Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Into the Drowning Deep

Go To
“This was where darkness went to live forever, growing deeper and more powerful as the eons passed it by”.

"The seas did not forgive, and they did not welcome their wayward children home."

A 2017 Sci-Fi Horror novel written by Seanan McGuire under her pen name, Mira Grant. It serves as a sequel to Rolling in the Deep.

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Tropes appearing in this work include:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The story takes place in 2022. A few medical advances have been made, self-driving cars are on the road, and desalination plants are common on the coast of California as people fight against the tide of climate change.
  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: Sirens posses claws sharp enough to dig into metal walls, allowing them to climb sheer surfaces.
  • Abusive Parents: Olivia, the reporter, was raised by a physically abusive father and a mother who infantilized her because of her autism.
  • Alien Hair: The sirens have "hair" of bioluminescent tendrils to lure in humans and to provide light for their signed language in the deep sea. It also hosts all kinds of tiny symbiotic organisms, some of which are deadly venomous to humans.
  • Always Identical Twins: Heather and Holly, identical deaf twin sisters. Holly thinks of how it was annoying sometimes having a mirror image of herself.
  • Arc Words: "Lovely ladies of the sea".
  • Asshole Victim: Jason, Tory’s ex-boyfriend. He is extremely bitter to the fact that Tory broke up with him. He ends up assisting in a necropsy of a mermaid. After collecting a basin-full of symbiotic creatures extracted from the dead siren, he attempts to conduct further research hidden away from Dr. Lyons in his cabin. Jason accidentally impales himself on a creature’s barb. It turns out this was his undoing, and dies from the resulting venom injected in him in less than five minutes. Tory actually feels bad for him after learning of his death, not wishing that kind of end on him.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: One siren signals its fellows through sign language not to hurt Hallie because she communicated with him by the same means and established a friendly rapport.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: Sirens have bioluminescent hair, which they use so that they can communicate with their Signed Language. They're also shown being able to use it to lure in fish, similar to an angler fish.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Several of the main cast survive, including Tory, Olivia, Luis, Hallie, Holly, Jillian and Theo. However, Heather, Ray, Jason and many others are dead, it's heavily implied the survivors are going to be traumatised for life, and the captive siren is given over for Imagine to exploit.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The siren's entire selves. Their hands have three fingers and opposable thumb as well as four joints and are webbed as opposed to two like humans; they have both gills and rudimentary lungs for surface excursions; their tails more closely resemble that of an eel's rather than a fish, and their "hair" is bioluminescent and are full of previously undiscovered symbiotic creatures.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: It's revealed near the end that all the sirens encountered so far are male. It turns out the female of the species is a single boat-sized monster that the males are desperate to keep sated.
  • Bland-Name Product: In-universe visual example: Olivia dresses almost exactly like Emma Frost of X-Men fame, close enough that fans of her show can see the resemblance but not so close that Marvel/Disney can sue the studio.
  • Body Horror: Siren toxins cause Michi's corpse to decay rapidly and collapse in on itself.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Heather the submersible operator is driven to become the first human to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep, not least in order to win that record as a Deaf woman.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Slightly averted by Heather Wilson, as she wasn’t killed for being disabled, but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. She is one of the deaf twin scientists and submersible pilots, and is among the first to die due to her intrusion into the sirens’ home territory. The sirens swarmed and attacked her Minnow submersible until they broke through.
  • The Captain: Marcus Peterman of the Melusine. By extension, Captain Jovanie Sehgers from the novella Into the Rolling Deep counts as well. Neither of them will take anyone’s shit.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Theodore Blackwell, the perfectly coifed recruiter for Imagine, is the estranged husband of Jillian Toth. While protesting a whaling ship, he somehow was nearly crushed by said whaling ship and suffered a spinal injury that would have otherwise left him a paraplegic. Imagine had been investing in the medical field and the breakthroughs they made helped him to walk again, although not without painful side effects.
  • Consistent Clothing Style: Olivia the reporter always dresses entirely in white in a deliberate nod to Emma Frost, whom she also Cosplays outside of work.
  • Cool Boat: The Atargatis from the novella and the Melusine. The Atargatis was simply a cruise ship that had housed the doomed scientists in Rolling in the Deep. The Melusine, by contrast, was retrofitted especially for the pursuit of scientific inquiry by Imagine. It included a number of equipment for all the various studies being conducted on board; a salt water pool used for the collection of various captured specimens' a secret dolphin housing unit; and a launch dock for a Minnow submarine.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: The mermaids have two extra joints on their fingers, plus claws. They look spindly but are strong enough to gouge metal.
  • Deadly Scratch: Both the mermaids' own tissues and their symbionts carry incredibly potent toxins. Two humans are exposed to them through minor injuries (one a pricked finger) and die grotesquely within minutes.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: When Tori initially meets Olivia she's extremely cold towards her, since she has the same job on the ship that Tori's sister had on the last one. As the story unfolds, the two grow closer and eventually begin a romantic relationship.
  • Destroy the Security Camera: Tory catches sight of a mermaid on the Melusine's underwater cameras and tries to follow it, only for it to examine and furiously destroy the camera — early confirmation that they're intelligent and hostile.
  • Disabled Means Helpless:
    • How people tend to view the Wilson twins. This is lampshaded by Heather in that she knows companies will often actively try to find loopholes to avoid hiring her and her sister due to their deafness, viewing them as distractions at best, liabilities at worst.
    • When Olivia was growing up, her mother viewed her this way, treating her like a child because of her autism and not letting her date anyone. She thought anyone romantically interested in Olivia would be akin to a pedophile.
  • Disabled Snarker: Holly is thoroughly sick of the bullshit she gets from hearing people.
    Tory: I didn't know you could talk.
    Holly: Of course I can talk. But you can't understand me, so I had to learn to make sounds with my mouth.
  • The Dreaded: What the kaiju-sized female siren turns out to be. Tory tries to impress this information upon others when she returned to the Melusine after having fallen overboard.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted with David from the novella, the first mate of the Atargatis. He was attempting to communicate with the sirens, but they mistook his attempts as him offering to be eaten by them. He dies instantly from drowning before they begin to tear him apart.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Jacques and Michi are some of the most infamous big-game hunters in the world, not least for having shot critically endangered species simply because they wanted to. They're literally aroused by killing things and are treated like Psychos For Hire by the rest of the characters, rightly so, as Jacques admits they've both murdered people who got in the way of their hunts.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The siren female borders on this. We never get a good description, but it's stated Tori's mind cannot fully comprehend the creature and the sight of it leaves her reeling days later. Its bioluminescence also gives it an alien air.
  • Eldritch Ocean Abyss: The book features killer mermaids which inhabit the darkest and deepest parts of the Marianas Trench. These mermaids kill and feast on anything that enters this territory and are armed with sharp teeth and fangs. They also despise light, hence their affinity for the darkness of the trench.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jacques and Michi are married big game hunters killing just for the thrill, sometimes endangered species as well, but truly love each other. When they aren't hunting, they're either preparing or having sex. Jacques is devastated when Michi's killed.
  • Evil Cripple: While Theo isn’t necessarily evil, but he is still seen as a corporate crony. He even straight-up admits the first night to everyone that he is a spy for the Imagine Network.
  • Evil Poacher: Jacques and Michi are married big game hunters who like hunting rare (therefore endangered and protected) animals since it's a thrill for them. Both have killed people who tried to stop it.
  • Famous for Being First: The submersible operator, Heather Wilson, joins the research expedition so she can be the first human to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep, in part so a Deaf woman will hold that record. Ultimately, she ignores a danger alert in her eagerness and is killed in the attempt.
  • Fish People: The sirens have muscular tails similar to eels and simian-like faces, webbed hands, and gills. A necropsy is performed on the body of a siren, further emphasizing their fish-like Bizarre Alien Biology.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • It's revealed that the "mermaid" that is being necropsied is male, which foreshadows all the sirens encountered so far have been male.
    • A number of the sirens' traits are similar to anglerfish which foreshadows their Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism.
  • For Science!: The whole reason the scientists attend both expeditions. Some are there to further their foothold in their careers, others looking to gain as much data so they can earn grants. For others, it’s all about personal gain and fame.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: After their first attempt is interrupted by the beginning of the mermaid attack, Tory and Olivia finally get their chance at the very end of the book.
  • Hand Signals: How Heather and Hollie, the Wilson twins, communicate as they were both born deaf. Their older sister Hallie Wilson often acts as their interpreter, a sort of liaison between them and other people. She’ll also sign for them when someone else is speaking such as on a podium or stage. They don’t necessarily need her for face-to-face interactions. The sirens also have their own form of sign language. A live siren specimen, after having being captured, begins a rudimentary exchange of signs with a character so the two species can open the beginnings of a line of communication.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ray pushes Olivia out of the way of a siren attack, and gets eaten in her stead.
  • Hiding the Handicap: Theo can hide his limp and his crippling agony to a certain degree, but only if he takes his medication regularly.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The real reason that Imagine had the expedition set up was to capture a siren for their own exploitative purposes. The big game hunters brought along could also be seen as a glaring example of this. It’s even even lampshaded by Luis Martines, Tory’s lab partner and friend: “Humans are the worst.”
  • I Die Free: Kearney, the oldest dolphin, knows very well that the dolphins are probably going to get slaughtered on their scouting mission. But he doesn't care, because he'll die in the open ocean and never have to do a trick for fish again. He's right.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Imagine brought along two big game hunters, Jacques and Michi Abney, who love killing things and each other equally.
  • It's All My Fault: How Dr. Toth feels about both expeditions of the Atargatis and the Melusine. She reasons that if she hadn’t been advocating about the existence of sirens, she wouldn’t have caught the attention of Imagine, and everyone who had died on both voyages could have been avoided.
  • It Can Think: While sirens are vicious predators, they are also sapient beings with multiple languages and the capacity for strategic planning.
  • Kaiju: While we never get an exact size, the female siren is implied to be massive.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The naval crew of the USS Danvers. They found the Atargatis six weeks after it went off the radar, having drifted nearly two hundred miles from where it had last checked in. They searched for the ship for three days in an attempt to find survivors. They were quick to leave after having been spooked by strange noises at night and by light appearing in the waters—presumably the bioluminescent glow from the sirens.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Olivia looks traditionally feminine, to the point where she often cosplays Emma Frost, and is exclusively interested in women.
  • Mad Scientist: Well, they aren’t mad, per se. But there are plenty of scientists that have a wide range of dedicated studies and specialities in marine biology, oceanography, and more. Dr. Toth may come closest to this description, as she’s seen as a "sirenologist" by the community at large due to her advocation for the existence of sirens/mermaids.
  • Mean Boss:
    • Dr. Lyons, the scientist in charge of overseeing Jason, hands down. He essentially forces all his students to do the lab work, write all of his papers, and to run all the errands. Granted, this is generally what lab assistants are expected to do—but Dr. Lyons is especially an asshole about it and takes things to a whole new level. To hammer home how big an asshole he is, he isn’t above stealing the credit of any worthwhile research his students conduct and publishing it as his own.
    • When he learns about Jason’s death, he admits that Jason had meant nothing to him. He merely complained he lost a lab assistant.
    • This callousness could further lend to the tragedy of Jason’s death. He had taken the little creatures living in the siren’s “hair” and performed the makeshift necropsy in his cabin rather than in a lab setting. Indirectly, one could even argue Dr. Lyons was the reason Jason had died so pointlessly.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The Atargatis is named after an ancient Syrian goddess who was often depicted as a mermaid.
    • Similarly, the Melusine, the second ship that follows it years later, is named after another mythological mermaid from a later period of history.
  • Mermaid Problem: The sirens terrorizing the Melusine are all male. This still presents a question of how they reproduce with the kaiju-sized female. If it’s anything like how actual anglerfish reproduce, than it doesn’t bode well for any of the males…
  • Mistaken for Racist:
    Heather: [in sign language] I'm Heather Wilson. I'm a submersible operator.
    Jillian: Really?
    Heather: [scowling] Why are you surprised? Is it because I'm deaf?
    Jillian: No, it's because I'm claustrophobic. What sort of submersible?
  • Morality Chain: The only reason Jacques Abney behaves is because he knows Michi would be angry if he didn't. (The narration says he would have been a Serial Killer had he not gotten into big game.) Of course she's not much of a Morality Chain, she just prefers to kill her victims quietly.
  • No Bisexuals: Tory in her internal monologue mentions encountering this attitude before, thinking of how people sometimes assumed she's just confused or indecisive over her sexuality, though it isn't the case and Tory's actually bisexual.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The captive siren, having managed to communicate with Hallie, convinces several of his fellows not to eat anyone. Instead of releasing him, the crew brings him to Imagine so they can experiment on him or use him as a tourist attraction.
  • Non-Malicious Monster:
    • The sirens are just hungry. It's not their fault we look like food. In fact, they may not even realize humans are people, as the one Hallie manages to talk to actually asks the others to back off.
    • Further emphasized in the prequel Rolling in the Deep when David attempts to communicate with the sirens via sign language. Unfortunately, the signs he use tell them he wants to be eaten. The mermaids are understandably puzzled by this but decide since these 'strange things' are delicious, who are they to question their good fortune?
  • Ocean Awe: What the Imagine Network cameramen accompanying both expeditions trying to capture while filming for both documentaries.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Tory is only called Victoria a couple times.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: The sirens resided primarily in the depths of the Mariana Trench, leading to them having been largely undiscovered for so long. It’s also theorized throughout in-universe that the sirens may have lived in shallower waters in the past, or had once been a migratory species at one point. This is considered pure conjecture and even alluded to as such.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The sirens in a nutshell. They aren’t beautiful women with pretty, sparkly colourful fish tails. The sirens’ tails are more eel-like, their faces are almost simian in appearance with large round eyes and they have both gills and rudimentary lungs for surface excursions. Their “hair” has bioluminescent properties and is used as a lure to attract potential prey. Their hands have three fingers and an opposable thumb and have several extra joints and are webbed. Their flesh is poisonous to consume, and even their blood introduced to the human body has lethal effects. They can extend their jagged-tooth filled jaws to engulf and literally eat a person’s face off their skull. They can also communicate through a kind of sign language of their own making, are able to traverse with surprising speed while out of water, and can scale the sheer surface and angle of the ship's hull. Oh—all the mermaids are male. The only female is a leviathan-sized eldritch abomination. In essence, they are similar biologically to that of anglerfish: the female is hundreds of times larger than the humanish-sized males. Due to their impressive and extensive mimicry abilities, Dr. Toth decidedly reclassifies their nomenclature from mermaid to siren.
  • Our Sirens Are Different: While they are compared to other animals as well, the sirens are similar in many ways to anglerfish. They live in the darkest depths of the ocean, they use a variety of methods, including bioluminescence, to lure in prey, and have Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism.
  • Poisonous Person: It's discovered that sirens are poisonous by nature. Consuming their flesh or having their blood introduced to the bloodstream quickly causes death in a human. Luckily, they cannot pass this on with their claws or bite (though if they get their claws or teeth on you, the end result is usually the same).
  • Recycled In Space: At its core, the story is Aliens but on the ocean. It is a sequel to a story where a shipload of people were lost, where a more heavy armed ship is sent to the area by a powerful corporation that is interested in capturing one of the dangerous creatures that caused the loss of the first ship. The sirens are similar to xenomorphs in a number of ways such as having vaguely humanoid but monstrous and slimy forms, predatory instincts, the capacity for strategic thought, deadly blood and the ability to climb sheer walls. Ultimately, the climax comes when the characters encounter the much larger female of the species.
  • Reading Lips: How the Wilson twins usually interact with people, except for speakers on a podium or stage. Their older sister Hallie steps in and interprets for their convenience and ease for events such as those.
  • The Reveal: Near the end of the story, it's shown that sirens possess Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism and the female is a Kaiju sized monster.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Imagine sent along a team of dolphins, one of whom gets his own viewpoint chapter, and who the crew considers to be people. It's mentioned that things are legally contentious re: cetaceans, because scientists consider them people but governments haven't caught up. Theo says Imagine's contract with the dolphins covers their ass both ways: either the dolphins are animals and they don't need a contract, or the dolphins are people and they agreed to this.
  • Sea Monster: The sirens, hands down. It’s alluded to in-universe that they had been behind disappearances in the past in the Mariana area for centuries.
  • Send in the Search Team: The USS Danvers, although they had happened upon the Atargatis, and weren't called in by a distress signal.
  • Shout-Out: Talking about mermaids, Tory and Olivia refer to the communication barrier in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok". This makes them realize that the mermaids aren't just mimicking sounds at random, but using them as a coded language to communicate covertly on hunts.
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: The mermaids here are capable of perfectly mimicking any sound they hear, such as whale song and human speech, in order to learn prey in. Eventually, they are designated as sirens because mermaid implies they are all female. The study of mermaids is also known as sirenology. Dr. Toth in-universe even reclassifies them from mermaid to siren, and after that, this is what they are referred to as.
  • The Social Darwinist: Egomaniac Hunter Michi thinks endangered species are fair game since if God didn't want them killed by humans, he would have given them superior means of surviving.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Be nice to the planet, or climate change will force sirens to start hunting humans again.
  • Spotting the Thread: Sirens can perfectly mimic any sound they hear, but they can only repeat it exactly and have no sense of the context of the sounds most of the time. As such, they can be found out when they do things like mimic the sound of a boat motor a mile under the surface or repeat the same whale song regardless of circumstance.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Jillian is a woman of Caucasian and Native Hawaiian ancestry. This goes as well for her daughter Lani with her estranged husband Theo, who's white.
    • Heather and Holly are identical deaf twin sisters.
    • Olivia is a lesbian and autistic.
  • Undignified Death: Michi is killed, slowly and unpleasantly, by toxic shock from a bullet that ricochets off a contaminated surfaces and wings her. This devastates Jacques, who had always expected them to be brought down together by one of their big game quarries.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Jacques and Michi are a pair of murderous Egomaniac Hunters and love each other as the only person in the world who can understand their natures. The narration notes how Michi's influence is the only reason Jacques is a big game hunter instead of a Serial Killer, and her death leaves him fatally unhinged.
  • Voice Changeling: Sirens are able to perfectly mimic any sound they hear. They use this to lure in prey or to speak in code when they don't want to sound like themselves.
  • Wall Crawl: Sirens are able to climb metal walls by simply digging their claws into them.