2014. január 23., csütörtök

Primordial jaws - Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror

I haven’t planned this post. My original intention had been to write a review about the Steamboy anime, but watching it didn’t provoke enough thought. Then it struck me that I’m fond of prehistoric beasts, cryptids, mythical creatures and the fictional toying with them in a modern environment. Steve Alten’s Meg-series do exactly this, and place a long extinct marine predator; the giant shark Megalodon in the recent times. The Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror is the first novel of this „shark-guy”. This book pretty much redefines our fear from the long left natural element; the saltwater.

A Lost World in the deep sea

Steve Alten’s Meg-books are not new. The first novel; Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror had appeared in 1997, and it spawned four published and one planned sequels (one is actually a prequel), so the show keeps going. It doesn’t belong exactly to the historical fiction or alternate history category. We have to overlook that the pseudo-scientific approach  to explain the return of the supershark stands on marble feet. By this book, a relic population of Megalodon sharks survived in the depth and under the enormous pressure of the Mariana Trench. 

I would like to know his dentist

Now (SPOILER), it’s known from the sequels that the still existence of the Megalodon is just the start. A whole primeval ecosystem; a sort of ancient refuge for the biggest and baddest exists in the deep water sea. Whereas there is no scientific proof that such depth, complete darkness and pressure can support more life than palm-sized amoebas, sea cucumbers and some shrimps. No vertebrates this far, let alone energy-guzzling super predators. They haven’t got more merit than let’s say Nazis on the dark side of the Moon.


We are gonna need a gunboat

But the heck with it, even if the Meg doesn’t feel real it’s very entertaining. The reappearance of something that doesn’t belong makes our underused natural survival senses tingling. We can feel the excitement, the challenge, the gut-gripping fear even in the armchair in a heated room. The enormous, hyper-competitive shark that hunted whales – thanks to a human deep sea research project – cuts loose in the shallower, oxygen- and nutrient-richer waters. The trench-diet in the dark is over, now it’s feeding-frenzy time for the surviving Megalodon and a whole nautical empire to regain.

 Jaws! Now with even more revenge!

Before somebody expects a Jaws-like storyline with Chief Brody-like character trying to protect a global Amity from the monster, I have to tell it borrows from Moby Dick as well, a classic and respectable origin. We have a wounded human protagonist – a widely known crackpot for giant deep-sea sharks -, who returns to face and overcome his personal Leviathan and life-ruiner with shaking knees, a bunch of lovable and hateable supporting characters, a body count of a good slasher movie, a self-reflecting sense of humour, a badass endgame. What do we need more?

This time, the fish is not out of the water. It’s in it, and we are out!


No kidding, read Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, and you will never look at the sea the same way again. It won’t be the ever calling back birthplace of life anymore but a depth of mind burning horrors, where our inland evolutionary triumph, our proud consciousness matters little in the face of gigantic jaws. And us, the lumbering tourists in the reign of Megalodon are nothing more than low fat-ratio delicacies for the most effective killing machine mother nature ever created. It’s a nasty end, I don’t wish to anyone. You don’t see it coming, you don’t have a sporting chance to fight it, and it scares you shitless in the last frozen seconds. You cannot even look into to eye of fit before it grinds you into minced meat.
Frankly, I would see rather Steve Alten’s story in a well-made movie than Asylum’s mass-produced junk. You don’t need battleship-sized and stratosphere-jumping megasharks to make a badass monster, the past is scary enough. Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror is a natural horror-story, and it delivers the thrill pretty well. The only thing bothers me that why do such large predators keep going after the skinny humans, when there isn’t really much fat and meat on our skeletons to much on. The plot requires it, of course. Any road, if you liked the first go for the rest. Many other creepy monsters are lurking in the darkness.


2014. január 8., szerda

Redcoats of the Twentieth Century – The Foresight War

Happy new year! What could trigger the most cataclysmic changes in world history in historical fiction? The most dangerous gamechanger is not a single piece of equipment or a lone ship but a single human mind from the future. Unexplained time travel occurs, and the dream scenario of military history buffs comes true, they can aid their favourite side with their tremendous knowledge. One Englishman can reshape the way his nation will fight this war. Who knows, maybe  the British Empire endures after the Foresight War. Military history expert Anthony G. Williams presents:

 The foresight superpowers (minor SPOILERS)

This is what this book, The Foresight War is about. A British military history professor (who else) makes an unexpected and unexplained time travel from 2003 to 1933. Maybe it's an odd alien sociological experiment, but the fellow actually has the chance to change the course of history and trigger something better than the pyrrhic victory awaits the British twelve years later. Now, to make the story more interesting, someone from future prompts the other side, the Axis as well! I don't think I reveal a big secret if I tell you that the British got the brighter one.

The novel is good enough to inspire fans. British  "Churchill" main battle tanks of The Foresight War. Picture from http://paintfan08.deviantart.com/gallery/7826067

The existence of these two messengers results in that the two World War Two combatants, Britain and the Nazi Germany will be far ahead in military doctrine and technology than the rest. What more, this reality's real contenders will strive for not repeating the mistakes of the „future”. The outcome of this altered war will lay on the struggle of these two foresight superpowers.


And the counterpart: the German Panzerkampfwagen IV "Panther"

A cleaner war for a better outcome

The battlefield technology in The Foresight War is more and more Cold War-like. This alternate World War Two is about the arms race between the two foresight powers, a cleaner war with more button-pushing and less of the human element. It's almost a clean war instead of the all out struggle, at least on the Western Front it is. 

The flow of events and the reshaped balance of power reminds me the Napoleonic Wars, where the only real opponent in the open was the British Army for the French, and the Old Guard is now the elite of the German army. This time, not a peace-minded nation tries to endure an unwanted war. These British redcoats of the 20th Century are an even match for the German war machine, and are prepared to set things right on the continent, before the commies take it all.

One single scout plane  in the right place and at the right time can change the outcome of the most dramatic battle over the Pacific

Everything before this big showdown are foreplay, and the book builds up this suspension well. What I did miss are more battle details from France, and the Eastern Front is very obscure as well. The flow of events are not really worked out well sometimes. The endgame is hasty and for me it was unbelievable. The historical characters, big shots are made from cardboard.

The green Americans enter the fray with the new Pershing tank in Europe in The Foresight War

A honourable effort

The way I see it, Anthony G. William's The Foresight War isn't much of a serious work about historical fiction, rather an interesting peak about the fictional use of shelved or afterthought technology that didn't make it to the front in time. It has its moments. If people outside the military history buff circles will appreciate it is an open question. Despite my grieving I enjoyed it, but the Foresight War wasn't something that made my mind moving. It's a tribute for the forum dwelling military-minded ilk and the odd British, God bless them!