In a distant land mired in tradition and mystery, a young man takes a journey into his own heritage and discovers something waiting beneath the inky waters of Loch Ness in Steve Alten’s new novel, The Loch.
The story revolves around Zachary Wallace, distant kinsman to the great William Wallace, who has returned to Scotland to attend the murder trial of his father. He’s not seen his homeland since the age of nine, when an accident in the Loch left strange scars on his body. Now, plagued by nightmares, he sets off to solve the mystery of Loch Ness before it is too late.
The characters in The Loch are so well written that even the most unlikable old coot worms his way into the reader’s heart. From Zachary’s neurosis to his father’s acidic sense of humor, Alten approaches each character with care and respect. Supporting characters are treated equally well, painting an all too vivid picture of highland life and the people whose lives are directly influenced by Loch Ness.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is that, in between chapters, Alten supplements the legend by printing quotes from those who’ve actually sighted the big beast. Accounts as ancient as 565 A.D. from St. Adamnan’s biography of St. Columbia and as recent as tourist accounts from 2004 continuously blur the line between fact and fiction. Additionally, if one were looking for a lesson on the history of Scotland, one need look no further. Well researched and with just the right amount of detail, these mini-lessons feed the reader with knowledge, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality.
Most important, Alten has a gift for pacing as well as plot flow. He hangs his readers on the proverbial hook, making them dance and wriggle just out of the monster’s reach. You know the bite is coming, but you’re just as shocked when it hits as if you had not known. He bobs the readers up and down over waves of intense action, punctuated with scenes of such biting realism that readers will be done with the book before they know it.
Fans of cryptozoology, history buffs, monster lovers, or anyone else who loves a good tale cannot go wrong with The Loch.
Tsunami Press, 2005
4 out of 5