- London : M. Joseph, 1981. ISBN 0718120426
There is a certain genre of throw-away fiction that deals with monsters, but is not really Science Fiction or Fantasy. You've possibly read a few books of the type - either an extinct creature is found living in current days, or some mixture of radiation, chemical waste or bizarre electrical occurrence causes creatures to get big and nasty. In my teen years I had a bit of a fascination for this type of book, and I can remember reading titles about ants, worms and bears, to name a few. Each book followed a standard formula - brief introduction of the "cast", usually one of whom was some sort of eccentric scientist - description of the monster, some gruesome deaths, the authorities embarrassed because they didn't believe eccentric scientist, and then the death of the creature, either through human action, or natural causes. Sometimes something lurked still, ready for a sequel if one was required by the publisher.
And so we come to Megalodon. This book was sitting on the shelf of the beach house I recently rented for the Summer Holidays, and I picked it up with a sense of nostalgia. With the caveat that I'm now considerably older and wiser and memory may be failing me, this book is by far the worst of this genre that I have ever read.
The plot is as follows - the US has discovered a huge ore body of Gold and Uranium deep in an Ocean Trench. They have sent down a nuclear submarine to scan the sea floor. The sub is partially destroyed, after being attacked by a Megalodon - a giant shark, thought extinct. The Government calls in a group of, you guessed it, eccentric scientists who have developed a system of talking to dolphins and orcas, with the thought that they could find out what's going on (at this stage the authorities don't believe it's a giant shark, but of course the eccentric scientist already has it worked out).
There are a few more disasters, and the scientists realise that their whales can't dive deep enough to use their sonar.....so they capture a Sperm Whale, fly it several thousand miles under a dirigible, and teach it to communicate with the other whales, and by extension the scientists. It has a battle with a Megalodon (by this stage we know there are two parents and a juvenile shark lurking down in the deeps).
Given that this book book was written at a high point in the Cold War, the Soviets get involved, and one of their subs gets "eaten" too, but not before destroying one of the Megalodon with an aptly gory and gratuitous explosion. The talking whales,disgusted with the whole shebang, announce their departure, and that's it.
This book has it all - including the obligatory sex-scene (that occurs at a bizarre moment in the plotline), military types that don't listen, and lots of description of high-tech gadgets, most of which are useless against the ancient shark. The sharks themselves are major characters of the book - after introducing them by explaining they are animals of almost pure instinct with tiny brains, Brown then goes on to give them thoughts and even feelings. He also greatly exaggerates their size - his beasts are in the hundreds of feet long, wheras it seems the real thing didn't get much over 60 feet.
By far the weirdest aspect of the book are the talking dolphins and orca - they take the suspension of disbelief quite a few steps too far. If I hadn't taken a vow to review every book I read, I certainly wouldn't have wasted this many words on such a pile of rubbish. The author may have intended otherwise, but this book gave me quite a few laughs on a slow TV evening.
Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell