It's been 19 years since Steve Alten redefined the "when Animals attack" genre with his superlative novel of a prehistoric shark terrorising humankind. Meg was a glorious mix of man versus nature, stunning set pieces and a creature, in this case, a massive Megalodon shark, that the reader cared about. Nineteen years later and Meg: Nightstalkers is the sixth book in this incredibly successful franchise of novels. However, can close to 2400 pages of shark-filled mayhem over two decades leave room for any new ideas and any reason to continue reading the series?
It has to be said before we go any further, that if you are looking for a novel that makes any attempt to explore the human condition, or make discourse on the effect of humanity on the world as a whole, then you have come to the wrong novel. If, however, you are looking for a fast-paced thrill ride of a summer blockbuster then Meg: Nightstalkers is the book for you.
Continuing from the previous Meg novels, Nightstalkers features a cast of fan favourites and new characters; it even manages to bring in characters and plot elements from his previous stand-alone novels The Loch and Vostock. While this is an interesting idea and an attempt at creating a unified world where prehistoric sea monsters roam the planet, it did at times feel a little forced, especially when Alten introduced a time-travel element to the narrative.
Let's be clear here these books really on a suspension of belief; you have to get past the idea that the oceans are full of prehistoric monsters and that those hunting them will do relatively silly things in the name of an exciting and thrilling story. Hell, these books should come with their own supply of popcorn and large sodas. It is just that the time travel element felt like an idea too far. It feels forced and doesn't fit well with the rest of the story. This also led to my main concern with the book and the appearance of a certain character from The Loch
The Loch is the book that almost destroyed my reading relationship with Alten, thanks to his cliched, and at times offensive way in which the Scottish characters in the book spoke. Imagine Russ Abbot's "See You Jimmy" and you will be pretty close to the level of authenticity in character dialogue.
Sadly Nightstalkers suffers from the same problems, as The Loch, but since they are subsidiary characters it is not in your face as much, but it does spoil the enjoyment of the book.
That being said, Nightstalkers is one hell of a fun filled read, with deaths aplenty, high sea adventure, enough monster action to satisfy even the most ardent of the monster of the week movie fans. Sometimes your brain just needs an amuse bouche to clear its mental palate, and Nightstalkers is just that. Pure unadulterated pulpy fun that has the elusive page-turning quality that all great summer reads need. A flawed but still highly entertaining read.