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Monday, May 11, 2015

New Novella from Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire): "Rolling in the Deep"

Author:  Mira Grant (pseudonym for Seanan McGuire)  
Title:  "Rolling in the Deep"
Plot Type:  Horror Fantasy
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality1; Humor—2   
Publisher:  Subterranean Press (4/2015)

     If you truly enjoy the look and feel of an expensive, well-bound book with beautifully eerie cover art, or if you collect signed limited editions, you might be interested in the hard-cover version of this novella, which sells for a list price of $40, but is available on for about $30 and from other dealers for about $25. For the rest of youthe readers who are in it only for the storythe e-book format sells for about five dollars. I was lucky enough to borrow a hard-cover library copy, so you might want to check the catalogue to see if your local library has it on the shelf. Although the Subterranean Press web page states that the hard-cover edition is sold out, is offering new copies, so I'm not really sure what the actual availability is.

                    SUMMARY AND REVIEW                    
     From the very beginning, we know these unassailable facts: (1) The Imagine TV Network commissioned a "documentary" to prove or disprove the existence of mermaids. (2) The cast and crew were to film the documentary on board the Atargatis, an ocean liner for hire. (3) Days after a stop in Hawaii, the Atargatis was found uninhabited and drifting near the Mariana Trench, covered with bloody signs of violent foul play. This novella takes the reader on board the Atargatis to watch what really happened on its final fateful voyage.

     Altogether, the ship carried move than 200 passengers each of whom was a member of one of the following groups:

    The ship's crew, led by Captain Jovanie Seghers and her deaf first mate, David.

    The Imagine Network's 50-member staff, headed up by the loathsome Adrian Curran, who describes himself as their "cruise director." Anne is the on-screen "television personality," and Kevin, is her cameraman.

    The six scientists, each specializing in a different area of marine research, along with 30 fresh-faced graduate students to assist them.

    The Blue Seas Mermaid Troupe, eleven professional faux mermaids, led by purple-haired Susie. They come on board secretly and are warned not to mix with the crew or the scientists.

     This story satirizes modern reality TV, so it is no secret that the Imagine Network plans to "find" mermaids in the deepest part of the ocean, whether they are there or not (thus, the secret presence of the professional mermaids). As Curran explains, "There will…be…storyline elements played out by some members of our team…and while our viewers are aware that we fals--er, fictionalize certain elements in our documentaries for the sake of a better narrative, we depend on them not knowing which elements have been enhanced." To which Captain Seghers replies, "You mean no one knows for sure which parts are lies, so they're welcome to believe whatever they like." Yes, the entire trip is a giant con job, and all of the scientists are aware of this. Most of them joined up because of the generous paycheck and because the trip allows them to do actual research using state-of-the-art equipment. (Click HERE to view some Mermaid "documentaries" that Animal Planet produced a few years agopossibly where Grant got her inspiration.)

     Although this is a novella of just 122 pages, the author manages to pack it full of action, suspense, and horror. Lots of horror fiction centers around a violent psychopath who wreaks havoc on pitiful victims who are quickly introduced and then killed off, but that's not the case here. Grant creates an interesting group of characters, each of whom she gives great depth and singularity. Grant/McGuire has always been a terrific story teller who excels at characterization, and that is exactly what she does here, particularly with the scientists and a few of the mermaids. She takes her time, filling us in on each character's background, motives, state of mind, and relationships with the others. By the time the long-awaited horror begins, we have a stake in the action because we have come to know the characters well enough to dread the horror that awaits them. Grant accomplishes all this within the relatively few pages of this novella, and she does it masterfully.  

     You should be able to guess what happens to the passengers well before it actually happens, but that doesn't spoil the suspense. The horror part of the story comes when you watch the passengers make seemingly simple decisions that soon result in grisly death.

     Click HERE to read a short article that explains why Grant named the ship Atargatis. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from "Rolling in the Deep." 

     Each chapter heading is the title of a sea-related song. Click on each title below to go to a video performance of the song. (Sorry, the first three begin advertisements.)
     Part I: Come Sail Away 
     Part II:  Sails of Silver
     Part III:  Voices of the Sea (The significance of this song becomes apparent at the very end of the chapter.)
     Part IV:  Red Sails in the Sunset (In this case, the "red" doesn't necessarily refer to reflection of the sunset.)
     Part V:  Safe on the Shore

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