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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Swimming in Mermaids: Poe combs the beach for the best mer-themed ebooks


From Helene Boudreau's gently funny Real Mermaids series to the darkness promised in Elizabeth Fama's upcoming Monstrous Beauty, aquatic adventures are popular lately. Fishing in The Amazon, Poe inter-netted a whole school of them. But is it something about scaled creatures? Because, just as with dragons, the majority of mermaid indies are hastily written, overly derivative, and/or scarcely edited. Nevertheless, here are several worth dipping into.

Episode 1

By Kevin McGill
Self-published in 2012
Poe thinks this is MG/YA steam-punk/dystopian

First sentence: "Sweet Huron!" Yeri swore . . . well, judging by his mother's standards.

14-year-old Nick is trapped on an earth that hasn't seen the sun for 100 years. Do we blame the unchecked burning of fossil fuels, or the malfunctioning pumps designed to suck out the supposed excess of carbon dioxide? Nick doesn't know, and he doesn't care. He just wants to get back to the Moon. But he hasn't got the fare.

Now somebody's offering a million dollars to anyone who can build "an effective solar transference machine and return solar radiation to the planet's surface." So Nick's working on that, fueling himself with an energy drink laced with soda pop, chocolate syrup, and Pepto-Bismol. He's also trying not to contract a genetic plague called the Geneva virus.

But that's only part of the story. The other plot involves merpeople with automaton legs, in a steam-punk paranormal World of Mon.

NOTE: You won't want to miss the video of this book's launch—into space.

If you're into mermen, steam-punk, humor, and/or dystopias, then this series may grab you.

(Mer Tales, Book 1)

By Brenda Pandos
Self-published in 2011
Poe thinks this is YA paranormal romance

First sentence: "So, tell me everything, Ash."

Ash and Tatchi are best friends, both going on 18, so much alike, yet fundamentally completely different. For Tatchi and her twin brother Fin possess dual natures, human and mer. Ashlynn entertains no suspicion of this. And while Ash is expected to "tell everything," the twins are hiding a lot of secret desperation from their friend.

Tatchi hates being homeschooled and wants to live like a normal teen. But if she plunges that deeply into human experience, she'll lose the mer part of herself—and her family along with it. As for Fin, he's crushing on Ash, but even a single one of the kisses she obviously longs to share with him will transform her into a mermaid. (Amusingly, Ashlynn stars on her school's swim team.)

Yes, there's a certain amount of the Twilight template here. But this novel's worlds, both onshore and under Lake Tahoe, are well-built, and the story promises interesting sub-conflicts for each of the three protagonists.

If you're bewildered by the sheer number of mermaid romances on the e-lists, then Poe suggests you dip into this one first.


By D. F. Marsh
Self-published, July 2012
Poe thinks this is YA fantasy/sci-fi

First sentence: The sun had been swallowed by gray clouds with just a hint of magenta and indigo blue light in the sky when she surfaced.

The cover, to Poe, seems to target middle graders and to convey a light tone. But the novel runs to 427 pages; it includes episodes written from several adult points of view; and the authorial voice, sentence length, and vocabulary feel more sophisticated.

The structure parallels three quests. One sounds like MG fantasy and stars two siblings, aged 12 and 14. The second (with a Navy sub technician as a main character) reads like adult sci-fi. The third, told from the POV of a shady business tycoon, has the sly voice of a political thriller. All of these characters, in various ways and for various reasons, will try to prove the existence of the Seabed Phantom. A fourth thread follows the arc of the Phantom herself.

If you like a fantasy tinged with science (and a story with a moral), then this story looks a bit deeper than the cover would indicate.

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