A Novel of Deep Terror
Steve Alten
Doubleday, 1997

Review by Paul Varbedian

In this new novel, the initial chapter catches your attention as it is the best part of the entire book. A scene seventy million years ago. A group of duck-billed dinosaurs is feeding, at the edge of the sea, on kelp and seaweed. A T-Rex, hidden in the nearby forest, is watching. This seven ton terror charges and the duck-bills scatter but two of them head into the waters, rather than fleeing the beach sands. The T-Rex follows into the sea and then the prey reverses direction and make for the sands. With it's tremendous weight, the meat-eater sinks several feet into the soft muck. The T-Rex forgets the prey as it suddenly is alerted to another presence. For the first time in it's life, it becomes fearful. The presence is Carcharodon Megalodon, a prehistoric great white shark weighing twenty tons with a nine foot wide bite. The conflict is short and very one-sided. The T-Rex becomes fish food.

Steve Alten is an amateur oceanographer who has been studying Megalodons for a decade. Meg is his first novel. To my thinking, his timing is excellent considering the present preoccupation with the more dangerous prehistoric creatures. Further, it would not surprise me if film people are considering Meg as a movie candidate. Imagine a film's beginning with a T-Rex being frightened by another creature !!!

The novel's premise and resulting actions are a bit hard to take but this is a diverting tale. Less than 300 pages with larger type, it is a quick read. The hero appears to be a carbon copy of the author. Megalodon is discovered in the trenches of the Pacific Ocean via a submersible designed for the deepest exploration. Through a chance occurrence, a twenty ton eating machine is able to escape the deep and reach the upper ocean level. Meg, with her heightened senses, discovers the world's biggest supermarket with it's delightful variety of things to eat or batter and crunch just for meanness' sake. Aside from assorted, sundry and miscelleanous smaller craft, Meg encounters a nuclear submarine and a older destroyer converted to oceanography. There is mayhem and gore aplenty, especially in the concluding chapters. However, the stretching of imagination is put to the test as our hero seeks a way to thwart the "mother of all fishes" which can be said to encompass the entire immediate and probably the full extended family as part of that frequently employed phrase.

Probably the most imaginable element of this ultimate whopper of a fish story is the likely interest of the film industry. Additionally, I predict that if Steve Alten pens a sequel, Meg, the "mother of the extended family of all fishes", will grow feet so that it can attack Kansas.

Again, an easy read but I do not recommend that you do so while cruising about in a pleasure craft or even a cruise ship. Even the remotest iota of happenstances, triggered by fiction, may hit the mark in your imagination and cause you to search the waters for danger.

Copyright © 1997 by Paul Varbedian
Commercial reproduction prohibited without written consent of the author.

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