Mira Grant is the name Seanan McGuire writes her horror under. Her October Daye urban fantasy series is one of my favorites, so I was keen to try this out.
Into the Drowning Deep is a good rip-roaring novel in the Michael Crichton vein. It starts with a big idea - what if Mermaids are real - and then backs it up with enough science to make it plausible and wraps it in a voyage of discovery.
The novel sets things up with a little back story. A previous voyage, planned as a documentary, goes awry with the entire crew lost. The firm that funded that voyage plans a second, and with a lot more planning and prep this time around. It introduces a cast of sympathetic and well-differentiated characters and adds their diverse motivations into the mix.
The voyage, as one would expect, doesn't go per plan. This is horror, after all.
The mermaids (or merpeople or sirens) are drawn skilfully as a predatory species at the apex of the food pyramid in the deeps. When first contact is made, it is sudden and shocking. Matters only escalate thereon and the novel soon shifts into one of survival. Throughout the novel, they come across as formidable antagonists. They have shrouded but definite motivations and matched with their significant physical gifts, they come across as terrifying foes.
The characterization is deft as ever; Seanan is incredibly good at painting believable and lovable characters. There are a couple I disliked, but that might be their personalities and no reflection on the writer. As good as the characters are, this is a plot-driven novel and the POV shifts only reinforce the feeling that Seanan is looking to get us as good a view as possible into the devolvement of the voyage.
If there is any criticism I can lay on this book, it is that the horror is painted unemotionally, as if from a distance or obscured by a lens. This isn't a shock horror book; it is measured in tone and treatment. If this was a war picture, it's more a documentary of the happenings than a portrait of the daily suffering within it. While that might lessen its appeal for some, it felt right for me, and I read through the book so fast I felt cheated when it was over. The ending felt a little rushed to me. I'm fine with it as it lays open the possibility of a sequel; one that can go in various directions.
All in all, this is a top read. I loved every bit of it and have added all the Mira Grant books to my reading list.