Bookworm Infested #1

NOTE: The (stupid) title of this column is a reference to a Cannibal Corpse song.  You'll learn to love it.

MEG (Steve Alten)

I know that I'm being needlessly reticent, but I do want to warn you that I've never written a book review before.  I'm winging it.  In a sense, it's no different than reviewing movies.  Still, I don't consider myself to be an avid reader, and I fear that I'll come across as an obtuse lunkhead.  Argh, whatever.  I should just start typing about Meg.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  However, that could have something to do with my innate fascination with prehistoric creatures.  In elementary school, I checked out every dinosaur book that our library had available (and there were several).  I was a complete dino freak.  I don't think I'll ever be as breathlessly rapt as I was on the opening night of Jurassic Park.

Seriously, I was on tenterhooks throughout, and the same could be said for any Godzilla flick that my parents were kind enough to buy for me.  Hell, I even tuned in to Denver, the Last Dinosaur with religious fervor.  One could argue that Meg shouldn't appeal to prospective paleontologists.  After all, it's nothing more than a Jaws riff, right?  Yes and no.  While it's basically Jaws on steroids, it's also supported by hard science.  The Megalodon actually existed millions of years ago, and Steve Alten posits that the primal beast could survive in the Mariana Trench, undetected by humankind.  Well, the author himself doesn't canvass this wild theory.  He speaks through Jonas Taylor, his main character.

Farfetched?  Sure, but it's scientifically possible.  It's clear that Alten did his research, and for what it's worth, he convinced me that a 60-foot shark could conceivably skulk the ocean floor in the face of racking water pressure and a presumably finite food supply.  I've used the word "could" three times.  That kind of pisses me off.  Moving on!  I've read manifold reviews that animadvert on Alten's prose.  It's true that he doesn't possess a wide range of flowery adjectives, but the remote repetition in his descriptive passages was easy to overlook (for me anyway).  Why?  Because for the most part, I was lost in the story.

Despite his dubitable shortcomings, Alten knows how to build suspense.  Not counting the prologue, the first encounter with the titular critter is positively pulse-preening.  It's a palatable page-plucker (alright, I'll stop).  The characters are fleshed out, although too many ancillary players are introduced in the second half of the novel.  I lost track of who was who.  The only other gibe I can muster involves the ending.  Without resorting to spoilers, the closing pages feel flat and - for lack of a better modifier - anticlimactic.  I totally misappropriated "modifier," but this isn't a narrative, now is it?  Boom.  I just owned your ass.

In a dehydrated nutshell, Meg is fun.  I wanted Alten to make the central shark sound fucking badass, and he did.  The action sequences are gargantuan.  Man, why hasn't a silver screen adaptation weathered the brambly afflictions of pre-production?  I'm not content with Shark Attack 3.  You shouldn't be either.

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