Wednesday, June 29, 2016

MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten

MEG was originally published in 1997 and became a best-seller. The new edition shown here is a revised and expanded version. Not having read the original, I can’t compare them, but this version is good enough. After Peter Benchley’s Jaws (1974), and the subsequent world famous motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg, any shark story is subject to intense scrutiny and automatically leaves itself open to criticism. To his credit, author Steve Alten has created a unique premise that is a cross between Jaws and Jurassic Park. In fact, one criticism I saw for MEG referred to the book as Jurassic Shark. I think MEG is a little better than such a reviewer intended us to believe, but make no mistake about this, MEG is New Pulp Fiction all the way. MEG is short for Carcharodon Megalodon, a 70-foot and 1,000 pound prehistoric cousin of the Great White Shark, and now it wants to rise up from its hidden home in the ocean’s depths. Naturally, it’s hungry. MEG may not be a classic, but neither was Benchley’s Jaws. MEG is the perfect – go ahead and laugh – beach book. The characters go through their motions in the expected fashion, and there are no surprises. Remember how it was when you wanted to see a good horror film because the gory parts were cheesy and fun, well, this book is like that. You live for those moments when this giant damn shark goes into attack mode, which is quite often. The “science” in the book is a skillful blend of Alten’s imagination, phrases perhaps lifted from textbooks, and pulp fiction mumbo jumbo. Dang, if it doesn’t all flow fairly well. I expected to dislike this book, and I bought it on a whim. I liked it the way I liked Count Yorga, Vampire when I saw it at the drive-in theater in 1970. It did what it was supposed to do, although it could have used a little more blood and sex. Steve Alten has written several sequels, including The Trench, Primal Waters, Hell’s Aquarium and a few more. I expect to read these sooner than later.

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