*This review contains affiliate links. I was not paid to review this book in any way and my views are my own and not reflective of anyone else’s*
When you think of mermaids do you imagine Ariel, or maybe the movie Splash? Beautiful girls with toned bodies, angelic voices, and long perfect hair?
Underwater will completely change that perspective.
Underwater is a short anthology of mermaid and underwater creature short stories that alternate in reflecting mythology and creating new myths. Each story is different and unique and instead of peppy lovestruck merpeople, they tell of dark, often sinister, and sometimes highly sexual beasts.
Underwater was published by the small but up-and-coming Transmundane Press and reflects the company’s preference for fantasy writing and science fiction.
I love stories about mythical creatures and so I was prepared to really love this book. I found that I really liked about half the stories in it and the others seemed either out of place or repetitive. Some of the authors seemed to be writing about their sexual fantasies instead of creating believable characters or intriguing plots. The collection begins strong with a well thought out and rounded short story called Fossegrimmen by Megan McFerren. I found that it is one of those stories that will stick in my head every time I see a waterfall. It was well written and beautifully ended.
I was sad to see it was quickly followed by a short story written by a man who had misplaced his thesaurus. His prose was lacking, story was lacking in believability, and his references that could have been sensual were instead vulgar and off-putting. In fact, his story, Happiness Shoal, seems to have a twin later in the book called Ferryman, though Ferryman is by far better well written and thought out instead of drawn out. Val Prozorova finds herself able to describe a sensual and dream-like experience without being vulgar or off-putting unlike Gregory L. Norris.
The book redeemed itself with Baiting the Hook, another fantastic story that will make you rethink your days at the lake and going fishing. R. Judas Brown paints a vivid picture that makes you gasp out loud and you’ll find yourself recounting it to friends next time you’re out fishing.
There are a few other stories I would consider self indulgent and graphically sexual, but they are always redeemed by the next story, almost as if the most talented writers are alternated throughout the book. My favorite stories were actually by the editors; Anthony S. Buoni and Alisha Costanzo. Both stories create engaging characters that I want to know more about.
Buoni’s Diluvium tells of a creepy cajun tale of a post- apocalyptic and waterlogged New Orleans and creates a world I’d love to know more about. His ability to shove so much information into such a short story without making it choppy or difficult to read is surprising and appreciated.
Costanzo creates a world all her own in The Rainbow Sprite, mixing mythology with pop culture and old world with modern day. If I didn’t know better, I would think (and I wish!) it was the beginning of a novel- perhaps a series.
Underwater is an entertaining fantasy and sci-fi anthology that I’m happy to add to my book collection, though I think I’ll keep it on the top shelf in my office- far away from kids.