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 theyre not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their lifes 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.
- Alluring Anglerfish: 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.
- Arc Words: "Lovely ladies of the sea".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Creepy Long Fingers: The mermaids have two extra joints on their fingers, plus claws. They look spindly but are strong enough to gouge metal.
- 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 feast and kill 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Mistaken for Racist:Heather: [in sign language] I'm Heather Wilson. I'm a submersible operator.
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 murders quiet.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Here they are a unique species of predatory amphibians with eel-like tails, bioluminescent hair, the ability to perfectly mimic any sound they hear, and sexual dimorphism similar to anglerfish.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Signed Language: Three of the characters are fluent in American Signed Language, one of whom is an expert brought in to study the sirens own signed language.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 each other. The narration notes that 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.