“The Abyss Surrounds Us” by Emily Skrutskie: A Deep Dive into a Riveting Tale of Sea Monsters, Ethics, and Identity

Emily Skrutskie’s debut novel, “The Abyss Surrounds Us,” plunges readers into a gripping world of futuristic piracy, genetically engineered sea monsters, and moral ambiguity. Published in 2016, this young adult science fiction novel deftly blends elements of adventure, romance, and ethical quandaries to create a unique and immersive reading experience. In this extensive exploration, we will navigate the depths of the narrative, examining its characters, themes, and the thought-provoking questions it raises about humanity and the environment.

Setting the Stage

The novel unfolds in a future Earth where the world has been reshaped by climate change and rising sea levels. Large corporations known as “neo-oceanic clans” control the waters and trade routes, using bioengineered creatures called Reckoners as tools of power. These colossal sea monsters are the linchpin of the world’s naval defenses, imposing both fear and order. As the story begins, we are introduced to Cassandra Leung, a protagonist who finds herself caught between the clashing forces of power, loyalty, and personal discovery.

Cassandra Leung: A Protagonist with Depth

At the heart of “The Abyss Surrounds Us” is Cassandra, a young trainer of Reckoners, whose life takes an unexpected turn when her first solo mission goes awry. The nuanced development of Cassandra’s character adds layers to the narrative, transforming her from a mere observer to an active participant in the unfolding events. Skrutskie crafts Cassandra’s internal struggles and external challenges with care, allowing readers to empathize with her journey of self-discovery, morality, and the complex interplay of emotions.

Pirates, Sea Monsters, and Unlikely Alliances

The introduction of the pirate queen Santa Elena injects a dynamic energy into the plot. As a captain who commands both Reckoners and a crew of rebels, Santa Elena embodies a captivating blend of ruthlessness and charisma. The relationship that develops between Cassandra and Santa Elena introduces a compelling dynamic, challenging traditional notions of morality and allegiance. Skrutskie skillfully navigates the intricacies of power dynamics, trust, and the blurred lines between right and wrong, creating a narrative that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

Themes: Ethics, Identity, and Environmental Responsibility

“The Abyss Surrounds Us” delves into thought-provoking themes that resonate beyond the confines of its futuristic setting. The ethical implications of genetically engineered creatures as weapons force readers to confront questions about the consequences of human actions on the environment. The novel also explores the concept of identity, as Cassandra grapples with societal expectations, her role as a Reckoner trainer, and the evolving nature of her relationships.

Environmental Allegory

Beyond the immediate narrative, Skrutskie’s novel serves as an allegory for the environmental challenges facing our own world. The neo-oceanic clans’ exploitation of Reckoners for power mirrors humanity’s often-destructive relationship with nature. By intertwining environmental concerns with a compelling story, the author encourages readers to reflect on the consequences of unchecked exploitation and the potential for redemption through responsible stewardship.

Writing Style and World-Building

Skrutskie’s writing style is both accessible and engaging, allowing readers to effortlessly immerse themselves in the intricacies of the world she has crafted. The author’s vivid descriptions bring the futuristic setting and its inhabitants to life, from the vast, tumultuous seas to the awe-inspiring Reckoners. The world-building is meticulous, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of the societal structures, technologies, and ethical dilemmas that shape the characters’ experiences.

Critiques and Controversies

While “The Abyss Surrounds Us” has received acclaim for its originality and thematic depth, some critics have raised concerns about certain narrative choices and pacing. Some argue that certain plot developments may feel rushed or require further exploration. However, the diversity of opinions only serves to highlight the novel’s ability to provoke thoughtful discussions about its merits and potential areas for improvement.

Conclusion: Navigating the Depths of Imagination

In “The Abyss Surrounds Us,” Emily Skrutskie skillfully navigates the treacherous waters of science fiction, delivering a compelling story that transcends the boundaries of its genre. The characters, themes, and ethical dilemmas explored in this novel resonate on multiple levels, inviting readers to ponder the complexities of identity, morality, and environmental responsibility. As Cassandra Leung grapples with the abyss that surrounds her, so too do readers find themselves captivated by the depths of imagination that Skrutskie unveils in this enthralling debut. “The Abyss Surrounds Us” stands as a testament to the power of speculative fiction to provoke thought, challenge preconceptions, and transport readers to uncharted territories of the mind.

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