“Kronos Rising: After 6 Million Years the World’s Greatest Predator is Back” Max Hawthorne (Far From the Tree Press, 2014)

Kronos Rising
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The book Jaws by Peter Benchley was published in 1974 and became an international bestseller, followed by the movie adaptation that became an instant cult classic and a favorite of many. Since then some sequels have been made, and many knock-off novels that play on the whole idea of a sea monster on the loose terrorizing a small town and its people.

I thought Kronos Rising would be another unrealistic example of this genre: predictable, over the top, and simply inaccurate, but the bookwas in fact a complete surprise.

It is a classic setting: a small American town on the east coast where things are simple and straightforward and haven’t changed in some time. Jake Braddock is the town sheriff, a former Olympic fencer who lost his wife in a tragic accident and has made some bad choices in his life, but now he’s on the straight and narrow and does just fine dealing with simple, small-time crimes, until that all changes.

People are starting to disappear out on the water and at first it seems like there might be a man-eating shark on the loose, but the evidence seems to point to something bigger, much bigger. And when an uneaten part of a rich senator’s son shows up, things really begin to heat up. The media gets involved wanting to know what creature is behind the attacks. Braddock enlists the help of a pretty scientist who has shown up with her crew from the World Cetacean Society; she has some evidence revealing that the creature is not just big, but enormous; a surviving relic from the time of the dinosaurs know as the kronosaurus queenslandicus. It is hard to believe but the evidence is irrefutable.

The media has a field day with this announcement, not believing it until the giant creature shows up in the harbor and wreaks havoc upon the residents. The rich senator calls in an élite group to take care of this creature, enlisting the help of Braddock and the scientist, though the sheriff knows they’re getting in way over their heads.

The characters in Kronos Rising are well developed, each with their own complicated backgrounds that have a strong bearing on their current lives. The key to a good story is conflict, and this book is full of it, as the characters come into conflict with each other, which at times feels a little contrived, but nevertheless makes for addictive, page-turning reading.

Max Hawthorne has also done his research into marine biology and ocean life, which all helps make his characters more knowledgeable and interesting and the whole world more believable, even if there is a giant monster eating people in it. The writing is compelling and action-filled so even though the book is well over 500 pages long, it is still an addictive read. While the last third of the book goes off the rails a little and some of the characters become almost caricatures, overall the book is a great addition to this genre, worthy of sitting on the shelf next to Peter Benchley’s Jaws.

Originally written on May 11, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks” by Juliet Eilperin (Pantheon, 2011)

Demon Fish
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If you’re reading this, chances are you have some sort of fear of sharks . . . and maybe by discovering what Demon Fish is about, you will confront these fears, learn more about these incredible fish, and in turn come to respect them as the amazing creatures that they are.  Well, if there was a book that could help you with that, Demon Fish is certainly it.

Juliet Eilperin works for the Washington Post.  Her first book was on politics, Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of Representatives, but in April of 2004 she covered the environment for the national desk, reporting on science, climate change, and the oceans.  If there were a comprehensive biography of the ancient, long-lived fish known as the shark, Demon Fish would qualify.  Eilperin begins with an introduction of her first meeting with these majestic yet powerful and terrifying creatures, and how she grew to appreciate them.  She tells the story of the World-Famous Shark Callers found on the island of Papua New Guinea, who have been hunting these fish for centuries with a ritualistic method that involves calling the shark, then capturing it; once killed every part of the fish is used in some way.  But Shark Calling is a dying art, especially when there are other companies that use more modern technology to deplete the nearby shark populations.

Eilperin’s chapter on “An Ancient Fish” presents a full history of the shark, starting long ago during the time of the dinosaurs when they were massive creatures feared by just about everything beneath the waves (and above no doubt), to the smaller but no less frightening versions of today.  The shark is in fact one of the oldest, longest living creatures on the planet, and now has over four hundred species.  Eilperin travels the world, visiting and working with different people who interact with sharks in different ways: whether it’s fishing for them, taking tourists out to see them and attempt to catch them, or tagging and conserving and protecting them however they can.  She devotes a significant portion of the book to the shark fin industry, which is the biggest threat to this fish, as the restaurants of Asia (as well as many others around the world) continue to serve shark fin soup, even though it doesn’t taste of much – as Eilperin makes clear – but is a cultural expectation, not just in Asian restaurants but expected to be served at weddings as a sign of the bride’s family’s noble standing.

Demon Fish doesn’t attempt to convince or convert or proselytize on the threatened numbers and species of shark around the world; Eilperin just presents the facts and realities for what they are in many different places across the globe.  It is clear that things are not fine with this ancient fish, and when the likes of Jaws and other similar stories continue to perpetuate this fear of a gravely misunderstood creature, Demon Fish does an excellent job of informing and educating, making one realize at the end that the shark is simply another one of the incredibly unique animals populating this planet and has just as much right to live and breed and exist as all the others do, including the many humans who fear it.

Originally written on September 23, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Amazon and help support BookBanter.

An exclusive interview with Juliet Eilperin will be available on BookBanter on November 15th.