This entry was written by AkityMH, who you can find at https://www.deviantart.com/akitymh. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
In the year 1974, world known writer Peter Benchley wrote a book and probably was the very first book that had a killer shark as its monster. As far as I can do quick referencing on, this is the very first shark based piece of media in terms of a horror film or book. No one could have guessed the juggernaut that was to come in decades prior to our own that idolizes the sheer majesty of what is popularly known as the world’s most perfect predators that have been around since long before dinosaurs, or even the ancestors of dinosaurs for that matter.
About a year later the movie adaptation hit the silver screen, and forever more changed the world. Like, literally, the movie sparked a huge hype for shark fishing and culling. The movie was very convincing and made everyone afraid to take a bath in their own house, but it’s that same imagination that strikes primal fear into the heart of man to which gave rise to many, many, many, many…. I would dare think there is close to a hundred shark based movies alone.
As time went on, shark education rocketed the animals into a much better position. However, the idea of a fin breaking the water surface forever remained a unchanged image our our minds.
Ever since the movie jaws, Shark based media has utterly exploded into a proverbial supernova of colors from good, to mediocre, to just plain bad, to a celebration of just how bad a shark movie can be. It’s a spectacular mess… Shark movies are about as numerous as the sharks in the ocean as we near the end of the late twenty-teens.
But in the last fear of 2018 and a slew of horrible, horrible shark movies, a legit decent movie came out of a very good shark horror novel at long last. The Meg.
But now, symbolically, let’s step back many, many years when the shark movie formula was still primitive and new, hosting a serious fear before we got some outrageous movies. For the movie in story, it’s been well over a three MYA or so, if not a only a few hundred thousand years… for us in real life, it’s been two decades. The Meg is the movie adaptation of the Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, written by writer Steve Alten and was about the first book I actually picked up and actually read back in 5th grade. Back then, shark based horror was still a bit sparse, so it really stood out among other novels. Too my knowledge, it was also the first book and the very first story that took the prehistoric monster shark known as Carcharodon megalodon and made it a starring monster for horror movies to come for better… or most likely worse.
Since then, there have been an absolute ton Megalodon movies. By this point in 2018, Megalodon movies are pretty well known alongside the shark itself.With the rising popularity of what seemed like an actual monstrous sized shark, more and more movies began to use the extinct species for their plot points of a runaway beast that still lives even after it’s time has long gone. Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, probably started that.
Let’s get a brief overview of the story though, back where this all began with this particular species of now very well known shark species.
The story goes that some odd years ago in the first book, the man known as Jonas Taylor was on a dive in the Marianas Trench on a top secret mission on behalf of the United States Navy.. While down there, he sees a mysterious and horrifying sight of a massive shark of glowing alabaster emerging from the volcanic clouds of deep sea vents to attack the mini sub. In a panic, Jonas rises the submarine faster than it should, resulting in deaths of everyone in the submersible besides himself.. When he recites his story and reason to those on the surface, Jonas is discredited and thought to have suffered a paranoid based delusion, and his career as a deep sea diver is ruined forever, as well as leaving him with some trauma.
We cut to years later and he is speaking aloud to a crowd about his theories how a long extinct species of shark may still yet be living at the deepest trench on the planet by source of the volcanic vents creating a tropical, sunless environment that is rich enough to support a small population of these sharks in this deep trench.
Now something about this book and the books following… there is a heavy mix of Science Fiction and Horror. Less horror as the series actually goes on, but the first one is a ringer and the horror element is strong. Horror would preside in every book though by some regard.
Now as you could probably guess, Jonas is dragged back one day to the Marianas Trench on behalf of a friend no less. His task is to dive down and check a Seismic Detecting Device to help predict earthquakes by the named if UNIS. One such machine was damaged, and not only just, but also crushed into a mangled heap of machinery.
After coaxing and thinking about it, he goes down to help retrieve the device and face past demons. Thus begins a long, bloody and horrible series of events that ends up forever haunting him and his family and friends for the next couple of decades.
Now I will say this… If you seen any shark based media, you seen a lot of this. In fact, this book is not far off from the movie Jaws in many ways. There is a shark, albeit a massive near sixty foot long female, running amok in the Pacific Ocean, and there is a race to either kill or capture it.
What sets it apart though from movies like Jaws and the Megalodon based movies to come out of Hollywood’s discount downtown area is that the sharks and characters of this particular book and its sequels have more personality. More so the shark than the humans, because other shark movies have given us decent, good human characters prior.
No, it is the sharks of these books that make this series stand tall among many others. I can promise that nearly any other Megalodon movie, or any shark movie, will use its killer creature just to tally up bodies and have no real character other than a brainless, thoughtless, unrealistic killing machine. To an extent, that holds true here, but there is so much more to the Megalodon that escapes the Marianas Trench than a killing machine.
They have evolved to new heights. As a result of living in a deep sea, sunless environment, their bodies now are leucistic, all white and glow faintly to attract prey in the depths. They can sense various things from miles and miles away, hundreds even if it’s another shark or a whale. They retain their size of course, and their immense jaw strength. Their bodies have slowed down to compensate for a lack of prey. As a result, rising to warm, prey rich waters full of blubbery whales sets off our prehistoric beast into a frenzy. Relentlessly it chases whale pods, making many whales run to shallow waters and beaching themselves in a panic. Boats of all sizes are attacked and sunk, people die as a result of this.
And it just gets worse. People run in with all sorts of ways to try and capture or kill our runaway monster, and as a result more people die yet. Everything we known about sharks in real life is applied to these sharks in one powerful package.
And that is a common theme that is present in all of these books. Its very much like a Kaiju flick, a well done japanese giant monster movie. These creatures are insanely violent, and very efficient in surviving and hunting what they are supposed to hunt. They are not entirely to blame. They are not evil. It is when mankind dove into their last bastion of on all of Earth and drawn them out into a world they don’t belong in anymore. Almost every bit of damage that is done is when people were just in the way of something too big and too aggressive, and should have known better.
That’s something that the lead character, Jonas, learns first hand.
That reasoning somewhat gets shot in the foot in later entries, and many other parties in the book just want the sharks dead from the start or want to benefit from them. This series of books may have Kaiju story formula, but the rest has a strong western angle. Few actually just wish the sharks were never discovered or returned home.
The character Jonas, through the books series, has a lot of development too. I’m not too good at articulating, and it has been some time since I read the books, so I can’t say too much other than Jonas learns quickly things should be a certain way. Either the sharks shouldn’t be drawn from the trench, or at the very least contained as in several cases the main characters do exactly that: contain the sharks in massive aquariums.
Such as that of Angel, our main star of sorts of the series who has a name and has most screen time.
Yeah, for this entry to be about one individual shark, I sure haven’t talked about her, have I? It’s hard to talk about such a prominent character, though, when that character is literally only named at the start of the second book. That’s because everything Angel does is more or less what her mother did, the Meg in the first book, but would go on to be even more than her parent.
Angel raises the stakes of these sharks tremendously. As a result of being born at the surface of the ocean near California and raised on a steady diet in captivity, she becomes a healthy adult at nearly eighty feet in length, exceeding any previous estimations of just how large these sharks could become.
It is from Angel that we get most of our information of just how powerful, smart and well adapted our monster of the books really are. She is trained well to an acoustic system at feeding time, recognizes humans, and is known to watch people through the glass intently as she passes by the underground observation room.
Angel is so driven, so damn strong, that she naturally breaks out from her seaside home in California and begins making a mad dash for home at the Marianas Trench and causing havoc along the way for mankind and anything she can hunt down. Once more, and much to the fear of those concerned for the environment, hundreds of whales beach themselves trying to flee from their long forgotten predator. It’s even suggested that one Megalodon, or the return of the species, could radically change whale migrations as a whole and change the ocean’s ecosystems.
That’s how serious just one or few sharks is. As the series go on, other sharks do appear either as a mate, one of Angels offspring, or as we learn later, the sharks ability to reproduce without mating at all via parthenogenesis. They will even devour each other without so much as blinking an eye.
The series really takes the whole “sharks are nature’s perfect creatures” to the extreme. They ain’t even afraid to inbreed and form social groups as we see later on depending on their situation. This, again, works for the hellish, harsh world that is the Marianas Trench, alongside some other prehistoric surprises… But in the world where the ocean is frequented by mankind, is another story of a creature of a bygone era lost in time.
Never once do these sharks seek out humans specifically. They don’t go for revenge, or plot… They just survive as best they can in a world that demanded one to adapt or die. And adapt they did.
As a whole, though, it seems the consequences are made specifically for humanity. As these sharks can reproduce on their own, outmatch anything humans generally throw at them, and threaten to make a new balance that makes traversing the ocean much more dangerous than it ever needs to be. Either by, again, going to look for the sharks, near their prey, or any place they call home. They are best to be left alone in their natural environment.
As the books go on though, these themes falter slightly, but it retains that fault of people are invading into places they don’t need to be as as result there are consequences. The characters, namely Jonas and his family, go from being part of the problem, to cutting off the problem, to being haunted and forced back into the same problem, right until Jonas himself and his family are aging and a new generation of Man and Sharks are starting the cycle all over again as slowly but surely, these sharks are starting to return one at a time to the Pacific Ocean with a new set of people that may or may not be doomed to repeat the mistakes of trifling with forces that they should not deal with.
Yeah, the books are… getting up there with numbers and getting dragged out… But I will let possible readers of this article make the decision or not to read the series. There is a good horror story with the first book, and even the second.
Behind some squicky stuff and a bit of bad writing, there’s good stuff, even when those flaws keep returning with the blunt force of a bat to the head. Even Godzilla movies went on a bit longer until things ran thin. Even the later books are kinda stupid fun like some of the worse giant monster movies, and are even complete with giant monster fights as Angel and her species has a slew of many contemporaries.
Angel would be the star and face of the series, being our main Maid Monster of Honor, and would be up front as the books monster through three books and would remain named for ones after. And even though her stardom comes and goes, other leviathans come to fill the role who are stronger, smarter, and cooperate at a terrifying level that makes them a deadlier.
And as of this year, the six book is released and a seventh is on the way. To top it off, Steve Alten’s other writing of The Loch, a very similar story, attached itself to this series. I could easily go on about that one and its sequel as well… but I would ramble and be a salty writer on that subject.
So there it is. A decent, good shark book and its sequels that deserves to be well known by all at the least. Much like a few good few horror movies, the continuation skews off the beaten path, but what good story hasn’t had its rainy day in the end…
Editor’s Note: Well it’s taken a while, but we finally have a giant shark in the ICHF gallery.