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Lacks Bite? BEAST is lean, entertaining reading experience!
on June 19, 2003
If anyone is going to write a worthwhile rip-off of Peter Benchley's classic thriller JAWS, it might as well be Peter Benchley, and I promise you, he has.
A novel about a giant squid chowing down on the Burmuda ocean-going population isn't exactly high literature, but by that token, neither was JAWS. If you have read and appreciated JAWS, then you should also love BEAST, unless you are a stickler for originality. But the fact is this, while nothing will ever touch JAWS, BEAST (at least in its book version) is the best thing-in-water thriller since 1975, and I write as of 2003. (The TV miniseries itself is every bit as good as JAWS 2, for that matter)
This book covers all the basic cliches (attack on boats, scuba divers, beachgoers, non-human victims, the close-call that no one realizes how close it was, and final boat confrontation), some of which were totally origial as 1993. But Benchley does them as well as any author ever has. His style is taut and unique, always full of tension.
Benchley doesn't skimp the human department either. And as far as this kind of fiction goes, his human relatoins are near-perfect. The mood of BEAST, like JAWS, is tense and moody; characters tend to be on the down-and-out side of life, unhappy with things and people, but still easy to identify and sympathize with. The sour, grim moods add tension and urgency to the plot-progressing moments between attack sequences, which probably aren't that impressive nowadays, but hardly boring.
This is a return to familiar terrirtory for Benchley, and it's better than the pulpy, 70's and 80's ocean thrillers he was writing, which are even more gritty and sour, but without the characters and excitement. BEAST'S tense writing style and characters also make for some pretty amusing dialogue.
I respect everyone's opinion, but I recommend that you ignore the negative reviews and pick this up (there's no reason for this to be out of print). JAWS, BEAST, and THE GIRL OF THE SEA OF CORTEZ are THE Benchley novels to get. Even if you have originality problems, if you liked JAWS, you should dig BEAST. I'd be honestly surprsied if you didn't.