The thing about horror stories featuring mythological monsters as popular as mermaids is that the reader needs to be prepared to let go of any preconceptions in order to be truly engaged just as the author needs to be ready to do something new with it.
Enter Rolling in the Deep, a new novella by Mira Grant, which tells the tragic story of the cruise ship Atargatis, lost at sea with all its passengers, its captain and crewmembers.
It all started when the infamous Imagine Network decided it was time to dedicate one of its cheesy pseudo-documentaries to the topic of mermaids. Hiring the Atargatis was the first step, followed by recruiting real, dedicated scientists to give the project a seal of authenticity as well as a troupe of mermaid enactors—The Blue Sea Mermaids—to provide footage for the cameras.
None of them expected to find what they did. And yet, some people believe this to be a hoax, a hoax so well played no one has ever heard from these people again.
The storytelling here is handled deftly by an author who knows what she is doing: the reader knows from the start that the trip is doomed and the anticipation is built on this foreboding expectation. From slowly retracing the steps of the characters from the moment of boarding, through their mostly—apart from petty drama—uneventful journey, the story takes its sweet time getting to where we all know it is inevitably going. And this is used to great effect because by the time they reach their destination, the Mariana Trench, and those horrific events take place, we know a little bit about each passenger, their struggles and their personality just enough to care. This is all the more impressive considering that all of this takes place within 100 pages or so.
The aloof elderly scientist who knows more about sea creatures than anyone else. The enthusiastic, ambitious TV presenter. The competent captain and her dedicated best mate. The researchers who hope to be able to do actual groundbreaking work on other aspects of the ocean despite the ridiculous hullaballoo about mermaids. The group of faux mermaid friends and their friendship. This cast is actually diverse in more ways than their characterizations as there are people of color, LGBT and disabled characters represented here.
And then, when the time comes for the passengers of the Atargatis to finally meet the mermaids, the story turns swift, scary and deadly. This part of the tale happens very fast, just as it should considering the nature of the mermaids presented here. Forget Ariel and The Little Mermaid, forget Ovid’s alluring sirens—I love Mira Grant’s version of mermaids.
In Book Smugglerish: a bubbly 7 out of 10