Sharks, whales and a lot of crazy

Nightstalkers (Meg #5)
by Steve Alten

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The prologue was a smart way of summarizing the salient points of the previous book. The first chapter though… did he just copy and paste that complete chapter with the kayak tourists and the pod of orca from the previous book?

Early on we meet the main character from The Loch and the subsequent novels of that series. Cross-over time! Unfortunately that character talks with a Scottish brogue. I don‘t mind (too much), however it‘s pretty inconsistent. Whole sentences in the Queen‘s English and then a few Scottish things thrown in. Nobody talks that way.

Alten sticks to his tried and tested routine: two plots with distinct sets of main characters that each face their challenges—the respective monster of the day. First they alternate by chapter and eventually, as the suspense heats up towards the later parts of the book, the narrative switches between the plotlines faster and faster. Chapters usually finish with cliffhangers and then move on to the other plot. Which is annoying and means that you basically have to rush from one chapter to the next, driven by the momentum of whatever crazy thing just happened.

Somewhere in or after the middle Alten throws in some weird development from the other series, specifically from Vostok (I think—I haven‘t actually read that one). You have to suspend your disbelief very hard. He went into a very ridiculous, superfluous direction. Which is saying much, considering that this is about the appearance of pre-historic sharks, Liopleurodons and a ton of other bizarre creatures. My reading buddies and I all rolled our eyes so much… 

Up to that point the plot was more or less a repetition of the last book. Felt a bit like Alten plagiarizing himself. Copy-and-paste-a-lot…. I wish that Alten had just stayed with the main plot — chasing the megs and capturing that Liopleurodon. Adding another monster and the character from the other books with his own brand of crazy… what‘s next, sharks in space? 

Sorry, I stole this pic somewhere, but didn‘t keep track…

And for the characters — I didn‘t have many expectations, but even those are completely interchangeable. David is Jonas, Monty is Mac… Never mind David‘s squeeze of the day. That romance/friendship-with-benefits was implausible at best. The way Alten writes the female characters is just atrocious. Again. Hoping for an improvement on that front was probably naive.

Why did I think picking up this book was a good idea? And why on Earth did I finish it? Embarrassingly enough I quite enjoyed the action in Part 3 and 4, despite there being too may different monsters. I didn‘t mind all the new monsters in the last book, they worked within the setting of that book. Here it read like a hodgepode of (more) crazy. *head desk*

And you know what? Apparently there will be only one more book. I can‘t not read that one, even it it will be another 2 start rating. Oh boy.

A touch of Meg

The Fortuna Island Lagoon (Carthago, #1)
by Christophe Bec,  Eric Henninot,  Milan Jovanovic

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I picked this up because it looked to be set underwater and I got a whiff of Megalodon. Unfortunately that fish is mostly in the off at first and then disappears all together for a good while.

And it’s a very wordy graphic novel. Much too wordy. I don‘t mind the occasional info dump or longer explanation, but this never stops. Somewhere in the middle I started to skim a little. On top of that there was this glacially slow build-up. 

It eventually got going — a little. And by the time it did get more interesting, it also immediately finished with two cliffhangers.

The artwork was ok. It‘s unlikely that I will continue.

A little knowledge about Sharks

The Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks
by Bernard Seret,  Julien Solé (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Very informative graphic novel about sharks. Not sure what age range this is aimed at, my guess is middle-grade, although some of the vocabulary might be a little challenging for kids. The art is good and all salient points are covered.

According to the Internet Bernard Séret is a retired French marine biologist, more specifically an ichthyologist specializing in sharks and rays, of which he has discovered several species. I am pretty sure that he is the grey haired narrator of this.

August Wrap-up

Here is my August 2020:

Buddy reads:
– Limit, TBR challenge, carry-over, not terribly keen to continue. Put it back on my bookshelf for now. Sorry!
– The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Zombie, ebook, ★★★★☆, fantasy, betrayal, scheming, revenge, politics.
– Hell’s Aquarium, ebook, ★★★¼☆, Shark Week, Lost World at the bottom of the sea. Very bloody, pulp fiction at its best. The writing is not quite as great, but ok-ish.
– Sharkantula: Shark. Tarantula. Sharkantula., ebook, ★☆☆☆☆, Shark Week. Oh boy, not good. Don‘t bother. DNF at 48%.

Solo reads:
– A Stone Sat Still, ebook, ★★★★★, cute picture book for ages 3-5.
– The Furthest Station, audio, ★★★★☆, in-between novella with Peter and the crew. Goodness with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
– 50 Klassiker: Deutsche Schriftsteller von Grimmelshausen bis Grass, paper, library, ★★★☆☆, essays about 50 important male (eye-roll), German authors.
– Leberkäsjunkie, audio, library, ★½ ☆☆☆, cosy mystery, DNF around 40%, mildly funny, caricature of Bavarian smalltown life.

Comics, aka my guilty pleasure:
– Secret Invasion, ebook, ★★★★★, alien invasion in the Marvelverse. Colourful fun.
– BLAME! Vol. 3, ebook, ★★★☆☆, more fighting and silicone life.
– Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction, ebook, ★★☆☆☆, blocky and flat artwork, too much narration, unexciting plot. Not for me. 

Limit by Frank Schätzing Leberkäsjunkie (Franz Eberhofer, #7) by Rita Falk The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1) by Seth Dickinson Hell's Aquarium (Meg #4) by Steve Alten 50 Klassiker Deutsche Schriftsteller von Grimmelshausen bis Grass by Joachim Scholl Sharkantula (B-Movie Novels #1) by Essel Pratt The Furthest Station (Peter Grant, #5.5) by Ben Aaronovitch BLAME! Vol. 3 by Tsutomu Nihei Hellboy Volume 1 Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel Secret Invasion by Brian Michael Bendis 

Spiderman would not have been able to save this one…

Sharkantula: Shark. Tarantula. Sharkantula. (A B-Movie Novel Book 1)
by Essel Pratt (Goodreads Author) 

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Shark. Tarantula. Sharkantula.
Is your spidey sense tingling yet?

The beginning was not bad. I had hopes of a fun read. However, the writing was not good enough for me to turn a blind eye to it in favour of my trashy read.

The way the gay couple was written was annoying and offensive. Over the top, too much of a cliché. Really bad innuendos. Very infantile and not funny.

It took too long for the sharkantula action to get going. I was ready to toss the book by the time the first shark with spider legs showed up.

The animals were too anthropomorphized for my taste.

The shark is shooting spider silk from its tail. How? From its butt? D-oh. This is too silly and lacking any redeeming features. Thank goodness that I spent no money on this. DNF at 48%.

Lost World at the Bottom of the Sea

Hell’s Aquarium (Meg #4)
by Steve Alten

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A prologue with a quick history of Earth‘s geological history and a brief summary of marine evolution all the way to the Megalodon, followed by a first chapter that summarizes the previous books, interspersed with the beginning of this book‘s plot. In third person present tense. Not a fan of third person present tense, it‘s weird. Anyway…

Jonas’s son, “David is off to Dubai for the summer of his life, not realizing that he is being set up to lead an expedition that will hunt down and capture the most dangerous creatures ever to inhabit the Earth.“ (sorry, I stole that from the book blurb…)

Jonas has his own toothy problems to deal with back home at the Tanaka Institute in Monterey. Parallel plots with alternating locations, as in previous books. Which is a bummer, when every other chapter ends in a cliffhanger. The alternating plotlines add a nice urgency to the proceedings though.

I looked up and learned things about the Phillippine Sea Plate and its tectonics. And I looked up a ton of extinct, prehistoric beasts. Educational! I was constantly googling images of weird sharks, with teeth sticking allover the place or monstrous bony fish or gelatinous vampire squid or… it kept going. The later part of the book basically turns into Lost World at the Bottom of the Sea. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel to the first movie with a very heavy dose of well-done CGI! Although I am having a hard time picturing Jason Statham with the hair of Anderson Cooper and in his 60s…

I wish Alten‘s writing would get better with consecutive books. He should be able to afford an editor at least, after one of his books was turned into a movie, right? At least to check for correct punctuation, to tone down those info dumps to a necessary amount, integrate them more smoothly into the general narrative and to get rid of the truly superfluous stuff. I am turning a blind eye to the politically incorrect bits and lack of correct representation of pretty much everything.

At the end of the ebook we get to read the prologue and first two chapters of the next book, Nightstalkers. I enjoyed that, too, and almost downloaded it straight away. The entertainment value of these books is great. And, hey, the next book seems to be in the third person past tense… nonetheless, I can‘t possibly give this more than three stars, because of its barely tolerable writing.

Welcome to Hell’s Aquarium. Unruly guests will be eaten.

Meg 5: Nightstalkers

Swim away, fast!

Thresher: A Deep Sea ThrillerThresher: A Deep Sea Thriller by Michael Cole
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

“Cracks of thunder pounded the chaotic night sky, scrambled with the endless howling of the hundred-thirty-seven mile per hour wind.“

Starting well, going downhill from there… The writing of my previous creature feature horror was definitely better. Here I keep coming across gems like this:

“ When working out contracts with institutes, he explained his studies were for studying migratory habits of marine life.“
Studies were for studying? Just one example of the fairly bad writing in this book.

Added to that are stilted info dumps that mess with the flow of the story. And info gets repeated unnecessarily.

„The nutrition it took in several hours before had long worn off, and its enormous body demanded nutrition.“
Maybe the book‘s editor was eaten by the shark?

There is a lot of backstory about Riker. Which is nice on one hand, but not well done or balanced with any of the other characters. I would have preferred decent scientific background on the marine biology we come across. And scientists that act and sound like scientists.

I have no issue with mindless fun and B-Movie level schlock. But even for that I prefer decent writing. If the writing is sloppy, repetitive, grammatically challenged and badly paced, I am out. This book is in dire need of a better editor. Not picking up anything else by this author. Skimming from the halfway point, DNF at 60%.

View all my reviews