Nightmarish Mermaid Novellas

January 27, 2020 Audio Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction 5

Howdy Howdy Bookworms!

How’s about that title? Those are words I wouldn’t have expected to put together, but here we are. I spent a chunk of last week listening to some nightmarish mermaid novellas. It was wild and I’m going to tell you all about it. Prepare yourselves, Ariel stans: this is going to get ugly.
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The Deep by Rivers Solomon had been on my radar for a while. I thought their book An Unkindness of Ghosts was PHENOMENAL so I was looking forward to diving into their take on mermaid lore. These aren’t like, Lisa Frank style mermaids though. This is a dark, devastating, intense mermaid situation:

Yetu is the historian for a community of water-dwelling descendants of the pregnant African women tossed from slave ships (yes, this is a real thing that happened because the slave trade is endlessly horrifying.) Yetu doesn’t simply keep the records, though: they’re the only one who actively remembers the group’s history. And they remember constantly. Every single painful, traumatic incident in the community’s past is stored within Yetu’s overburdened mind to be doled out annually to community. In this way, the community is not overcome with sorrow, but Yetu, as the keeper of the memories, being destroyed by the knowledge.

Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame- he’s Lafayette/Jefferson from the original cast and generally awesome) narrates the book because the novella was inspired by a song his rap group (why do I sound like a Grandma?) produced. His group’s song was inspired by another musical work: it’s kind of a game of extremely intelligent and artistic Telephone, which is a metaphor I’m borrowing from the end notes of the audio book. It was really amazing, but also, I feel like I’m not really smart enough to appreciate all its nuance. Rivers Solomon is a genius. Daveed Diggs was the perfect narrator. My brain is going to be digesting this one for a long time.

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Since I was already on a mermaid kick, I thought, “What the heck? Let’s go listen to that Mira Grant novella about mermaids. I’ve seen it a few times, it makes me get Adele songs stuck in my head. Sounds like fun.” And with that in mind, I decided to put Rolling in the Deep into my earholes.

This was a straight up horror story about mermaids. A crew of scientists, TV producers, and mermaid impersonators set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to create a documentary about mermaids. The TV network commissioning the voyage is not above sensationalism (hence the troupe of human women who make their living as “professional mermaids” they hired in case their search came to naught.) The scientists are real, though, and have taken this rare opportunity to gather data on their varying fields of study. As you might guess, the crew finds more than they bargained for. (Dun dun dun!)

I love Mira Grant (AKA Seanan McGuire) and Rolling in the Deep had a tone similar to that of the Newsflesh novels (Feed, Deadline, Blackout). But, you know. Instead of zombies, it was mermaids. Bioluminescent mermaids who devour humans. Nobody on the crew was actually expecting to find anything, but some harbored hopes of discovering something along the lines of Ariel. Instead, they got Jaws. It’s definitely worth a read/listen, but if you want a meatier, more literary mermaid novella, stick with Rivers Solomon.

Now that I’m in a mer-mood (hi, I’m a walking Dad-Joke) do any of you bookworms have recommendations? I’m open to happier mermaid tales, too!

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5 Responses to “Nightmarish Mermaid Novellas”

  1. NeriSiren

    So! I loved the idea of The Deep as a musical collaboration, and the Telephone metaphor was neat (though, clipping. and Solomon had the advantage of having clear, written documentation of the previous player’s statement, so their own versions weren’t completely far off from the original 😉 ) You better believe I immediately looked up Drexciya on iTunes after reading the novella, and downloaded a bunch of their songs (they’re also on spotify, if you want to listen to them for free). I think oceanic electronica may be the coolest musical genre there is.

    I’ll be posting my own review of The Deep soon, where I’ll go into a little more depth (ha!) with my thoughts on the musical influences, as well as the focus on gender and sexual fluidity.

    Also, I am absolutely putting the Mira Grant novella on my TBR list — I’m especially drawn in by the idea of #reallifemermaids meeting up with *actual* real-life mermaids, and the resulting attitude toward the former as “impersonators.” It will perhaps not surprise you one bit to know that I own a few tails myself, and I follow a bunch of performers on instagram, so this topic is close to my heart 😅

    To be fair, some of us impersonators do use our platforms to teach fellow two-legs about conservation (I highly recommend checking out the Hilton Head Mermaid; she talks a lot about reducing plastic waste and boycotting “dolphin encounter” programs that use captive animals).

    • wordsfor

      I think you’ll be pleased with the portrayal of the human-mermaids in Rolling in the Deep! They were pretty bad ass, honestly. I haven’t looked into the musical connections from The Deep at all beyond listening to the audio book’s notes. And yeah, the gender/sexual fluidity was fascinating. Solomon explores some similar themes in An Unkindness of Ghosts.

      • NeriSiren

        I think you’d enjoy the mermaids and sea goddesses in McGuire’s October Daye series – especially Dianda, Amphitrite, and the Luidaeg. They definitely kick bass 😉

        • wordsfor

          There are MERMAIDS in October Daye? I’ve had my eye on that series for a while. It just jumped up a few places on my TBR list!

          • NeriSiren

            Oak and ash, YES!!! Honestly, I started with Book 5 just so I could get to the mermaids faster (Books 1-4 have a recurring sea witch, but no undersea shenanigans) 😅 The next mer-centric book after that is #13.

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