January 2017 – 2.5 out of 5 stars
My first completed book for 2017 is the book Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings. This illustrated novelization is based on the video game of the same name and tells the story of Merryn, a little girl who sets off on a quest through the depths of the sea searching for her father who fails to return home from his daily fishing one day, led only by a dream and the stories and lullabies she grew up hearing.
Merryn’s mother is dead to begin with. She died when Merryn was little, though the exact memory of how is lost to her when the story begins. What Merry does retain are the lullabies and stories that her mother used to sing at her bedside and the smell of orchids from when her mother would weave necklaces from their fragrant petals.
When Merryn’s fisherman father does not return home after a full day and night since he left for his daily course on the sea, the girl finds herself refusing to accept that the sea has claimed her father. Instead, she mines the piles of sea junk that he often catches in his nets and has allowed her to keep. Cannibalizing these parts, in the course of a day, she builds herself a submarine (sans any heavy machinery or sophisticated tools, unless she was hiding a welding torch under her raincoat that I missed).
Here is where the story stretches even my suspension of disbelief to the point of breaking. Merry sets out in her little homemade submarine with no food, no water, no way of knowing which way to go, and no way to breathe/recycle air in her remarkably airtight sub (though Hastings does provide manner of explanation for this fairly quickly). I understand the fact that this is a novel for children based on a video game, which by bent of its media format rarely offers explanations for just how things happen, but I still believe that novelizations require a degree of realism or at least believability. Not once does the book note that Merryn eats on this journey, though she harvests food for someone else (so I suppose that it is feasible that she ate some of the food herself, too). There are events that are noted as being impossible that later do in fact happen with no explanation at all as to how.
Now, for the positives: this little book is beautiful. There are ink-line illustrations and prettily drawn borders. The songs and stories are lovely and lilting, and I think it’s a nice companion piece to the video game (which my husband bought the same day that I bought this book). On its own, however, the book just doesn’t hold substantial water (pun intended).