The shark, in popular culture, has been bastardized more than any living creature today. It seems like the Syfy channel has a new shark movie just about every weekend, and the ones that they have made are deplorable. They’re not made to be taken seriously, granted, Jersey Shore Shark Attack brings to mind a certain clientele of victim that you’d wish fell to the fish species, but lest we forget, or even know at all, that the real events that inspired Jaws took place in New Jersey.
One then may find refuge in books, and in Steve Alten I had little hope. My mind had been bastardized by the overwhelming bounty of these films despite never having even seen them. Even ones that had been based on true stories were terrible; who honestly wanted to watch two people in the water surrounded by sharks for an entire movie! Then, I looked at the copyright page of MEG, and was relieved; 1997. This book operated outside the scope of this past decade and the one before it’s mistakes.
Tearing into it’s pages, I wasn’t impressed at first. It seemed poorly researched, stating that Megalodons, the type of shark featured in the book, had existed until 100,000 years ago, which as I know it is so grossly wrong that it’s hard to fathom. I received some advice from Kevin Hellions that made much more sense; just go with it, accept the facts in the book and it will make for a more enjoyable read. He was right, and I loved the book for it.
In declaring this summer the Summer of Sharks I wanted to start out with something fun, to get me into the spirit. A majority of the books I have planned are based in truth more than myth like this novel, and after reading it I feel I’ve been put in that mood.
The story begins with a prelude containing that iconic scene on the cover to the right. It gives you a sense for how powerful this creature can be and the havoc that it can inflict. From there, millions of years in the future, we’re taken to Jonas Taylor, former diver for the United States Navy, now a hack professor studying a long dead shark.
Through a series of events, Taylor and a crew researching the Mariana Trench release a Meg from it’s once deep resting place and chaos is unleashed upon the world’s oceans.
From the start, Alten is very well researched as he weaves in elements of shark anatomy, behavior, and history throughout the story. It never trips up the reader at any point as it generally becomes vital to the sharks actions and the story in general. Alten does take liberty with the facts, but for someone who isn’t researched in the creature, it won’t really matter.
The story is grounded in great plots, subplots and action throughout; Ever wanted to know what a blind, giant shark could do to anything on or in the water? Weird question I know, but it’s subtle nature in the story has dire consequences for many people…you can damn well bet there is a body count by novels end.
What Alten does with MEG is create a better antagonist than Benchley did with Jaws and an overall better book as well. It’s research, logic, and action is well beyond anything Benchley could have ever released. I don’t deny his contribution to the genre, but he’ll always be surpassed by the film version. Alten’s film adaptation may never see the light of day, bogged down since 1996, but with a novel like MEG it will make up for that exponentially. Alten’s greatest accomplishment with this book is getting the reader to wonder, what if these creatures existed side by side with man, all along, just out of reach, but always lurking in the deep.
Book Rating: ****1/4
Stray Observations (AKA Spoilers)
The last 50 pages of this book are intense! They’re paced really well, full of action and just fun.
How the shark dies gives new meaning to the term “inside job.”
Maggie’s is a B-I-T-C-H, but even her death is tragic to the reader.
Picturing a shark jumping through a rogue wave and eating a surfer whole is awesome!
The overuse of people dying while making it to the ladder get’s a bit much after a while.
Alten’s use of marine topography is great too.