Beauty and Gore: Into the Drowning Deep Book Review (Mild Spoilers)

About a year ago, right around that awful dark period of my early post-grad life, I stumbled upon this eye-catching novella by a familiar author. Rolling in the Deep (yes, exactly like the Adele song) by Mira Grant had a concept that I believe wasn’t (and still isn’t) explored nearly as much as its frilly, Hollywood-esque counterpart – man-eating mermaids. As someone who lives in a tropical country and has lived within reasonable distance from the sea for her entire life, I was intrigued. Mermaids have always had a special place in my heart and is a staple in my country’s telenovela culture (seriously, there was a time when mermaid teleseryes dominated the local TV networks *cough even though they essentially had the same story rehashed a billion times over cough*).

After years of seeing mermaids exclusively as these beautiful, magical dames of the sea that just can’t help themselves around human men (for some reason), it was with great satisfaction to see them portrayed as the bloodthirsty, apex predators of the deep waters as I’ve always suspected them to be. I mean it. Mermaids just can’t possibly look as conventionally “human” pretty as mainstream media depicts them. Things that live and thrive in the deep bellies of the sea look monstrous. Their environment dictates them to have grotesque and dangerous bodies. Just look at the angler fish. They’re terrifying! It makes absolutely no sense that mermaids would have human features instead of practical, hideous anatomies.

But I digress.

I devoured Rolling in the Deep in one sitting and could not wait for the novel to come out. Rolling was the story of how a pseudo-science channel, Imagine Network, sent a hodgepodge of experts in the cruise ship Atargatis to set sail to the Mariana Trench. Though billed as a serious attempt to find and document the existence of mermaids in the deepest part of the ocean, no one on the Atargatis really believed they’d find mermaids. And they were right. They didn’t find mermaids. Mermaids found them. And ate them. All of them.

Into the Drowning Deep is set seven years after the tragedy of Atargatis, starring the sister of one of the ship’s victims and a boatload (literally) of other interesting characters, all of whom aim to prove to the world whether the carnage of the failed cruise ship was a hoax or not. Spoiler: it’s not.

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Book Talk: Crafting a Magic/Power System and The Lunar Chronicles

I have a passionate love for books with magic or superpowered people and I’m currently in the processing of writing my own little fantasy tale and, let me tell you, as fun as imagining a make-believe world is, it’s insanely difficult to establish a coherent magic system. Depending on the kind of story you’re writing, a magic/power system can be as comprehensive or as mysterious as you want and oftentimes even just deciding which route to take can be difficult.

In my opinion, a story can have the most fascinating magic/power system ever but if that system doesn’t have consistent rules, if the system can’t even stand under basic scrutiny, then the whole story will flop. Willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far and when you’re dealing with magical folk you’re treading on thin ice to begin with. Now, from what I’ve gleaned from weeks of on-and-off research, making a rational magic/power system is attainable if you take three things into consideration: the verisimilitude of the system, the conflict/s that the system invokes, and the impact of the magic/power to users, non-users, and society as a whole.

As an example, let’s take a look at Marissa Meyer’s triumphant sci-fi adventure series, The Lunar Chronicles. Although the book series doesn’t have as extensive a magic/power system as in a Tolkien tale or any Tamora Pierce book, I believe The Lunar Chronicles is a great example of how a simple superhuman ability can shape a simple story into a complicated, riveting yarn.

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