Cry of the Mer
- Traumatising content
Katherine Waters has several goals on her list. Graduate high school, get accepted into an advanced photography course, add another ten meters to her personal free-diving and deep-water diving records respectively. Waking up in the stark, sterile environment of an underground lab, part of a secret and illegal experiment definitely didn't make the list. Nor did discovering not only were mermaids not the stories of legends people thought they were, but advanced genetic manipulation had slotted her for an extreme physical transformation.
Faced with an unknown future in captivity, forced to adjust to a new body and lifestyle completely alien to her, with only a psychologically damaged young Mer for company, Katie's life has taken a dramatic turn and she'd do anything to escape it, return home, and regain any sense of the normalcy she lost the moment she opened her eyes.
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First of all I’m going to talk about my thoughts on this story. The story has a dark feel to it that draws you in. The main characters are fleshed out and feel like you can relate to Katie. She’s in this horrifying scenario with no escape in sight with a small person depending on them. It’s good.
Here’s the bad. The villains and the plot are hard to take seriously. The doctors are so evil it feels like a parody or caricature of a mad scientist. One is a Dr Mengele type sadist, and the other wants to create mermaids in a demented sceme to make mad money off a water park attraction.
Theres no hint that the government has any plans beyond just ‘kidnap people’ and “????”. It’s not really addressed why this shady government group is hiring random grad students to help their highly illegal human experiments either. Supposedly this is in 2016 or so and they just let unvetted uni kids with phones work at their highly illegal facility where they torture and mutate people.
I like the story: it started off exceedingly interesting, and the writing's fine. The post rate is amazing. There are a couple of typos every now and then, but very rarely. The theme is dark, but it only makes you smile more when something nice is happening to the characters. My only complaint is that the characters are portrayed as black-or-white; either evil to the bone or completely nice, for the most part. But it's a minor concern. I reccomend.
A young girl named Katie is kidnapped and brought to some morally questionable institution where she undergoes genetic alterations that turn her lower body into fish. She is treated subhuman at every turn by everyone at the institution and the only comfort she is able to find is a mermaid girl, Luna, who is trapped alongside her. The majority of chapters are told from the perspective of Katie but does change to other characters throughout the story.
A central theme is the family relationship between the characters, mostly shown with the sisterhood between Katie and Luna. The abuse these characters suffer through makes you empathize quite strongly with these characters, which makes some of the emotional payoffs really palpable. That abuse goes to some really dark places, and it is interesting how some stories have half a dozen trigger warnings while this only has one, seeing as this goes way further than pretty much all other stories I have read on this site.
I really like the focus on family rather then the more typical romance that you usually get, especially with female characters who are as young as that of the MC here. If you have also gotten tired of this, it does tell a very heartwarming tale of sisterhood as well as mother/child relation (at least heartwarming between all the heartache).
As a whole, it seems that the author had a conceptual idea of the situation that these characters would be put into, and spent most of the time ensuring that those concepts come off the strongest. Surrounding aspects, however, such as the internal logic and the narrative reasons for all the events seems to have been put somewhat to the side. I still very much recommend the story, as the first aspects do come off really strong.
Going in-depth of the criticism I have would spoil large parts of the story, so I’ll just briefly say that they mainly revolve around convenient/incredulous plot progression, how the world responds to the discovery of a new species and how terrible the villainous company (Lemuria) are at making stable, long-term business decisions.
Hopefully, the spoiler section does not come across as just spewing hate, as I do really like the story for all the parts it does well.
THE FOLLOWING SECTION WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRETY OF BOOK ONE, AND A FEW FOR BOOK TWO AS WELL AS THEY ARE RELEVANT TO SOME EVENTS IN THE FIRST BOOK. I WOULD ADVISE YOU TO READ THE STORY FIRST IF IT HAS PIQUED YOUR INTEREST B4 READING FURTHER.
Incredulous events or really convenient plot progression
In book two, we learn that mermaids may not be that uncommon; Katie and another mermaid named Riley come across a group of mermaids on their very first swim. Mermaids also do not seem to be too aware of their surroundings, illustrated by Riley being hit by an anchor and several mermaids not noticing a boat right above them. The problem I have is that the Lemuria Institution has spent the last six years looking without finding a single one, and actually finds it easier to just reverse-engineer the genome of the mer so that they can implant it into another human. I find it quite ridiculous that their solution is more plausible than ever having found another mer. An alternative explanation could be that Lemuria has captured mermaids in the past, but lack of reasoning meant that they could never get them to properly cooperate with them or Luna. It could be explained that Lemuria eventually had to kill them off, and this is the reason why reverse-engineering is seen as a valid alternative.
The previous point can further be explored by another incredulous aspect, that apparently all mer speak English, or at least, a human language close to the region that the mer inhabit. What we learn, however, is that mer uses another language for communication and that English would realistically only be used to communicate with other humans. Interactions between humans and mer seem to never really happen though, as humanity does not know about their existence. From the perspective of the author, I get that having the mer speak English is a simple way to not have to deal with the issue of communication. I am not too sure I agree that this compromise was worth it in the end, however. Luna speaking English is understandable, but for the rest, I actually think the problem with communication could be interesting drama between, for instance, Riley and Sophie. Currently, it seems that all mer speak a language they really have no need for.
Next up we have the rescue operation for Katie and Luna. This entire thing (without doing any sort of confirmation) is based on a random photo on the internet where someone recognizes the similar appearance of mermaid Katie to human Katie, and the conversation goes something like this: “Do you know how unlikely it is for two people to have the same facial appearance?” → Proceeds to plan an entire rescue operation from this simple fact. Do you also know what is also quite unlikely? That the person in the photo is actually able to live and breathe underwater and has been turned into another species. Of note is that it is never believed to just be a person in a costume, everyone is very much on board that this is in fact a person who has been turned into a mermaid.
There are several methods that these events could have been done differently so that the rescue operation is a lot more justified: for instance, the author even puts an obvious explanation for this that is never utilized, Elizabeth! Elizabeth is directly related to Olivia, Olivia being the orchestrator of the rescue operation. So rather than their relation being a one in a million chance, why not explain the rescue operation as something that is directly caused by this, have Elizabeth call Olivia about the situation and that is how they meet and orchestrate the operation. The only person I could reasonably expect to go through all those lengths from just a photo is Sophie, and is it really that unreasonable that Sophie, working with marine mammals, would have seen photos of what must be global news of MERMAIDS!?
Riley being injured: (from the book) “The chain on his anchor was damaged, he had been coming in for repairs when it snapped and dropped into the water. When he hauled the anchor back up by the remaining length of chain, he’d seen the blood billowing up and assumed he’d hit a dolphin.” How did he haul up the anchor if the chain snapped? I assume there is some logic I am missing here, but the way I read it, the anchor is attached by a chain that snapped, so the only part he can reel back in is the chain, not the anchor. Also, why is Riley swimming directly underneath a boat, did she not notice? Why just not have Riley wash up ashore after being mauled by a shark or something? It accomplishes the exact same thing.
Moving on to the rescue response to Riley being injured: why are Sophie and Lewis called? If a bloodied girl is washed up ashore and you call 911, how on Earth does that lead to someone working for an ocean amusement park being first on the scene in charge of rescue operation? How can any conversation with the police/hospital lead them to conclude that someone with the upper body of a human, you know, where all important organs for survival are located, is completely irrelevant and designate some vets to take care of this instead? Why don’t they just assume a crazy girl went swimming in a mermaid costume and got injured? And when Sophie/Lewis finds her, why don’t they say -- “Oh, this is more human than a fish, should probably take her to a hospital cause you know, all the important bits for survival are not actually what we specialize on!”.
(Actual quote from the book regarding Riley's condition) “No,” Lewis admits. “This is way beyond me. This is the extreme; I'm in no way qualified or prepared to handle this.” THEN TAKE HER TO A HOSPITAL…
Riley just so happens to meet Sophie: now unless mermaids being washed ashore is a common occurrence (unlikely seeing as none knows about mermaids in this world) it is also quite, quite incredulous that of all places and people on Earth this could happen to, it just happens to the mother of the person that got turned into a mermaid?
And not only that, this mermaid is also somehow related to Luna? Gaaaahhhh… One too many conveniences!
The realistic response that the world at large would have to the discovery of a new species
So, going public, I don’t exactly get why this never happens. Elizabeth could just make a video where Katie tells the world about who she is and what happens, and that would be evidence that Elizabeth could use, would it not? Or if not Elizabeth, when they get out, why does not Katie and Luna make a video that details their experiences, gives the names of those involved, and prove to the world who they are and what happened to them? Canonically there are already videos of Katie and Luna, so if a video pops up showing two identical people saying that they were held against their will and proves their intelligence, a fact that the company has been vehement about not letting the public know, would this not undermine Lemurias operation?
This point is more about the sequel but it is also about going public. In book two Katie gets very sick, and the only option they have is A: try to solve it themselves or B: call the company that did this to them.
Me: ehmm... No that is not your only option? Are you the foremost biologics on the planet? Maybe take her to, you know, A HOSPITAL? The aversion to public attention does not make much sense when the alternative is death.
Why has the world at large not gone crazy about the discovery of a new species that looks half-human and is the center of myths and legends? The only thing the author notes is that some animal rights activists would throw a hissy fit if they could only display one lone mermaid. Why are not all of the world’s biologists and anyone else related to marine mammals at their doorstep to study this new species?
We as humans have, at least in part, more empathy for things that look human, so if a creature shows up that is so indistinguishable from a human that simply hiding their tale could make them pass as humans, I would imagine that more than just animal activists would be concerned/interested.
Now that the existence of mer is known throughout the world by Lemuria going public with their captives, why is there not a global search for other mer in operation to study this never seen before species? If there is a financial angle in the same way that Lemuria is trying to use, it would seem likely that other companies would also try to catch mer.
The villainous company (Lemuria)
The inclusion of Elizabeth accomplishes nothing. For her education, she has to follow through with an internship. OK, I am with you so far, but why on earth would Lemuria accept complete strangers, not only for the internship but also participate in their whole mermaid operation? They even actively make her participate in their torture!? Ok, ok, wait a minute… She only goes through this internship so that she does not lose her scholarship, and the company is clearly keen on keeping any and all information about the mishandling of the mer a secret, yet a random school student is allowed to participate and still go on about their lives? Imagine you are training to be a doctor, and on your first day at a hospital, they lead you aside down the basement where they start torturing children. Like wtf? Why doesn’t she at least ask if she can get reassigned by the school cause she really doesn’t like it? I don’t think having or not having a scholarship would be my biggest priority at this point. Besides, I think schools are generally pretty good at taking their students' sides. Elizabeth knowing Olivia also serves no narrative reason, so why are they even related?
Why does the company allow photos/videos in the mermaid hall? Why does Lemuria not have active surveillance of the mer (implants and or cameras)? Working for six years on that genome must have been pretty costly + the cost of the facility, so no measurements put in place to better protect your investment?
This company has no problem with kidnapping/killing/torturing but all they try to accomplish is some silly amusement act primarily meant to entertain children? Must be some really expensive tickets for this to be worth it… Seems like there are plenty more profitable operations you can run if you have no care for the law.
What are their long-term goals? After even a single other mer is found, it would pretty clearly demonstrate that mer are sentient, would it not? Would this not completely throw a wrench in Lemuria’s business practices as they seem to, in fact, be reliant on the goodwill of the public and that they are perceived as the good guys? Why have they not looked at any big picture scenario rather than the short term gain?
If mermaids turned out to be real, would you really care all that much if they are able to do flips, or would the fact that they are REAL MERMAIDS be enough? I think the latter, and having them play around with kids would probably be way more entertaining for children than them jumping some hoops.
If you actually care about profit (by public entertainment), this is how you do it: find a mermaid fanatic, this is the person you choose for the transformation, be as considerate as you can towards this person, treat them with housing, money and whatever they want and in return, make it their 9-5 job to entertain the public and play with children. I don’t think you would be too hard-pressed to find willing occupants.
What exactly are you gaining by torturing Katie/Luna rather than not treating them fairly? If you actually treated Katie/Luna with some semblance of respect (sure, have some veiled threats if you want to be evil) would not that be the best method to ensure maximum profit? Even without the fancy circus performances, I think you would sustain your operation for a very, very long time if you are in fact, the only company that has mermaids. You don’t need all these extra shenanigans for the only two known mer in the world to be exciting. Note that I don’t think having them be treated fairly makes the story better, it is the narrative logic behind their abuse that I find questionable. People can be terrible people, it just seems counterproductive to their goals.
You can imagine that eventually, some form of cooperation and cohabitation will come into place if we were to, in fact, find another sentient creature that lives on this planet that we could perfectly communicate and reason with. This relationship could be of joint production where people from land might help with health/technologies that mer lack, while the mer instead helps with any activity the humans rely on that are underwater (inspection, construction, etc…). Obviously, this is completely outside the scope of the story, I am just imagining that Lemuria could instead have been an ambassador between the species and made more money+fame that way. I don’t think this is where the story should go or should have gone, just that the internal logic of the parties involved is somewhat lacking to explain the current events of the story.
Just the writing should be enough to catch your attention. Completely entrancing that I get lost in no matter how many times I reread this story! The style is all the author's own. I've never felt so strongly about a work of fiction like this. It is more of a realistic fantasy, with the science never being ignored. The unnerving sections of the story are so interesting to read. A few grammar mistakes, but nothing that detracts from the overall writing.
While beautifully worded, yes, some characters feel too much like stereotypes, but it is still an experience to enjoy. You love the heroes and hate the villains. A simple story with so much to discover.
Up to Chapter 12, this book is an emotional rollercoaster, but it is so well written that you really relate to all the characters introduced and hate on all the evil things happening. So far I am blown away and I would recommend you definitely give it a read, it's really good!
phenomenal writing, amazing characters, spectacularly well crafted plot, this story has it all. just one thing tho, i feel like im torturing myself, its so depressing. im really sorry that i have to drop this (probably, havent closed the tab yet), but im only 12 chapters in and i feel like im choking on the depressing shit thats come with reading it. for any potential readers, know that this is one of the best written things to be published on this site, but also not something you want to read to escape reality and have fun like i do.
btw get this published at some point, i can see it getting really popular once youve done so
Wow, this is some amazing content. I personally think in some places the paragraphs could be shorter, so it doesn’t look like a wall of text, but other than that, 10/10. It’s too bad you can’t continue posting it, but hopefully some day we’ll all get to see it in bookstores. :)
This is the best story (In my opinion) that I have ever read I love the story so much it is just perfect.... either that or I am just fucked up for liking it so much
Anyways the story is crafted great every about it is just fucking stunning I really wish you would update this sometime anways thank you for writing the story.
The story has only one issue I have ever felt with it. Not updating fast enough. This story is beautifully written, wonderously heartbreaking, and completely endearing. Please give this story a read since it deserves every view it gets. Fantasy Ocean as an author can capture the hearts of their readers and leave you wanting more and more.
You will be moved and rocked emotionally by this story. Happy, sad, furious, you will experience it all. It truly is a beautiful work of fiction.
Very well written, but the story feels like an excuse to write down torture scenes. Why does a scientist want to put his research subject into a waterpark of all things to make money, if its actually government funded top secret stuff? And that's just the most glaring thing.