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MEG: Generations – Steve Alten

MEG: Generations is the 6th book in the epic tale of prehistoric sea creatures and the people who really suck at keeping them in captivity. Yes, a series about giant sharks has more books than Game of Thrones. Let that sink in a minute. At this point in the saga thirty years have passed since the first megalodon (meg for short) escaped from the Mariana Trench to wreak havoc on the Pacific ocean. That first meg was killed, but she had a daughter, the formidable albino monster Angel, short for Angel of Death. The fortunes of Jonas Taylor, his wife Terry, and children Dani and David have risen (quite high) after they captured Angel and made her the centerpiece of their Sea-World like aquarium in San Diego. Sure every few years she, or her offspring, escape and kill a lot of people, but eventually they are rounded up again. Other times completely new sea creatures show up to wreak havoc, kill a lot of people, but are eventually killed or captured. This cycle continues in pretty much all of the books. Things took a more interesting turn with book 4, MEG: Hell’s Aquarium. That book introduced the subterranean Panthallasic Sea, a previously sealed-up domain where giant sea monsters long assumed extinct have thrived a mile below Challenger Deep in a 35,000 square mile lost world. This has allowed author Steve Alten to really let loose with the crazy and now all manner of terrifying sea creatures are escaping into the surface oceans to, yes, wreak havoc.

Which brings me to MEG: Generations. At the end of the last book, Night Stalkers, several of the previously escaped megs were dead, including Angel, her offspring, and a plesiosaur. MEG: Generations picks up where that one ended by spending about 200 pages wrapping up the previous plot arc and introducing character after character after character who serves no purpose whatsoever other than to get eaten or supply exposition and contribute to the word count. Why do all of the characters exist and why are they each given about three paragraphs of utterly pointless backstory? Because Steve Alten is an absolutely shameless self-promoter and he names characters after people who buy bunches of his books or share his posted links on social media in great numbers. This is not a criticism of his work ethic, his hustle is impressive and it does work. The problem is all of these added characters grind the narrative to a halt, adding fluff while contributing nothing to the plot.

Imagine if a plumber came to your house and before he got to work on a clogged toilet, he told you all about his education, family, and the hobbies he enjoys. Then he fixed your toilet, left your house, and you never see him again. That is the impact most of these added characters bring. Some are there to be eaten. Some are there to deliver an envelope. Each and every one of them has a first and last name though, and usually a backstory. It got to the point where I skipped the next three paragraphs after any sentence that started with a new character’s full name. The major problem with this narrative contrivance is it artificially elongates the story and delays getting to the good stuff in the last 100 pages. Which in this case is the long-running series characters chasing giant sea monsters in acrobatically nimble submarines.

Worse, MEG: Generations simply stops just as it’s starting to get a lot more interesting. The first 200 pages function as a very long board-wipe of the extraneous characters and various (boring) plots about cancer and financial transactions. The ending sets up multiple giant spherical submarines that can travel to the Panthallasic sea on a luxury hotel and cancer research facility. It’s ludicrous, but also very exciting to have gobs of people now within reach of a whole bunch of giant sea monsters with three feet long teeth. Does any of this make any sense? No, not really, and honestly I don’t care.  MEG: Generations is not a good book. Even established characters change personalities as the narrative requires. There are far, far, faaaaaaaaaaaaar too many extraneous characters, and there is an odd undercurrent of racial insensitivity when it comes to the Muslim characters. However, Alten does have a knack for thrilling action scenes. I just wish he would get out of his own way and write a story as opposed to a mechanism to deliver fan service.

Its telling that the most memorable character in MEG: Generations is the meg Luna, the albino granddaughter of Angel, who has the bizarre habit of rising out of the water to stare at the full moon. If Alten pivoted and wrote a children’s book about Luna and her adventures I would totally buy it because she is adorable and at this point the only character I don’t want to see get eaten.

For those new to the series, or only familiar with the quite fun 2019 movie, the early books are quite enjoyable. Make no mistake, even those are not great books by any means. But if giant sharks and sea monsters are your personal junk food genre (they are mine) then I do recommend the series. You can actually start with The Trench (book 2) and probably be better for it.

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