by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) — This book did not work for me as a horror book, while atmospheric it simply wasn’t scary enough. That being said, it did work as a sci-fi/fantasy thriller about the kind of mermaids Disney would frown at (for more reasons than one!)
“Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.”
This had a strong environmentalist message for the first half. There was talk of the consequences of climate change, and as it was set in the near future, 2022, things were (even) worse. That really worked for me, I deeply enjoyed the environmental panic as a backdrop for a siren fuelled carnage, it was poetic in a way, righteous almost, and if the book had gone down that road I would have loved it — especially considering the Melusine and its scientists were being funded by a shady and trashy cable network. However, it kind of vanished a little over the second half, where there were scientists actively encouraging the extermination of the sirens. I realise they were eating them, but that seems like an overreaction. Hear me out: they really should have left when the first person died and they had definite proof sirens were real, and instead stayed because they were greedy and wanted to be famous. How’s the siren’s fault they were idiots? What species deserves to disappear because of human stupidity?
I’m maybe blowing it out of proportion it was really two people who were okay with the knowledge the american army would (potentially) nuke the sirens, and destroy entire ecosystems. But man, did reading that piss me off. Most of the characters really only wanted to survive. And there were a lot of characters in this book, it made sense there would be, but this was written in third person omniscient (hurray for third, sad kazoo for omniscient my least favourite pov) and the head-hoping was a bit much at times. It wasn’t badly done, it just felt like knowing that specific character’s thoughts at that point didn’t add anything to the story. That being said I appreciated that many characters weren’t likeable, I mean, there was the couple of hunters who were purposefully written to be despicable (and they were), but others fell into more morally grey areas. Dr. Toth (and what an unfortunate name) and her husband for example. I sympathised with them at times, but by the end of the book I was sure I didn’t like either of them.
There’s a tiny bit of romance in this, believe it or not, between Victoria and Olivia. I went into this book knowing that and was kind of curious to know if it would make sense considering the setting, but it does. They weren’t really throwing down love declarations, it was just a case of two girls who’d lost someone trying to comfort each other and it worked. It helped that they were both adorable and really likeable. Olivia is on the autistic spectrum and she makes a really interesting observation about the tendency of parents of autistic children to infantilise them, and never see them as fully rounded humans who will one day have partners and careers. There were little musings like that sprinkled throughout the book, a few memorable ones from the deaf twin sisters Heather and Holly and their translator and hearing sister Hallie (I want to kill someone because of these names, the cute factor isn’t worth my headache, I wish authors would realise how dumb it is to have characters with such similar names).
Language played a big role in this book, and I loved the use to ASL to attempt to communicate with the sirens. Paired with the casual observations the twins made about their deafness and how it was so natural and comfortable for them and they were only ever made to feel different when confronted with people who could hear and the odd ways they reacted to them. There was one weird scene were a character isn’t aware that there isn’t a single Sign Language and in fact every country has their own, sometimes more than one. That broke my suspension of disbelief, I find it hard to believe that anyone isn’t aware of that.
There was a lot of scientific talk in this book, finding the sirens was above all a scientific endeavour and I loved that aspect of it. I loved every part where the characters tried to figure out how the sirens “worked”, how they could have evolved. It was all written in very simple layman terms, which I’m sure many people will be glad for, and it makes total sense considering the sci-fi element is secondary to the horror/thriller (this book compares well to the likes of Jurassic Park, the movies at least). I wished Grant would have gone full academic on the science, because it was by far my favourite part of this book. I could have read an entire encyclopaedia about these sirens. They were really fascinating, everything about them was. By the end of the book they were, collectively, my second favourite character.
The ending felt a bit abrupt, and the least said about the “reveal” about the siren’s social hierarchy the better. I expected something a lot more interesting than what we got, I’ll just say that.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, it did as all thrillers are supposed to and made it very hard for me to put it down. I read it in two days, and was at no point bored with the story. I feel a little disappointed because I feel this could have been great, a few tweaks here and there and this would have been a solid four, hell maybe even a five. There was really a lot to like here, and I actually recommend this book wholeheartedly, I think most people will get something out of it: be it for the science-y bits, the thrilling bits, or even the horror if they are luckier than me.
Author: Mira Grant