Queer Book Club: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

The Abyss picLast month, I joined a queer book club as part of my writing group. (It’s run by another writer, Tabitha Chirrick.) This fits nicely with my New Year’s resolution of reading a whole lot more. So far both are going well, and I thought it’d be cool to review some of the books I’m reading, both for the club and otherwise. I’m not really interested in tearing other writers down, so I’ll just cover books I enjoyed and would recommend.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA science fiction novel set in a bleak future where the sea has risen and is full of ruthless pirates. It has giant genetically engineered sea monsters and lesbian pirates. What more do you need, really? It was a great way to start the new club.

Cassandra Leung’s family breed the giant sea monsters that keep ships safe from pirates in this dark future, and Cassandra has spent her life learning to train the animals. She finally gets to go out with her giant sea turtle on her first lone mission. And everything goes wrong….

Cassandra finds herself on a pirate ship, surrounded by the enemy, who want to use her skills for their own protection.

So that’s the set-up, and it’s really strong. I love the concept of genetically engineered sea monsters who can tear and chew through ships. The harsh code of the trainers which means that, by rights, when Cass is captured by the enemy, she should take a suicide pill, makes it clear what sort of world this is. There are no easy choices, and the story doesn’t offer any.

The story revolves around Cass’s survival and her relationship with Swift, one of the pirate crew. Skrutskie does a good job of exploring the problematic side of the relationship between a captive and her captor, and throws in plenty of questions about how much choice they have in the roles they play and the paths they’ve taken. Refreshingly, there’s little angst about the queer nature of their relationship. Although, I would have welcomed a smidge more sexual tension at times.

It’s a quick and enjoyable read. My only criticism really is that the ending felt a little rushed, as (without giving too much away), there’s a big emotional bomb very near the end which wasn’t given enough room to be explored. But Skrutskie’s planning a sequel, so perhaps that’s why.

I’d love to know what you think of this book, if you’ve read it. More reviews coming soon.

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