Review: “The Mermaids Singing Each to Each” by Cat Rambo

3 of 5 stars.

Humans are elective GMOs in this speculative tale, and not without problems. The government will pay for those that need / want to go gender neutral. Others paid for enhancements to become mermaids, but things did not go as planned for them. Between the chemically polluted ocean and the spontaneous spawning of eggs, most paid to revert back to full human form or dropped off the grid. Now, predatory feral mermaids stalk the oceans . . .

Lolo has gone surgically genderless after being raped by her uncle for her thirteenth birthday. After a few years on the streets and word that her uncle’s died, Lolo returns to the house of her only living relative, Grandma Fig. In a twist of cruel fate, he left Lolo the AI-infused boat, Mary Magdalena, in which he assaulted her as a pre-teen. The talking boat was loyal to the uncle to the point of not warning Lolo.

Now Lolo finds herself trying to make money to pay for the surgery that will assign her a gender. She’s thinking male, because her best friend and love interest, Niko, likes boys. Niko and Lolo have been hired by the dodgy Jorge Felipe to take the boat out to a large oceanic garbage patch to carve off a chunk before the corporations rummage and recycle the entire thing. It’s a dangerous mission, between the corporations willing to kill off whom they view as annoying pirates, and the predatory, opportunistic mermaids. Especially dangerous as Jorge makes moves to secure more than his fair third of the profits . . .

There are many themes competing for space in this short tale between the AI that once betrayed Lolo, the mermaid-example of humans playing god, and the sad extent that people must carve and endanger themselves to feel safe and financially secure. Not all themes get equal treatment or proper satisfaction.

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “The Mermaids Singing Each to Each” first appeared in Clarkesworld, November 2009.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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