Hugo/Nebula Finalist: The Deep • 2019 • Fantasy novella by Rivers Solomon

★★★★★

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Synopsis: Yetu is a mermaid, dark-skinned because her two-legged ancestors came from Africa. Her people, the wajinru, live peacefully in the deep ocean but Yetu is not happy at all. She tried to commit suicide by cutting herself and swimming to the shallow waters where sharks drift by. Because she can’t stand herself, her life anymore, as she is a Historian for her people: the only one who can remember the past. And remembering means loosing her identity and being haunted by all the details, by all the lifes of 600 years existence.

Her mother und her people can’t understand this because they live without their past, and only once a year, the Historian transfers it to their people in an electrical worship.

Yetu flees from this service, leaving her people entranced with the past, to find herself again. She swims to the surface, is getting trapped within a tidal pool, finds two-legged people and befriends them. But a storm is coming.

Review: This novella is quite different from the silliness of Disney’s Arielle or the tragedy of Andersen’s Little Mermaid, Undine, or all the other Middle-European mermaid versions. It is a wonderful, innovative, and very exotic tale where Mermaids are not simply swimming humans with fins instead of legs but have their own way of communication using electricity, have their own traditions, and their own emotions, and a colorful history.

Emotions and the search for identity carry this fascinating tale, and Yetu’s character is discussed against different backgrounds, all connected by a logically flowing story.

While the prose is beautiful and literary, it isn’t exactly a page-turner, and at times I had difficulty coming back to the narration. But the thoughtfulness kept me going, and I fully recommond this extraordinary story.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it as part of the Hugo and Nebula Award finalists.

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