Dive in, the story’s fine

So here’s how “Rolling in the Deep” by Mira Grant came to be on my reading list.

I was at the library, checking out the New Arrivals shelf and, as usual, I was paying special attention to all the skinny books. It’s how I discovered this book and this one and a few more I may or may not write about.

The title attracted me: Is this about Adele, whose hit song by the same name ran through my mind while reading the book (and writing this)? Is this a book of poetry/lyrics by her? It’s just the sort of money grab publishers do when someone popular has a new hit album out.

deepLooking at the cover, though I noted happily it was none of the above. Clearly this was some kind of supernatural story, which I can be drawn to when in the right mood. Especially when they’re short. So I opened it and noticed it was published by the Subterranean Press, a Michigan publisher (Yay, Michigan!) whose website says it’s “one of the finest specialty publishers in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres, and has published Stephen King, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Harlan Ellison, Joe Hill, Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Robin Hobb.

This bit of information intrigued me because Subterranean Press put out one of the most entertaining books I read last year, again, picked out because it was short. The book, “The Ape Man’s Brother” by Joe R. Lansdale, is the dark and funny and sad and fascinating story about what happens when a man raised in the jungle by apes and his australopithecus brother from another mother are brought to New York from the wild. As the brother becomes more civilized, the ape man gets wilder. If you find it, check it out, you won’t be sorry.

With this imprimatur, I brought “Rolling in the Deep” home and I’m glad I did. I think I’m not overstating it to say that it may be the best horror novel about mermaids of the year. Perhaps the best I’ve ever read.

And yes, you guessed it, it’s the only one I’ve ever read.

Still, it’s fun, somewhat compelling and, at 122 pages, not much of a commitment for a reader who may not be overly willing to take the plunge into mermaid horror.

Grant takes the old “found footage” technique out to sea and it works pretty well to tell the story of a sea explanation gone horribly awry. The Imagine Network, a fictionalized version of a cable network like SyFy or The Discovery Channel, has gathered a group of scientists to explore the Mariana Channel in the Pacific Ocean to prove the existence of mermaids. They’ve also brought along a group of women who are “professional mermaids” who might be used in some kind of footage to plant in viewers’ minds the idea that mermaids exist. Kind of like the reenactions in Bigfoot or Yeti videos one might stumble across on basic cable and watch because, what the hell, it’s better than Guy Fieri.

We learn early on that everyone dies on board and the ship floats freely for weeks before being picked up by the U.S. Navy, signs of intense struggle throughout the ship. The only evidence of what happened in the cameras that had filmed the ill-fated trip.

There are problems, though. Grant tries to fit so much into the book that she (he? I don’t know whether Mira is male or female, and there’s no author photo) ends up staying too much on the surface. Too many characters and not enough motivation. And occasionally, in cutting corners to define the players and why they do what they do, she creates unintentional laughs. For instance, one of the hired mermaids says “Being a mermaid is a special calling.” About one of the scientists, she writes: “No one could match Jonny when it came to algae.” And then there’s someone who’s got a name, but I was more taken with the way she is identified as “the curly-haired cetologist.” Anyway, I’m quibbling.

I enjoyed this book. Mostly because it seems scrappy, though I’m not sure why I think that. I see it as a TV movie with has been actors in the roles that require some form of acting and nubile starlets as the mermaids-for-hire. It’s something I’d watch on basic cable because, what the hell, and it’s not a Kardashian.

Do they find mermaids? Guess. Does it work out? You need to ask?

I will continue to keep an eye out for Subterranean Press books at my library: It’s nice to support boutique publishers, especially from my home state, because they turn out unique gems and finding them is like discovering friendly little mermaids.

3 thoughts on “Dive in, the story’s fine

  1. Jenni Clark

    “Taking a plunge into Mermaid Horror” … That, Ron, is a phrase I never thought I’d hear you utter. Intriguing premise that. I just might have to check out the non-Adele Rolling In The Deep …


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