Personally, I’ve always thought that mermaids are a criminally underrated monster in horror. The original story of sirens involved them using beauty to lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths. Have you ever read the Odyssey, where they literally have to plug their ears so that they don’t wreck the ship and get murdered? That’s hardcore. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is a 2017 horror novel based on the evil within the mermaid myth, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
What’s it about?
Years ago, a ship called the Atargatis set out towards the Marianas Trench with the goal of finding scientific evidence of mermaids. Because the journey was funded by media conglomerate Imagine, the entire voyage was recorded (in hopes of making a documentary). Unfortunately, instead of a fun documentary about cryptids, what the company actually got was a video of their entire crew being slaughtered, leaving an empty vessel in the middle of the ocean. Seven years later, Tori, the sister of one of the disappeared crew members, is contacted by Imagine. They’re sending out another ship, this time to determine what exactly happened to the Atargatis. She accepts, as a way of avenging her lost relative. What she discovers during the voyage will haunt her forever.
Killer Mermaids? Really?
Yes, really. The mermaids in this book are not the Ariel-style ones you might be picturing. Grant takes a much more scientific approach to them, designing them as true creatures of the deep. Have you seen deep-sea fish? They’re horrifying.
Aside from their hideous appearances, the mermaids also behave like animals. These creatures aren’t “monsters” in the traditional way, with complex motivations or a genuine love of terrorizing people. The mermaids in Into the Drowning Deep are just animals. They’re motivated by wanting to eat and survive life in the ocean. To me, the fact that they have no morals and are literally just motivated to kill by their survival instinct made them way more terrifying. That, combined with their physicality being like other deep-sea creatures, the claustrophobia of being alone on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and the looming dread of what happened to the Atargatis, made the horror in this book really work well for me.
What about the humans?
Well, this is a Mira Grant (also known as Seanan Mcguire) book, so the characters are also compelling and genuine. One of the things I really loved about this book is its truly diverse ensemble cast. Into the Drowning Deep had an autistic character, a Deaf character, a physically disabled character, multiple different sexual orientations, and multiple different races. It was awesome! The diversity added to the story for me. Just as interesting as seeing what would happen with the mermaids was seeing what would happen when all of these different people were put into an enclosed space together.
Obviously, as someone who doesn’t have all these identities, I can’t accurately tell you how well all of them were treated. But, I will say as someone with hearing issues that the representation of Deaf culture was amazing. Not only did the characters use sign language to communicate with each other (and explain the difference between the several different forms of sign language in use in America), they also used it to communicate with the mermaids. That is really cool to see. I encourage you to read it if you’re interested in reading more Deaf characters.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. This is a spoiler-free review, so I won’t say anything about the plot, but I thought the ending wrapped things up a little too nicely. I would have liked to see a little more struggle and maybe less success. That’s why I took off a half star in my rating.
Overall, though, I totally loved this book. From beginning to end, it was compelling, terrifying, and unique. I hope the author continues writing books in this world, because I honestly can’t get enough of these killer mermaids.(4.5 / 5)