Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Retro Review: Venom by John Tigges
Read Daniel in...
Wednesday, August 01, 2018Early review: MEG
The impending summer (or winter here in Australia) blockbuster is about to come ashore. Time for an early review. Early because it's about 7am. That's right, I'm reviewing the book. I'm not Stephen King. I don't get to see movies early. Ah well. At least the post title should get me a few more cheeky hits this week. Consider it a marketing experiment.
Anyway, it's time for the
On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean's deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he's sure he saw but still can't prove exists – Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark.
Written off as a crackpot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Taylor refuses to forget the depths that nearly cost him his life. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub.
Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he's never imagined, and what he finds could turn the tides bloody red until the end of time. MEG is about to surface. When she does, nothing and no one is going to be safe, and Jonas must face his greatest fear once again.
First up, the book has to be better than the movie as you can use the power of imagination to picture Jonas as someone who isn't Jason Statham, the Kristen Stewart of action movies, who seems to only have one emotion: slightly confused. Personal actor tastes aside, the character of Jonas was surprisingly likeable, as I went into this expecting a typical last action hero type. The earlier chapters give Jonas a few personal demons to conquer, and a devilish wit, complemented wonderfully by the helicopter pilot Mac. These two could fit well into, say, a buddy cop comedy.
When the trailer first hit, a coworker and I had a discussion regarding the size of the Meg. "Too big, that shark." How could a creature that size sneak up? Have an effective jump scare? You'd see it a mile away, or it would have to move so fast to overcome this...nah, we thought, dubious.
I think I might stand corrected.
The book alternates between shark and imminent shark food POV, and so the sudden appearance of the MEG is always foreshadowed. This approach builds the tension. To have a crew be attacked and survive and feel that relief...only to switch back to MEG, following her underwater as she goes deep for an impending massive strike...it's riveting stuff.
This book, if you make a list of all the things you'd like in high-action story about a giant shark, I pretty much guarantee that MEG has it covered, unless you're into some really kinky shark shenanigans. This version, complete with bonus mini novella MEG: Origins, is around the 400 pager mark, and it absolutely flew. Not since my teenage Laymon days have I ever fell asleep with a book in my hand, woke up, and still tried to fight my eyelids and get another few chapters in. I do like my shark stories! And smoke me a kipper, this beaut has a whopping four sequels for me to wade through!
BUT...there's a problem, and one that, appropriately enough, I always refer to as JAWS syndrome (again, see my retro review of Venom in the last post). The Kindle, and especially here as the bonus novella came after the main feature, isn't as good as telling you how close you are to the end of the book as a paperback. The feel of the last few pages between your fingers is always a better indicator than a percentage onscreen, what with adverts, etc.
The ending of MEG took me completely by surprise. I'm not going to spoil it, but at least an epilogue would have been nice. The book expects the reader to make a handful of assumptions, and I'm not keen on that. As I mention, yes, sequels, and Alten here is quite open in the last few pages on how that would come about, but otherwise. Yeah. JAWS syndrome. The book just kinda...stops. It didn't end with (wait for it...here it comes) bite.
But it was still a rollocking read. That ending just keeps it from hitting a five, as well as some glaring editing errors (and come on! This is how many years and editions old now? And this is the huge movie tie in edition! Missing speechmarks and the like are high school level stuff ups, publisher).
It gets 4.5 ampullae of Lorenzini out of 5. Read the book and you'll be an expert on them.
Read MEG? What did you think? Or perhaps you're just looking forward to the movie (and looking at the character list, I can see this being VERY different from the novel). Let me know in the comments.
Here's me obligatory advert: