Sirens' Song Falls Flat
I had been looking forward to reading Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (a pseudonym for the author Seanan McGuire) for quite a few months. There's a lot of love for McGuire on bookstagram so I was curious about her writing. From what I can tell from minimal research, Grant is her horror pen-name. The premise of a "mockumentary" gone wrong intrigued be so I requested the netgalley ebook.
So here's the synopsis: This is a sequel to Grant’s novella Rolling in the Deep (2015) begins with the knowledge of a failed "mockumentary" (or fake documentary) looking for mermaids aboard the Atargatis. The crew mysteriously disappeared and disturbing videos of creatures attacking the crew leak onto the internet after the entertainment company, Imagine, attempts to block the video's release. Some people think the whole incident was a hoax, while others declare that the vicious creatures in the video are real-life mermaids. Years after the incident the company is seeking to redeem itself and prove once and for all that mermaids do exist. Imagine ropes numerous scientist into joining a second research team aboard the Melusine - some are believers while others are happy to have a paid research trip. Two of the main scientists and characters are Victoria "Tory" Stewart whose sister vanished on the Atargatis, and Dr. Jillian Toth, a sirenologist who considers herself a leading expert on mermaids. Others include big game hunters, a high-ranking Imagine representative, and a submersible diving expert. Without spoiling the plot, inevitably the scientists and crew run afoul of these "lovely ladies of the sea" and shenanigans ensue.
I found Grant's mermaid concept intriguing. Unlike my last review of To Kill a Kingdom, where the mermaids were more fantastical and had surrounding magical mythology, Grant's mermaids are firmly of this world. Set in the near future (2022) the "mermaids" or "sirens" are creatures that have evolved to live in the deepest parts of the Mariana Trench. With vicious teeth, bio-luminescent "hair", etc., these creatures have no claims of magical powers or even being human hybrids. I love the grounding in science, the connections to "mockumentaries" that have aired on channels like SyFy, and the premise that this is set in our world. Though I haven't read Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, this book made me think it was written in that vein.
Perhaps I had my hopes set too high for this book because I found that it was not the 5 star read that I've seen my fellow bookstagrammers promoting. I found the initial setting in Monterrey Bay pretentious. The repetition of the dire consequences of global warming and human destruction tiresome, and most of the scientists were selfish with unlikely reactions, in my opinion. As Publisher's Weekly wrote, "the prose gets bogged down in cliché ('She would show them all' appears, unironically, as a standalone paragraph) and long and meandering passages with little payoff." I thought the book took too long to get to the main action. Once the horror really started to occur I enjoyed the book more. There are some good nods to diversity throughout the book in regards to sexuality and ability, but at other times I thought it was curious that most - if not all - of the female scientists were driven by emotion. Seemingly this reaffirms the stereotypes that women cannot be impartial scientists.
For the most part, I enjoyed this book! However, after thinking about it more the book just didn't hit the mark for me. I think folks that are into cryptids, science, and the plausibility of new deep water discovers would love this book. But as a reader who is lukewarm about science heavy stories and honestly could not get over some the characters' reactions this was just okay for me. Though this might not have been the book for me, I am interested in reading other works by Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire.