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Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes

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ARC received from the publisher (Saga Press) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have first heard of the book on twitter and got curious when I learned it was inspired by a song. At the time, I haven’t read any of Solomon’s books (though my friends have recommended me An Unkindness of Ghosts plenty) nor have I heard of Clipping. But I went and listened to The Deep – it was not my usual type and yet I liked it. I liked it a whole lot.

And the ever-important question: Was the book any good? Hell yes. Though I was a bit unsure at the start, it did pretty much exactly what I expected from the song, and more.

The concept sounded like nothing I’ve ever read and as someone whose creativity is inspired by music, I was doubly keen to find out what will the result of the collaboration be. So of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

Yetu is a historian, a vessel for the collective memories of the sea-dwelling wajinru people. They are the offspring of African slave women thrown overboard and have no long-term memories, instead choosing a historian to remember for them. The weight of it all is destroying her, so she flees to the surface, leaving the memories behind.

(If you wonder how they came to be or how can one person hold all of the memories, well, this is a fantasy book. There are explanations, but in short: magic.)

The worldbuilding is fantastic, too. The take on merpeople is fresh and their culture is well thought out. I especially liked the chapters told from the perspective of the wajinru as a group – they are beautifully written and it’s not often that we is used instead of I or he/she/they.

The book deals heavily with themes of memory, trauma, and the individual vs. the collective. Yetu is a high-strung, anxious, sensitive person who cannot handle remembering centuries of trauma as vividly as if she experienced what those before her went through herself. And then there is another character who is the last of her kind and wishes dearly she had something of her people and cannot understand why Yetu would turn her back on her community.

If there’s anything I didn’t like as much, it’s that the narration is fairly distant – I couldn’t connect to Yetu or the story as much as I’d want to, especially in the beginning. And typical for a novella, it’s not quite enough in places. But I’d recommend it regardless.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: anyone who liked the song, those looking for a fresh take on merpeople and (neurodiverse, PoC, or LGBTQ+ representation
Not recommended to: those who don’t like novellas

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