Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included


Grady Hendrix's Horrorstor

Monday, June 24, 2019

Jaws on Steroids

After reading Steve Alten's The Loch, I felt it was time to re-visit Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, especially after I found out that the sequel to The Loch was a prequel to one of the Meg novels.

The novel opens in prehistoric times with the meg taking down a tyrannosaurus rex. Then it jumps to present day with a deep sea explorations of the Marianna Trench, considered to be the deepest part of the ocean that has never been explored. As is the case with many horror novels (yes, Meg is a horror novel), you don't go sticking your nose where it doesn't belong because you end up releasing some sort of monster you can't lock away again. And sure enough, isolated from the rest of the world by a layer of freezing cold water is a tropical world containing many species long thought extinct. The Meg being one of them.

Right from the start we are told there's more than one giant shark, and we know one is male and the other is a pregnant female. The male is unintentionally killed, which allows the female to rise to the surface as she travels through the icy waters in the warm bloodstream of the butchered male. The body count starts to climb almost immediately once this living fossil surfaces, and it is up to Jonas Taylor to hunt down this monster.

Taylor was, at one time, considered the best submersible pilot around, until an encounter with the megalodon traumatized him so badly that he retired from the sea and devoted his life into the study of the prehistoric shark. He's become quite the renowned paleo-biologist whose theories were often greeted with ridicule from others in the field. But he's also a man haunted by his past. His actions during his previous encounter cost the lives of two men, and while he firmly believes that he'd come face to face with a giant prehistoric shark, there's the niggling of doubt that continues to eat away at him like a cancer. But with the surfacing of the meg, he's vindicated, and all those who laughed at his theories and those who accused him of murder because he overreacted in a stressful situation are forced to swallow their pride and admit they were wrong.

What follows is a thrill ride as Taylor and his team pursue the meg in an attempt to capture the beast so they can study her. They are in a race against time, as they know the meg is pregnant, and they need to catch her before she gives birth. They are also in a race against time with the military, as the military is hunting the shark with every intention of killing it before it can kill again.

While the focus of the novel is the hunt for the giant shark, there's more going on than just the chase. You have Taylor's disintegrating marriage, the betrayal by his wife (who's just as vicious and hungry for success as the meg is for flesh and blood) with his best friend. She's an overly ambitious news reporter who will stop at nothing as she climbs the ladder to fame and fortune, and that includes setting up her husband to look like a laughing stock. He's a man on the edge thanks to the events of his past, and she unashamedly is making every attempt to push him over the edge so she has grounds for a divorce. She wants to paint herself as the victim to Jonas's villain. In Heller, who personally holds Jonas responsible for the death of his friends, you have a Captain Ahab-type character. After witnessing the death of his brother in the mouth of the shark, he loses it; now it's personal, and he will not stop until he kills the megalodon. And lastly, you have the budding relationship between Jonas and Terry Tanaka, a woman reeling from her own losses; they are thrown together in the pursuit of the shark and take comfort from each other as their losses become more personal.

If you are only familiar with Meg from the god-awful movie (which I've seen dozens of times--it's really not THAT bad), forget about everything you saw. The only similarities between the book and the movie is the shark, and even that wasn't adapted accurately. While the movie is a family friendly flick about a giant shark where the body count is downplayed. the book is most definitely a horror novel that takes great relish in describing the deaths in grisly detail. It is Jaws on steroids, so if you liked Jaws, you'll LOVE Meg. If you thought Jaws was meh!, you'll like Meg. Start your summer off right. Read Meg.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Don't Mess with the Ness II

I had bought Steve Alten's The Loch a number of years ago, shortly after finishing The Trench. I had tried to read it then, but it just wasn't grabbing me. But recently I picked it up again to give it another shot. I don't know what my problem was back then, but this time I could not put it down.

The Loch opens with marine biologist Zach Wallace diving into the Sargasso Sea with the hopes of discovering the mythical giant squid. He dies indeed discover the giant squid, but he's also discovered something else. what the US Navy has named Bloop. Before he has a chance to document his find, the creature attacks his submersible. During his escape, Zach dies but is resuscitated. This is the second time Zach had drowned. The first time was seventeen years prior, when, at the age of nine, something attacked him in Loch Ness. He knows it was Nessie that attacked him, but over the years he has come to accept what the doctors and other involved have told him, that he had become entangled in a coil of barbed, which would account for the teeth-like scars that encircle his waist.

The current attack also triggers his night terrors again, and he develops of phobia toward water, not a good thing for a marine biologist. His world spins out of control as his "partner" in the dive made it look like everything that went wrong with the dive was Zach's fault, which is not the case. Spiraling into depression and taking comfort from the bottle slowly had him turning into his father, who he hasn't seen in over a decade. But then, suddenly, he is summoned back to Scotland because his father is on trial for murder, and it isn't until he arrives "home" that he realizes his father, an abusive, womanizing alcoholic, has set him up. You see, dad's blaming Nessie for the man's death, and he's hoping his son will go out and find the creature to prove he's telling the truth. Is he? Maybe. As reluctant as Zach is to go chasing after a legend, that's exactly what he ends up doing because the body count is starting to rise. The big question he has and wants answered is why has Nessie suddenly started attacking and eating those people.

If you go into The Loch expecting a straight forward monster hunting novel, you're going to be disappointed. Yeah, that's a part of it, but there's so much more going on here. The novel is about family; it's about loyalty and conspiracies, and it's about history. Not being a historian, I don't know how much of the history laid out within the novel is accurate and how much is a result of creative license, but Alten weaves it all together seamlessly and delivers a thrilling ride. I see so many reviews comment on the historical aspect of the novel dragging it down, but you need that background in order to make the rest of the story work. Without it, the driving motivations of many of the characters becomes pointless.

I also see comments nitpicking the science and its inaccuracies, and to that I say, get over it. It's fiction, and while a certain amount of research is required, it is, after all, a novel. It's not a How To guide, and it doesn't claim to be a scientific text. The average reader isn't going to know all the intricacies of submersibles and diving gear, and quite frankly, I don't believe they care. What they are looking for is an engrossing, believable tale, and that's what Alten delivers. The only real stumbling block I came across in the novel is the dialogue. I've heard it said that writing for the ear is sometimes a sign of lazy or poor writing, that a writer should be able to establish a Scottish accent based on structure and rhythm. But Alten writes dialect, which can sometimes have readers wondering what he's trying to say. Would you rather read "Ah dinnae ken" or "I didn't know"? Or, for that matter, would you even know what "Ah dinnae ken" means? It takes some doing, but eventually you figure it out, and once you figure it out, it no longer becomes an issue. However, there is a learning curve needed, especially if you've never heard a Scotsman speak. For some readers though, it's enough to stumble them right out of the story.

And the only other thing I had issue with is the romance aspect, which I found to be a bit unbelievable. Zach's been away from Scotland for how long? And suddenly he's head over heels in love with his best friend's sister? There's nothing early on that prepares you for this, and there's a point in the novel where you get the impression that True is whoring out his sister. It's mentioned that the sister was thrown out of the house when she was sixteen. Wouldn't Zach have known this if he had such deep. long-lost feeling for this woman? But he doesn't. In fact, there's so much about her that he doesn't know and you feel he should if they have this history. You could probably cut out this romance aspect and not lose anything story wise.

All in all, though, The Loch is a thrilling adventure/horror novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and it's something I would highly recommend if you're into cryptid fiction.