard, she encounters First Mate Riden, who is her biggest obstacle. Since Riden is cunning and suspicious of Alosa’s presence, the lady Captain must use her own special wit and unique abilities to throw him off her path so that she can succeed, preferably before he decides to kill her.
This was such an excellent book! It is vicious and filled with diverse, fierce females who aren’t afraid to kick arse (or kill arse) when they need to. The scenery and the way that everything is described sucks you into the narrative with a maelstrom of fast-paced action, entertaining character interactions, a slow-burn romance, and gorgeous oceanic fantasy traits. Additionally, it is written in a way that will appeal to adults as much as it would adolescents. There are very, very few qualities involving the prose and content—aside from the romance maybe—that makes it feel like it’s intended for anyone who isn’t an adult.
01. BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley
BioShock: Rapture is a science-fiction, alternate history novel that is an adaption of the video games, specifically BioShock and BioShock 2. It is about the rise of an underwater city named Rapture in post-war era United States, and the inevitable fate that befalls the city as the intricacies of such a situation began to take serious effect. For franchise familiars, the novel covers events prior to Bioshock all the way up to a few years after Bioshock 2.
The duology (I refer to it as duology because BioShock: Infinite was on a different level altogether) is one of my favourite video game serials of all-time. I have lost count as to how many times I’ve played through both of them. The world of Rapture is so bloody brilliant. It is simultaneously captivating and seductive but sinister and haunting. The theme of oppression is as literal as it is political, if not more, and that is the second-best part of the game, with the first being the setting of course. Everything is arranged to complement the oceanic environment. There is very little in the book that isn’t about being under the water, or constantly surrounded by water, and how that impacts a person psychologically. The writing is smart with noir aesthetics that combines dark and gritty ambiances for a remarkably constructed reading experience. This book will always be my go-to, number one book recommendation for anyone—gamer or not—who’s in the market for a deep-sea chill.
Thank you for checking out my list of aquatic-centred book recommendations! The ocean also always makes me think of Spring, so in a way I feel this list o’reads is rather fitting for folks who’re interested in some stimulating titles for the newly arrived season.
Please, let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these novels, or if they sound interesting to you. Also, if you have more oceany books that you felt were awesome, drop them down below if you can!