The Trench

by Steve Alten

The Trench


Genre: Thriller
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Pinnacle Books
Original Publication Date: June 1, 2000
Reviewed: September 2004

        Megalodon, the giant prehistoric relative of the Great White shark, was assumed long extinct. But it turns out to have survived - deep in the volcanically-heated waters of the Marianas Trench. Now a baby Meg has been captured, and is the star attraction at a Seaworld-type park. But she doesn't stay a baby for long. Grown into a monster, she breaks free of her tank and starts cruising the beaches for prey. Marine biologist Jonas Taylor must track her down. Meanwhile, his wife Terry is trapped with a sinister crew in a ship exploring the Marianas Trench.

The Trench- cover         This book is mental junk food, perfect for reading on the beach or on a long plane ride. The constant action and suspense keep your attention and pull you through the book. There are no surprises here: you know who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are. And you know the good guys will prevail, and the bad guys will become shark chow.

        The characters are strictly soap-opera: unsubtle, stereotypical, two-dimensional. But Terry, the damsel in distress, is not as annoying as I feared she would be. She is at least a bold and active heroine, who mostly rescues herself. I was not expecting that, as she's supposed to be Japanese, and Asian women are often depicted as passive, if not submissive. (Not that you can tell she's Japanese, aside from her physical description.)

        The uninspiring characters are easily forgiven, because the star of this book is clearly the shark. Scientifically, I didn't buy it. I don't believe Megalodons still exist, and if they do, they aren't living at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. And the other monsters of the Trench, the Kronosaurs, are even more ridiculous. They're reptiles, and the explanation that they evolved gills so they could live at the bottom of the ocean is unconvincing. But it's okay; this is not the kind of book you think too much about. The monster scenes are delightfully suspenseful and spine-tingling, and that's what counts. This book could very easily be made into a movie. Better yet, a TV movie. The pace and structure of the story is clearly influenced by television; as I was reading, I could even see where the commercials should go.

        Perhaps the most interesting element of this book is that Osama bin Laden is mentioned in it. He's never on-screen, but the villains have a tie to Arab terrorists. Bin Laden is funding their secret research - for nefarious purposes, of course. Very topical, considering that this book was written at least two years before 9/11.

        This book is still in print, and easy to find. It's a sequel to a book called Meg, but you don't need to read that book to enjoy this one.

Related Links:

Does Megalodon Still Exist?

All about Carcharodon megalodon