St Valentine’s Day has just past, and what could prolong that warm romantic glow better than reading about the magical discovery one couple made on their honeymoon? What could make a honeymoon more romantic than discovering that mermaids are real? As it turns out, pretty much anything. Enter Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet.
Deb and Chip are modern, tech savvy, and about to be married. We spend fifty pages getting to know Deb, Chip, Chip’s mother Tanya, and Deb’s best friend Gina. We get to know Tanya’s expectations for the wedding, and Gina’s ideas, and suddenly I’m having flashbacks to the planning of my own wedding. For those of you who aren’t married, yes, yes it is exactly like that. We join Deb and Chip in the final stages of planning the wedding, the planning of the bachelor party, the bachelorette party, and finally the honeymoon.
By the time we actually see the mermaids we are almost one hundred pages into the story. The mermaids are apparently very shy creatures, so their appearances are fleeting and far between. Just in case we don’t know what they look like, there is a picture. In fact, there are many pictures. Can’t imagine what a “…steam punk zeppelin pulled by a team of elegant purple dragons” would look like? No problem! There’s a picture of that. Never seen those cutesy figurines with the over sized heads? There’s a picture of those. Can’t imagine an ichthyologist running down a beach like a robot? No need! There’s a picture of that, too! There are pictures of everything Deb and Chip encounter. From Chip’s video game, to the ichthyologist running on the beach, to news crews, crowed peers, and a military presence on the beach, Deb captures it all with her phone.
At first I thought the pictures were a measure of how intelligent the publisher thought we the readers aren’t. Then I thought maybe this is some kind of gimmick to show that the author or the publisher know how into technology, we the readers are. Or possibly it’s an illustration of how shallow Deb is. She cannot experience life herself, she must filter it through her phone, and share it using social media. I feel like it’s a combination of the publisher not being very intelligent, and some kind of story telling gimmick. It falls short. It makes the novel seem even more shallow that it already is.
In the end, we see very little of the mermaids, and very little of how people might react to the discovery of mermaids. Most of the story is taken up with Deb and Chip’s new friends plotting what to do about protecting the mermaids, and very little actually protecting. They make Youtube videos, and a facebook page, and they post on twitter. Which is great. That is how revolutions begin, in the 20th Century. Also guns, and demonstrations. You can have a revolution without guns, but you do need people to put down their smart phones, get up from the computer, and demonstrate.
I guess it’s a good thing Deb and Chip weren’t planning a revolution then.
I’m going out to build a snowman or something. Without my phone.