I realize that Meg: Hell’s Aquarium by Steve Alten is 3 years old, but I just got around to reading it. That’s because I just got around to buying it. Why? Because… drumroll please… I’m cheap (also poor). Few authors can escape the gravitational pull of my stinginess. Unless you’re one of my very favorites, such as Anne McCaffrey, Naomi Novik, Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Kerner, etc., my literary hunger must wait until I can find a copy at Half Price Books or a discounted pre-owned version on Amazon. And I take online surveys for Amazon gift cards to offset the cost of those favorite authors’ new releases. Even Stephen King doesn’t qualify as a full-price purchase anymore…not after Cell, Lisey’s Story, and The Dark Tower (and yes, I’m still upset about his temper tantrum at the end of the Dark Tower).
So it took me 3 years to get my hands on a copy of Hell’s Aquarium, which is the 4th book in Steve Alten’s Meg series about a prehistoric monster shark invading the modern world.
When I first read the description of the book, I thought, “Kronosaurs? Liopleurodons? Really? Are they magical Liopleurodons that will show me the way to Candy Mountain and joy and joyness?” I sighed, settled in, and braced my self for cringing disappointment. After all, I’d read the first three books and I’m a completest so I had to read this one. But it was done surprisingly well. I think Alten did a great job with his research. I actually believed there was another world below the ocean floor, teeming with antediluvian monsters. I kept Google Images up the whole time so I could get an idea of what those neat prehistoric monsters looked like as I read.
My only complaint was the exclamation points. Heaven save me from the exclamation points.
Alten must have really pissed off his editor, because I felt like I was reliving that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dates an author and puts exclamation points on everything. I was so distracted that more than once I pulled out my trusty highlighter and catalogued them as I read, as though I planned to hold it up to anyone who would listen and cry out, “Do you see them? Am I insane? How can I read with all these yellow slashes on the page?” I counted seven exclamation points on one-half of one page. Seven. Not even during dialogue, which would be forgivable, and this happened more than once. It took me out of it every single time. “The shark ate its dinner! Then it swam around! Then it surfaced! Then it dove! Shark! There’s a shark! There’s another shark! So many sharks!” Not necessary to the scene. Not even a little. They clustered together like little schools of annoying, biting fish and at times I actually wanted to set the book on fire.
But I powered through, and aside from the %$*#ing exclamation points, I give this 4 out of 5 stars and I’m eagerly anticipating book 5 in the series. Probably not quite enough to pay full price for it, though.
Meg: Hell’s Aquarium by Steve Alten
Hardcover: 342 pages
Publisher: Variance Publishing LLC (May 19, 2009)