The Abyss Surrounds Us - YA Review by Sam T

Reader: Sam T.
Age: 16
Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Publisher: Flux
Pub Date: 02/08/16
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: I liked this book well enough (although I didn't like the cover or the title, but that's discussed later). The character development was nice, and the monsters were cool. 
     I do have one (very minor) reservation about the monsters, though. The book mentions whales, fish, cephalopods, turtles, and sea snakes being used. This is fine. This makes sense, because they're all water animals. However, one scene alludes to MONKEYS. Aquatic MONKEYS. I get what the author was trying to do, in trying to put forth the idea of humans having captive intelligent animals such as primates. That would make sense if this book took place in the jungle. But it doesn't make sense in a marine-themed book. It seems jarring and slightly ridiculous and out of place.
     Another thing I didn't understand was: I get that they made the NeoCetes to feed the Reckoners and keep 150-ton animals from depleting the world's fish stocks. That makes sense. But, the problem is, the NeoCetes have to eat, too. If the NeoCetes eat fish, then won't they deplete the world's fish stocks? Or do they just keep making more genetically modified organisms to feed the other GMOs? As a biology nerd, I appreciated the effort to explain it but was still slightly skeptical.
     Finally, why expend all of these resources to build monsters when you could instead use... missiles? Or drones? Some explanation there would be cool.
     That aside, though, the monsters are cool. They do a lot of ship-destroying, and the laser-guided commands were one of the coolest parts of this book. 
     I also  loved the action and the romance and the fight scenes. The romance and the ship battles were the best, most exciting parts of this book. But the little details were sort of nagging at me occasionally. Also, the Swift-Cas romance is nice, but it seems a little strange when you consider that Swift held her captive on the ship in the first place. Maybe have a little more development before they go from hating each other into full-on cuddling? Just a thought.
     Finally, I'd like to remark on the ending. While it was nice to see Cas and Swift reunited, the ending left a bitter taste in my mouth, like an overripe banana. Throughout the whole story, it is implied that Swift hates the captain and wants nothing more than to escape with Cas. But, at the end, Cas is found enslaving herself once again to the murderous captain, and Swift appears downtrodden. 
     I feel like a better ending would have been one where the Captain gets shoved into the water by Swift and is eaten by Bao, and then Swift and Cas become co-captains of their new ship and sail the seas on their own terms, as the ship slowly sails off into the sunset. The current one leaves so many loose ends that it's sort of sloppy in my opinion.
     Also, I feel like it could've done without the fact that Swift killed Durga. Fabian Murphy could have done it when he visited that morning, and no one could have noticed. No, the author just had to ruin the relationship between Swift and Cas yet another time and also make for a much less satisfying ending.
     However, overall, despite the lackluster ending, the title and cover (which I'm getting to) and some minor details to be sorted out, it was still a really original idea executed nicely enough to ultimately win me over, despite its minor flaws.
Memorable or Forgettable: It was a really original book with a cool idea, but I feel like there were some aspects of the story that were taken from other books in its genres. still, it was original, memorable and interesting enough book to read.
Cover: I'm going to start of by saying I really, really didn't like the title of this book. At all. It's vague and only tangentially relates to the story; I don't think it was even said in the dialogue. Something like "Pirate's Reckoning" or "The Reckoners" or even "Monsters vs. Pirates" would have been far, far better than the current title. The current title is bland, generic, clunky, overly long, and contributes nothing to the book and doesn't hint at its content.
     I didn't really like the cover. Not even one bit. Sure, the model looks like Cassandra, Otatchi and all, but her facial expression looks bored and lifeless, as if she's watching paint dry instead of controlling a gigantic sea monster. 
     Moving on, the eye of the monster is depicted as far too large (Bao is estimated to be at around 150 tons, which is about 40 tons heavier than the most liberal estimates for the largest sauropod dinosaur, Amphicoelias). From this size estimate, Bao's eye and head should be a LOT smaller than what is depicted on the cover. Also, turtles have circular pupils. I know it's genetically modified, but still. The water looks a little unrealistic. And, I think I've already mentioned it, but the title is clunky and boring. 
     The book inside is all right, though, so this cover doesn't really do its insides justice.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 4Q - Better than most
Popularity: 4P - Broad general teen appeal

tags: fantasy / dystopian / adventure / romance / ya lit


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