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"Two Words: Jurassic Shark!"—The Los Angeles Times
The flagship series of novels by Florida author Steve Alten--except the "flagship" is actually a really, really big shark. And Everything Is Even Worse With Sharks.
The first book, "Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror" was released during the Summer of 1997 (a novel which was later revised in 2005) in bookstores and became a modest bestseller. Two years later in 1999, Steve Alten followed it up with "The Trench." After "The Trench" was a 5 year hiatus, resulting in "Meg: Primal Waters" and again another hiatus for 5 years until the release of "Meg: Hell's Aquarium" in 2009. In 2011, Alten released "Meg: Origins" in ebook form with the last book of the series "Meg: Night Stalkers" rumored to be having a 2014 release.
The title, "Meg," is short for "Megalodon", the name of an actual, oversized, prehistoric relative of the Great White. (Although its size, strength, intelligent, and probably its ferocity are frequently exaggerated in the books; that, and it glows.) The books detail the adventures of Jonas Taylor (and later, his family), a former member of the Navy who came face to face with the shark while diving in the Marineras Trench, reacted about the way you might expect, and was drummed out of the Navy for allegedly going insane.
Later, having become a marine biologist obsessed with proving he isn't crazy, Jonas ventures back into the trench, meets the shark again, and accidentally unleashes it. Terror, thrills, and more all ensue.
And we do mean, ensue. These books delight in taking their narrative about humans going up against giant sharks everywhere and anywhere they can think of, no matter how crazy, unrealistic, or controversial it may be. Indiana Jones--calibre exploits by members of the human cast tend to be the result, with a Crowning Moment of Awesome or Crowning Moment of Funny, or both, often capping it all off at the finale.
The series is also becoming notable as one of Steve Alten's outlets for issuing a Take That against whomever he's mad at, and there seem to be a lot of them. The result may well qualify as Badass Decay for many readers, and although Steve Alten has improved as a writer tremendously since he wrote the first Meg book, the series has arguably declined in quality as Alten continues to supplement the series that everyone still associates with him.
And yet, the series at its peak is affable in its cheesiness to the point of being like an old B Movie--So Bad It's Good, if you will, and there's just something about a man slaying a shark by letting himself be swallowed and then cutting up the shark's organs using one of its lost teeth or a shark attacking a baseball game, of all things that has the ability to put a smile on readers' faces, even as they shake their heads.
A film adaptation has been in some truly memorable Development Hell since 1997 under the now defunct Hollywood Pictures. In the mid-2000s, New Line Cinema held the rights to the series with Jan De Bont (Of Speed fame) and Guillermo del Toro involved.
But no, this series isn't the only novels that Steve Alten has dealt with underwater menaces. Steve Alten would later tackle the Loch Ness Monster in The Loch as well as a killer submarine in Goliath.
The Meg series contains examples of:
- Badass: Jonas Taylor. Mac counts as well
- Big Bad: Angel's mother could be considered the main villain in the first book, though she wasn't outright evil. Benedict Singer serves as the main antagonist in the second book and Michael Maren in the third.
- Cool vs. Awesome: Megalodon vs Kronosaurus. and a supersized (Read:Bigger than a blue whale!) Liopleurodon.
- Everything Is Even Worse With Sharks: And even worse than that with giant sharks!
- Karmic Death: Michael Maren in the third book is ultimately killed by his own pet Megalodon, Scarface.
- Large Ham: Mac.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Over half of the fourth novel sees David, Jonas's son, try to save/protect his girlfriend from the abyss and their less than scrupulous employers. Near the end it looks like he has succeeded as they narrowly escape the abyss. She is then promptly eaten by a liopluerodon (by accident no less). Its... jarring to say the least.
- Strawman Political: Both left and right.
- The Worf Effect: There are many examples in the series where a Megalodon defeats equally large and dangerous predators (to the point of bordering on Villain Sue), but only the opening scene of the first novel qualifies (wherein Meg eats a Tyrannosaurus Rex) because the marine reptiles are too obscure to the general public to be this trope.