Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Steve Alten
Published by Variance Publishing
The fourth book in Steve Alten’s long-running saga of the Taylor family and their dealings with the massive prehistoric predator Megalodon asks the question: If one massive sea creature thought to be extinct for millions of years can still be in existence, why can’t there be more?
The story opens after the Tanaka Institute has recaptured the 100,000-lb. Meg Angel, who is now the proud mother of five brand-new baby Megs. Angel is just as pissy as she’s ever been, and her pups seem to follow in their mother’s wake. Before you can say “bad idea”, a body count begins to build around the Tanaka Institute’s newly-opened Meg attraction, which more than fulfills on its promise to deliver Angel – The Angel of Death as both the massive predator and her offspring take any opportunity they can find (and in some cases create) to snack on humans.
When some very rich men from Dubai show up to purchase two of the Meg pups, Jonas Taylor and his team are more than happy to free up the space. But the very rich men are also there to persuade David, Jonas’ son, to come back with them to both train their staff in the usage of submersibles he’s created and take care of the Megs.
What they don’t tell him is that they also need his help exploring a recently discovered hidden sea that was located by Jonas Taylor’s rival. This sea exists below the Philippine Sea Plate and harbors the perfect environment to keep creatures alive for millions of years. And alive they very much are. From massive fish to massive dinosaurs to, of course, massive sharks, the creatures that exist in this hidden sea are some of the most spectacular monstrosities anyone’s ever seen; and those with the money want them for their very own.
As it’s been a while since I’ve read any Steve Alten, I had forgotten what an incredibly technical writer he is. The opening of Hell’s Aquarium, for example, almost reads as an essay on tectonic plates and a history of the planet, but this bit of factual info is almost necessary to understand just why the idea of this hidden sea, and hence the creatures it is home to, is viable. Alten offsets the somewhat academic nature of this writing with an epic fight between a Meg and Liopleurodon, the first of many battles between massive creatures.
Hell’s Aquarium never slows down from the word “go”, barely giving the reader time to really take a breath. While it is bogged down at times by a love story that feels somewhat awkward and some under-developed subplots, the meat of this Meg adventure never disappoints. Massive underwater creatures doing damage to one another, their habitat and any human unlucky to get in their way, all told with in a breakneck pacing that never lest up.
Alten can be a bit heavy on the science at times, so keep that in mind when you check out Hell’s Aquarium; just know it’s well offset by what can only be described as kick-ass monster action!
3 1/2 out of 5
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