This was totally silly, but a fun kind of silly! I mean, it tries real hard to be serious and scientific, but no. A book about a bunch of scientists sailing out to the Mariana Trench to find killer mermaids has to be at least a little silly.
Years ago, a SyFy channel knock-off sent a bunch of faux-documentarians out to sea to film a search for mermaids. Their ship was found empty, and the recovered footage showed creatures that the world dismissed as hoaxes. A bunch of scientists (including the sister of one of the original voyage’s victims) make a second journey to prove that the company was not faking, and oh by the way also not liable for the deaths of all those people. The second journey is staffed with experts, scientists, security, and a great big armored ship. They go out, they get found by the mermaids, they get merrily eaten. It’s awesome.
Grant puts a LOT of effort into trying to legitimize all this. She goes way into the sonar science, and biology, and blah blah blah. She talks about science like it’s a physical, present Thing. “They didn’t need weapons. They had Science.” “Who cared if she died? The Science would live on.” It is cheesetastic. There are several sign-language speaking scientists who are supposed to try to communicate with the mermaids. There is a “sirenologist” who’s convinced they’re all going to die, even before they find anything, but she goes anyway because she feels like it’s her fault the first expedition was lost because she didn’t give them enough information. (Information that she was only guessing about anyway.)
The whiplash between “Serious Science” and “killer fish/amphibians/mutants, eeeeee!” is pretty hilarious. Grant doesn’t like redshirts, but there are 200 people on this ship, and some of them are gonna be chum. So all of a sudden a chapter will start with a character you’ve never heard of, and you’ll get a whole backstory, motivations, hopes and dreams for their careers after the voyage, and then BLAM! Instant slimy death. I started looking forward to the pattern. “Oh, Michelle? How nice to meet you, 200 pages in! I can’t wait to see the creative way you’ll be killed!”
Overall, it was a fun distraction on my commute (I listened to the audio book). It takes itself way too seriously, but the added (unintentional?) cheese made me laugh. At one point, the narrator tells us that the sea purposely evolved the mermaids to get back at humanity for ever leaving the water. Like, evolutionary revenge. Oooookay.
Also, if you took a shot every time she says “watery deeps,” you would never make it to work.
P.S. Amazon tells me that Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, which is a name I definitely recognize from lots of CBR love. Is she as silly when she writes as McGuire?