Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl (2013)

Image result for night film marisha pessl Review #69

Beautiful and talented Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in New York City, apparently having thrown herself off the building. Investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects that her death may not have been a suicide, and instead may be connected to her father, an enigmatic and reclusive director of cult-horror films. As Scott probes deeper into the Cordova family, he is drawn into a twisted and dangerous world that threatens his very sanity.

I absolutely love the way that author Marisha Pessl interspaces the main narrative with news articles, webpages, photographs, medical reports, and other things that Scott uncovers during his search for clues about Ashley Cordova’s life. It makes the story seem so much more visceral when a character is describing a dark web that revolves around the enigmatic director, only to follow it with screenshots of the webpage itself.

Night Film unfolds like series of Russian nesting dolls, with every clue that Scott uncovers raising more questions than it answers. Reading this novel felt like walking down an endless corridor lines with doors where every door only opens onto another corridor. It is a testament to Pessl’s writing style that she manages to keep her reader completely in the loop the entire time. She avoids the “gotcha” twist that too often defines the thriller genre, and instead chooses a slow and subtle approach to building tension.

I’m hesitant to explain much of the plot, since exploring and unraveling the mystery that is Ashley Cordova was such a fun experience. Early on, we are introduced to Ashley’s father, generally just referred to as Cordova, a mysterious director who produces films so terrifying that several of them have been banned. Underground screenings draw an eclectic crowd that worships Cordova for having awoken them to a higher state of understanding. As an avid fan of the horror genre, that only film that I could even partially equate with Cordova’s work would be Lars Von Triers’ Antichrist, also known as “The One Starring Willem Dafoe’s Penis”. That’s the only horror film I’ve seen in the past few years that made me feel truly uncomfortable. In Night Film, the movies made by Cordova are described in broad strokes, giving them an eerie, detached feeling that adds to the overall unease of the novel.

I read a lot of horror novels, some of them good, most of them mediocre. I would definitely place Night Film in the former category, as I was glued to the pages throughout the duration of the book.

My rating: 4.5/5

Note: As much as I adore my eReader, Night Film is a book better appreciated in print rather than digital.

You can find this novel here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King (2018)

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Review #56

When an eleven year old boy is found mutilated and murdered in a local park, the cops know who their man is. Respected teacher and baseball coach Terry Maitland was spotted with the victim getting into the back of a windowless van. He was later seen leaving the park covered in blood. His fingerprints are found on the body. Terry Maitland is immediately arrested in front of a crowd of thousands and brought into police custody. There’s only one problem. Terry has an ironclad alibi. He was out of town on the day of the murder, with fingerprints, eyewitnesses, and video evidence to support his claim. Now, Detective Ralph Anderson must race to uncover the mystery of the man who was in two places at once.

In the past few years, Stephen King has moved away from the strictly “horror” novels that defined his early works and made him a household name. While The Outsider certainly contains supernatural and horror elements, it is first and foremost a mystery. In fact, for the first three hundred pages or so the plot focuses solely on the detectives as they build their case against Coach Terry Maitland, and on Maitland as he struggles to prove that he is innocent of the horrible murder he’s been accused of committing. Only after the tension has been heightened to a screaming pitch do things take a turn for the paranormal.

King is widely regarded as the modern master of the horror novel, far outstripping any other horror novelist in terms of both skill and popularity. This is, in my opinion, because he understands what makes people tick. Instead of focusing his attention on supernatural creatures or strange occurrences, King looks at how people respond and react to the abnormal. His protagonists are fully realized, flawed, and ultimately very human. King also understands that it is often the darkness inside of man, rather than any kind of outward evil, that has the most capacity for harm. The Overlook is just a hotel, it is only by exploiting the turmoil of Jack Torrance that it is capable of wreaking violence on the people residing in it. Christine was just a rusty old car until Arnie Cunningham began fueling it with his unhappiness. King has always demonstrated an innate understanding of people and their fears, and he twists and exploits those fears in his novels.

In The Outsider, Detective Ralph Anderson is enraged and disgusted as mounting evidence points to a respected member of the community having assaulted and murdered a child. Terry Maitland, after all, coached Anderson’s own son. His righteous indignation takes a hit, however; when Maitland behaves equally outraged and indignant. Maitland’s fear and confusion are palpable as he sees community turn against him and begin screaming for his blood. The reader can empathize with both of these men, and the suspense mounts as it appears that they are both justified in their actions. There is irrefutable evidence that Terry Maitland murdered Frankie Peterson. But there is also incontrovertible proof that he was one hundred miles away when Frankie was killed. The wives of both these men act as sounding boards for the frustrations of their husbands, particularly Jeannie Anderson, who consoles Ralph as he begins to question whether or not he’s made a horrific mistake.

There is a strange time-warp going on with King’s writing here. Many of his books are centered in the past, particularly in the 1950’s and ’60’s, and King seems most at home in these decades. Setting The Outsider in the present day, King sometimes seems to have a very tenuous grasp on modern technology. There are several passages that mention iPads, smartphones, and various popular apps, but it almost feels as if they were crammed in as an afterthought rather than as a natural part of the plot. At no point does anyone seem aware that their phones are capable of doing things unrelated to making phone calls. There are also some odd references that do not fit in with the ages of the characters. At one point man in his fifties remembers a dirty version of “Shave and a Haircut” from when he was a teenager. However, in 2018 a fifty year old man would have been a teenager in the late 1970’s, and would probably have been more familiar with disco or heavy metal than jingles from the 1930’s. Another woman muses about John Lennon’s death, which would have taken place when she was still in diapers. None of this detracts in the slightest from the overall enjoyment of The Outsider, but it was obvious enough to make me smirk once in awhile.

Ultimately, this is a novel about the powers of good and evil. As with so many of his books, he also delves into the difficulties faced by the rational mind when presented with something that is utterly irrational. As always, King’s writing style, his mastery of characterization, and his ability to understand what truly scares us make this book compulsively readable. There are two types of seven-hundred pages novels. Those that fly by in a blink and those that never seem to end. The Outsider certainly belongs in the former category.

While this novel will probably not join The Shining, IT, and Firestarter on my list of favorite Stephen King novels, I thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of the day, I would rather read an “average” effort by King than any other horror writer at their best.

 

 

Book Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (2014)

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Review #53

 

This graphic novel consists of five eerie short stories, all centered in some way around the woods and the terrors that lie within. Written and illustrated by Emily Carroll, she invites us to take a walk through the woods, but beware of what we may find in the darkness.

I have a strange love affair with the macabre. From the time I was very young, I’ve been drawn to the dark and scary things in life. I’m well versed in the world of horror films, novels, and podcasts, but Through the Woods represents my first foray into the world of horror-themed graphic novels. Needless to say, I’ve been thoroughly hooked. I’m already on the prowl for more graphic novels like this one.

Part of what makes Emily Carroll’s collection of short stories so mesmerizing is that she uses very simple language to convey a sense of dread and suspense. I always feel that horror writers have a tendency to go into too much detail about their various dreadful creatures. This bogs the narrative down and doesn’t leave enough room for that feeling of unease to creep in. Carroll takes inspiration from the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Shirley Jackson. She keeps her sentences short and to the point, allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps, understanding that a person will always draw the conclusion which they fear the most.

Then there are the illustrations. While the narrative structure of the story was haunting in a subtle and lyrical way, the pictures are genuinely unsettling. I found myself staring at each individual panel for long moments, trying to soak in every single aspect. As a newcomer to the horror genre of graphic novels, I was surprised by how powerful the graphics were at provoking a reaction. I would not have pictured the events of Through the Woods in the same way that there are depicted in Carroll’s illustrations. Reading these stories in graphic novel form was like crawling inside of someone else’s brain for a few hours. The brain of a brilliant and disturbing individual.

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Source

 

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, I would absolutely recommend this book. I am already sad that I had to return it to the library, as I wanted the chance to re-read it and look more closely at the illustrated panels. In the future, I’m going to keep my eye out for more graphic novels like this one.

My rating: 4.5/5

You can find Through the Woods here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper (2018)

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Review #48

A group of five women venture into the bushland outside of Melbourne for a corporate retreat. Three days later, only four of them return. One woman, Alice Russell, has disappeared. But did she leave of her own volition, or did she encounter some danger in the Australian forest? Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk is deeply invested in finding Alice, as she has important information regarding an ongoing investigation. However, he finds that each of the other four woman on the retreat have a different story to tell about their time in the wilderness.

I have a strange love/hate relationship with detective novels. Too often they are predictable and filled with cliched characters that operate as cardboard cutouts. Readers can expect a surly detective with a grim past. If his partner happens to be a woman, there’s an unspoken quasi- romantic connection between two of them. All the supporting characters speak from a script that seems designed to throw up red herrings. And yet, there are times when these basic tropes can either be turned on their heads, or given new life through deft writing that can make this somewhat tired and overused genre feel fresh again. Jane Harper’s second novel, Force of Nature, is definitely in the latter category.

I’ll keep this review short and sweet as to avoid any spoilers. Part of the narrative is devoted to Detective Falk and his partner as they join in the search for the missing Alice Russell. Interspersed are chapters from the perspectives of each of the four other women in the wilderness retreat as they go through the events leading up to Alice’s disappearance. I found the chapters from the women’s perspective to be more entertaining; they are all so comically unsuited to the outdoors and so utterly incompatible with one other it almost feels like a reality prank television show. After they venture off course and become increasingly lost and frightened, we can see how their conflicting personalities combined with a survival situation could have resulted in violence.

Novels like these are a guilty pleasure of mine. They do not necessarily enrich the mind in any particular way. I didn’t really learn anything from Force of Nature that caused me ponder its plot or themes in the days after reading it. However, it was a highly enjoyable diversion that kept me guessing from start to finish. Which is exactly what I was looking for at the time.

My rating: 4/5

You can find Force of Nature here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)

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Review #46

 

For nearly three decades, the mysterious region known as Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world. Abandoned by civilization, it has been reclaimed by isolated forms of nature that many scientists are eager to study. Several expeditions have been led into this region, with some reporting back a lush and verdant paradise and others being driven to suicide and murder for unknown reasons. The twelfth expedition, a team comprised of four women from different specialized fields, has just arrived.

This first installment in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy starts off with an ominous tone and creeping suspense. The four women in the twelfth expedition are identified only by their job descriptions. The surveyor is ex-military and edgy about what they may find in Area X. The anthropologist is fearful and wary of making big decisions. The psychologist is manipulative and well trained in hypnotic suggestions. And the biologist, who narrates the story, is eager to find out what happened to her husband, a member of the eleventh expedition who returned home a completely different man before shortly succumbing to cancer along with every other member of his team.

The four women are working towards conflicting ends, and these different agendas begin to clash when they discover a deep pit descending into the Earth. The other women refer to the pit as a “tunnel”, but the biologist feels compelled to call it a “tower”. While the Tower is nearby the designated campsite used by previous expeditions, it does not appear in any of the maps or field journals recorded by the other scientists. As the members of the twelfth expedition descend into this pit, they uncover a dangerous secret which threatens their sanity and their lives.

The first half of this relatively short novel does a great job of building and maintaining a discomforting sense of dread. Since none of the women are given personal names, the reader feels a kind of detached fascination as they venture into unknown and possibly threatening territory. The biologists interjects the primary narrative with details from her past which show her struggling relationship with her husband and her passion for observing living things. As they descend into the black depths of the Tower, the tension continues to mount as they begin to encounter things that defy the laws of nature.

Unfortunately, this level of suspense proves impossible to maintain. The second half of Annihilation veers into confusion and chaos as the team members begin to distrust and doubt one another. The unease of the initial Tower exploration falls apart and is replaced by twists and turns that serve no purpose and to little to further the plot.

There’s nothing wrong with science fiction novels that take a wild detour into weird. However, a book that is weird solely for the sake of being weird comes off as both pretentious and annoying. It’s as if VanderMeer deliberately made his conclusion as difficult to decipher as possible in order to find out who would “get it”. I, at least, didn’t get it, and trying to puzzle out the last thirty or so pages just left me with a headache.

My rating: 2.5/5

You can find Annihilation here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Tangerine by Catherine Mangan (2018)

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Book Review #42

1958: Tangier, Morocco. Twenty-year old Alice Shipley is trying and failing to adjust to life in Tangier with her new husband, John. Overwhelmed by the heat, dust, and foreign culture of the city, Alice hides herself away in their small apartment. At least until her old college roommate Lucy Mason turns up out of the blue. Alice is surprised and dismayed to see Lucy after an accident caused a rift in their friendship more than a year ago. However, Lucy is fearless and carefree in the face of Tangier, and Alice tries to convince herself that the company of an old friend is just what she needs to adjust to her new life.

This debut novel by author Christine Mangan contains some technical flaws that threatened to lose my interest in the opening few chapters. The use of foreshadowing is used as a blunt hammer with which to beat a reader over the head. The prose tends to be needlessly wordy, and the use of run-on sentences caused me to grit my teeth more than once. However, these are the small woes that plague English teachers. I found myself truly enjoying this novel once I settled into it.

The obsessive friendships between women seems to be a prevalent theme in modern literature. Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House, and Ruth Ware’s In a Dark Dark Wood are recent examples of novels that explore the labyrinths of female companionship, and how that connection can often lead into less desirable territory when one friend suspects that the other may not share her depth of feeling. I enjoyed Mangan’s novel far more than Lapena’s and about on par with Ware’s because Mangan employs a great flare for generating suspense and unease. The chapters switch back and forth between Alice’s perspective and Lucy’s, and due to a short but meaningful prologue we are aware that at least one of these narrators is unreliable. The fun is in trying to discover which one.

Mangan takes a different path from the aforementioned authors by putting her novel in a historical context. I confess to being only vaguely aware of the struggle of Morocco in the 1950’s to liberate itself from French occupation. Sadly, those wishing to learn more about this time in history may come away disappointed. I would love to have had more of the narrative to center around the political and social turmoil of Tangier during this period. The setting of Tangier is instead used as a two-dimensional backdrop for the central plot between Alice and Lucy. At no time did I ever feel the heat of the Moroccan sun, or hear the cries of the hawkers eager to take advantage of naive tourists coming on the ferry from Spain.

Overall, this was an admirable debut effort, and I look forward to the next novel by Christine Mangan.

My rating: 3/5

You can find Tangerine here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: The Call by Peadar O’Guilin (2016)

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Review #31

 

The country of Ireland has dropped off the map. All planes in Irish airspace suddenly crashed, and all the boats sank. A thick fog obscured the views of nearby Scotland, and all television, radio, and internet signals were lost. Then the children begin disappearing, returning exactly three minutes later, horribly mutilated. The Sidh, otherwise known as the fairy folk, have found a way back into our world after being banished centuries ago. Now, they are out for revenge.  Twenty-five years later, survival schools have popped up all over Ireland, where the dwindling population of children learn the skills they will need to survive once they too are Called.

Fifteen year old Tessa is one of the students at one of these colleges, but neither her classmates nor her professors have high hopes for her survival. Tessa’s legs are twisted and useless after a childhood encounter with polio, and the Sidh have little sympathy for a crippled child. This makes Tessa even more determined to buck the odds and live to see her eighteenth birthday. She maintains a stony distance from the other students, except for Anto, a determined pacifist who has also been given slim odds for staying alive against the Sidh.

This novel by author Peadar O’Guilin pulls you in from the first chapter and refuses to let go. This is one of those books where you find yourself debating how much sleep you actually need per night. Thankfully it’s also relatively short, so only one or two sleepless, page-turning nights will be required.

The menace of the fairies known as the Sidh comes from their implacability. They cannot be bargained with. They feel neither pity nor sympathy for the bewildered children who find themselves transported into their realm. They take a sinister kind of glee in finding new and inventive tortures for their helpless victims. And even those who do end up surviving the Grey Land are changed forever in one way or another. The lingering effects of constant fear permeate the pages of The Call, until we understand the hopelessness  that creeps into a person’s soul once they realize the true cost of survival.

Ireland is a country that continues to have respect for its own ancient legends. When I visited Ireland a few years ago there were several mentions of fairy rings and fairy roads. This could have been all a shtick put on for gullible tourists, but at the same time you can still find articles blaming the fairies for all manner of things. If there were ever a place where the veil between the fairy realm and our own is the thinnest, it could be argued that this place would be Ireland.

This was a suspenseful and tightly written novel that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was disturbing without being overly gory, so would be appropriate for an older teen audience as well as being spooky fun for adults. Extra points for the amazingly creepy cover art.

My rating: 4.5/5

You can find The Call here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman (2014)

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Review #22

 

Something out there is driving people insane. If you catch a glimpse of it, you are suddenly filled with the need for terrible violence. This is the world now, where everyone lives behind blackout curtains and blindfolds, fearful of their own ability to see. Malorie and her two young children flee their house in hopes of a safer place, but it is not an easy journey. Twenty miles downriver, blindfolded with nothing but their ears to save them from the elements and the mysterious creatures that cause madness.

When I read books for this website, I tend to keep notes. I’ll jot down recurring themes, interesting characters, or quotes that I want to incorporate into my review. While reading Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, I didn’t take a single note. The story pulled me in completely from page one, and I read it straight through in a couple of days. At no point was I willing to break the web of suspense in order to write down quotes or thoughts. Bird Box completely enthralled me from beginning to end.

The idea of not being able to rely on your sight is not a new one, but Malerman takes the concept to a new level by using the mysterious “creatures” that can drive a person to madness with just one look. Whenever our characters have to venture outside, be it to get water or to search for food, they must do it blindfolded. These scenes are the most suspenseful in the novel, and I could feel my pulse racing as they stumble blindly through streets littered with debris and corpses.

There is also a human element to Bird Box that keeps the proceedings from becoming repetitive. You know how if there is a sign on a bench saying “Wet Paint”, there’s always going to be that one person who has to touch the bench to make sure it’s true? Picture that scenario, but instead of just getting paint in their finger, they run the risk of violent death for themselves and their companions. The people that Malorie eventually finds herself with try hard to work together, but at the end of the day clashing personalities and different ideas on leadership will ultimately lead to friction. How the housemates deal with this increasing friction in a stressful environment is a major theme of the book.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to fans of the horror/thriller genre. I really enjoyed the experience.

My rating: 4/5

You can find Bird Box here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Penpal by Dathan Auerbach (2012)

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Review #20

 

Penpal is a series of interconnected stories that detail the creepy and mysterious circumstances surrounding a young boy’s childhood. As an adult, the narrator is beginning to understand that what seemed like random events from when he was a kid was actually a terrifying pattern centered around a madman.

Penpal has a rather interesting origin story. It began as an installment on reddit.com’s Nosleep forum. It was then picked up and recorded in audio form by the award-winning Nosleep podcast. The initial chapter became incredibly popular, and author Dathan Auerbach expanded his narrative to include additional chapters, eventually gathering enough to form a short novel. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Auerbach was able to self-publish this novel under his reddit name 1000Vultures in 2012.

I stumbled upon this book last autumn while I was scouring the internet for scary novels in anticipation of Halloween, and was immediately intrigued by the creepy-ass cover art. As an avid horror reader, I am well-acquainted with short-form scary stories on websites such as creepypasta. I love them because you can generally finish one installment in about ten minutes. You’re in, you’re scared, you’re out.

Unfortunately, this becomes the main problem with Penpal. The short-form horror format has limitations that make the transition to long-form narrative a difficult one. Penpal often comes off as disjointed. There is next to no character arc. There are major discrepancies between some of the different chapters. The primary meat of the story is preceded by a strange, obviously tacked-on introduction where the narrator explains why there might be discrepancies. And while individually the chapters are creepy and unsettling, the novel as a whole falls a little flat.

My favorite sections were “Footprints”, “Balloons,” and “Boxes”. Auerbach does an excellent job of setting his reader ill at ease using a minimum of words. He takes ordinary things, such as receiving letters from a penpal, and manages to make them exceedingly disturbing. The fact that the narrator is only around six years old for the majority of the novel is compelling. Children this age are largely innocent, and will generally accept any explanation from an adult. So the fact that a six-year old boy is more puzzled than terrified by the events of Penpal is believable.

However, a six-year old boy also has limitations, which Auerbach occasionally forgets. In one chapter, the narrator and his classmate build a functional raft which is capable of floating down a river. Now, I’ve taught kindergarten. Most of my students were incapable of tying their shoes on a regular basis, and became frustrated trying follow Lego instructions. Not to disparage small children, they are brilliant in their own way, but it is utterly improbable that two unsupervised six-year old boys could build a full-sized raft. Speaking of unsupervised, the time period is obviously meant to reflect those glory days of “free-range” childhood, but I’m pretty sure no child of that age would be allowed the freedom of this kid. Mothers may have been less hyper-vigilant in the ’80’s but they weren’t that nonchalant.

Overall, your enjoyment of Penpal will be closely linked to your enjoyment of short-form horror. In individual, unconnected installments, it is effectively creepy and unsettling. However, when viewed as a whole it becomes limited in its ability to scare. The fact that the last chapter is a muddled mess that seeks to “solve” the mystery did not end things on a high note for me.

My rating: 3/5

You can find Penpal here on Amazon or here on BookDepository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (2017)

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Review #18

 

Thalassophobia: an intense fear of the sea and what lurks beneath.

After her older sister is lost at sea while filming a monster-hunting style show on mermaids, Tory Stewart agrees to ship out with the crew of the Melusine as they travel to the oceans around the Mariana trench. The goal is to dive to the depths of the Challenger Deep to seek out the mermaids that legends say still dwell in the waters. Hopefully they’ll be able to solve the mystery of what happened to the first vessel. Once there, the group of scientists finds out that looking for monsters and finding them are two very different things.

Mira Grant is one of my favorite authors. Her Newsflesh trilogy, about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, is utterly brilliant. The Parasitology trilogy, about sentient tapeworms taking control of their human hosts, is equally well written. So when I found out that Grant was releasing a stand-alone novel, I was thrilled. My excitement grew when I found out that the plot was going to be centered around the deep ocean.

Being in the deep sea makes me intensely uncomfortable. This might be due to the fact that I grew up in a landlocked state and never saw the sea until I was seventeen. I’m great on boats, and I’m perfectly happy in shallow water. I’ve even tried scuba-diving twice. But the moment that I can no longer see the seabed my heart rate instantly goes through the roof. It’s the same with lakes as well, and it’s a pretty straightforward fear. I don’t know what’s down there. Even worse, I understand enough of marine biology to know what’s down there, and I want no part of it. I went into Mira Grant’s Into The Drowning Deep knowing (and hoping) that it might scare me. Boy was I right.

In the year 2022, humans have polluted the Earth to the point of a mass die-off of both land and marine life. Grant does not try to hide her strong environmental message. Leave the orcas alone, stop dumping things into the oceans and the air. Or don’t be surprised when drought, famine, and fires sweep the planet. The hubris of mankind has brought us low in Grant’s novel, and the main characters are scientists who are just trying to mitigate the damage.

This is a science fiction novel with a strong horror theme. There is one amazing scene where Heather, a young scientist, is taking a personal submersible into the chasm of the Challenger Deep. As the blackness and the pressure mounts, the tension rises to a screaming pitch. It is claustrophobic to the point of being physically uncomfortable. What Heather finds at the bottom of her journey sets in motion the rest of the novel’s action.

The basic plot centers around one simple question. What if the mermaids of our mythology looked, not like this:

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beautiful, nubile, pageant queens of the sea. And more like this:

 

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deep sea nightmare fodder?

Grant’s “mermaids” are carnivorous, intelligent, and, utterly in their element both in and out of the water. The scientists on board the Melusine are so egotistically wrapped up in their new discovery that they never stop to think that the “mermaids” chose to be discovered at the proper moment. Of course, not until it is too late.

One of my favorite things about all of Mira Grant’s books is that she has a very pure idea of science fiction. There is actual science present, but it is accessible to the layman. I always come away from one of her novels feeling as though I’ve learned something; in this case about the Mariana Trench, the Challenger Deep, why the ship is named the Melusine, and more. Her main characters tend to be female, and even better, females in STEM. I love the idea of young women reading this novel and having their imaginations sparked by the pursuit and discovery and danger inherent in the exploration of our world.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves suspense, the sea, and the thrill of scientific discovery. I would not, however; recommend it for a trip to the beach. Or on a cruise. Don’t even take it in the bath.

My rating: 4.5/5

You can find Into the Drowning Deep here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

P.S. there is a short prequel novel entitled Rolling in the Deep, which centers around the crew of the first crew. I haven’t been able to find it at my library yet, but if I ever find it I’ll let you know what I think!