BOOK REVIEW: “The Abyss Surrounds Us ” by Emily Skrutskie

24790901Last year this little book cause quite a stir and I was  lucky enough to be there at the right place and time. I actually found it on NetGalley and after reading the description I knew it was the right book for me. Now this story is already known as “the one with the lesbian pirates” and even though that’s an oversimplification, it’s quite catchy and it brings more audience and that’s really important too. Before I start writing about the sequel I feel like I should say something about the first book too. If you haven’t read the book, continue with caution and then…go read the book.

This story is set in a world that is in some parts similar to ours and different in many others. To put it simply: this is a new world created after this one was destroyed or very changed. This is why there is something called Neo Pacific. The dominant part of this world is the ocean, at least that’s where the main character who also narrates the story exists most of the time. This is also the world of monsters, giant creatures of the sea who are somewhat changed in the laboratory. The science in this world is similar to ours, meaning that it is also directed to creating living space, weapon and food. We learn that from Cassandra’s POV (like everything else) and while that’s good for the story itself, it makes you wonder what else there can be in the world.

Cassandra is a girl who’s been prepared all her life to use these monsters to help her kind. We meet her just when she’s getting ready to go on her first mission. Her parents are unusually cold about that, which is, we learn, the result of their upbringing. Everyone Cassandra knows is thinking about the best way to survive, this is why we get the impression this is the world created after some big disaster. Unlike in many other YA books her knowledge about the world, especially scientific facts, doesn’t feel out of place because she was raised by a mother who’s a scientist. Cassandra’s mission is using monsters to help a ship’s safe travel and one of the biggest dangers in this world are pirates who destroy ships.

Very soon Cass’ mission goes wrong and she’s captured by a pirate ship. The captain of the ship is a woman called Santa Elena who gives Cass an ultimatum – join them or die. The society in this book is very matriarchal, women are often those who lead and they are treated with the same respect as men. Cass’ fate is now bound to one of the pirates – a girl named Swift who saves her life.

Cass is a very important character because she’s a non-white, lesbian girl whose life doesn’t revolve around any men. She’s also very smart, athletic, decisive. In the very beginning she’s been given a pill in case she’s captured by the pirates, that pill would kill her. She decides not to kill herself. Instead, she stays alive to try and do something bigger.

Of course, there’s a bit of romance, as much as there can be in this very specific situation. The characters are treated with respect all the time. Consent is always an important issue and it’s always important to the characters that they’re equals. In fact, the author does something that’s not very usual in the world of fiction, she cares about the characters having equal footing before anything happens between them.

The action scenes are well written and overall writing is very good. You’ll enjoy this book if you’re looking for an unusual fantasy setting and interesting story. Especially if you’re also a wlw.

 

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