By Charles Wilson
St. Martin's Paperbacks, 310 pp, 1997
Extinct should have stayed that way.
This is not a good book. The prose is
awkward and wordy, the characters shallow, undeveloped and uninteresting,
the plot conventional and dull, the action tedious and overdrawn.
The book takes place in Mississippi, around
the Delta region, and begins with two boys getting eaten by a prehistoric
shark. It even has the obligatory family dog barking furiously on the
A few other minor characters appear, whose
sole purpose is to get eaten by the shark. A local marine biologist and
babe charter boat captain, along with her father and the local sheriff,
soon realize what they think is a great white shark has entered the river
from the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the Director of Naval Intelligence
happens to believe that megalodons, huge prehistoric sharks long thought
to be extinct, still exist. It's a hobby of his. That's his reason for
being involved in the story. It's a hobby.
The book meanders along its predictable
way. The babe captain's father takes the local junior high boxing team
camping and fishing on the river, and are attacked by the megalodon. The
marine biologist and babe captain save them. The county coroner determines
from the bite marks on a body part that the poor digested soul was eaten
by a big shark. Charter captains crowd the river with raw meat and other
bait to lure the shark and kill it. Ho-hum, nothing new.
All this could maybe be forgiven if the
book were well-written. It isn't. It's verbose, riddled with detail,
leaving out nothing. Every scene tells us where every character is what
every character does. It's pointless and slows down the action.
Some sentences are just painful, like this
one: "The craft leaned on its side toward the small aluminum boat,
floating partially submerged and nearly hidden from sight in a stand of
tall water grassing growing in the shadows of a line of tall oaks leaning
out over the river." I count six prepositional phrases in that
clunker, about five too many.
The characters seemingly have no independent
goals or aspirations. They simply go along with the flow, doing the
predictable, anonymous cogs in this grinding plot. They change in no
significant way, except that (surprise!) the marine biologist and babe
charter captain get engaged.
More annoyances. In the first third of the
book, the babe charter captain's dad was Mr. Herald. That's how the author
referred to him. Then, on the camping trip, Mr. Herald suddenly became
Fred. I had to page backward toward the beginning to find out that Fred
was indeed Mr. Herald. One boy on the campout didn't even warrant a name.
He was the "younger blond brother" or "young blond
If you want to read a much better book
about megalodons, check out Meg.
It was Steve Alten's first book, so it's a bit rough around the edges, but
the plot makes more sense and the characters are appealing.
Extinct deserves to join its
prehistoric ancestors and disappear.