Thrills in ‘The Trench’

In the New Orleans Aquarium, there is a plastic molding of a set of teeth. It’s a quite impressive span: seven feet tall, three feet wide. Even a Red Storm player could stand inside the mold. On the wall behind it, there hangs a fossilized tooth that belonged to a set of teeth just like those described above. The tooth came from the Carcharodon Megalodon, the prehistoric ancestor of the Great White Shark. The plaque reads that the tooth is recent enough that it could have been come from a shark living in the 20th century.

Some days there is a fine, blurry line between truth and fiction. Years ago, I reviewed a book called Meg that began with a simple question: What’s 60 feet long, eats T-Rexes for lunch, and makes Moby Dick look like a guppy? The answer was the Megalodon.

Now the question is, “what’s worse?” The 72-foot-long offspring.
The Trench is Steve Alten”s sequel to his thriller Meg (soon to be a movie that promises to make Deep Blue Sea look like an even bigger turkey). The pregnant Meg from the first novel had given birth to three offspring. The one that had been captured has been held in the largest “aquarium” in the world, with tickets being sold in advance.

After Dr. Jonas Taylor finally killed the first Meg after failed attempts to capture her, he didn’t have anything remotely close to a happy-ever-after.

The families of Meg’s victims sued Jonas for not killing Meg to begin with. The only thing keeping him and his father-in-law’s water research company from utter bankruptcy was the captured Meg.

Each day, hundreds would watch behind bulletproof glass as the enormous shark named Angel swam through the water, leaping over 80 feet in the air for the ton of meat held by a construction crane. While it was fed, the theory went, it would stay happy. Then, its biological alarm clock went off.

After smashing through the underwater steel walls confining her, Angel’s now driven by a single, overwhelming urge to mate, which means going back to the only place her kind still exists: the Marianas Trench.

Once again, leading the hunt for a Meg is Jonas, who has to work side-by-side with the daughter of a company with its own agenda, one that could kill them all (if you thought the animal sharks were dangerous, the human sharks are the killers). The hunt for the Meg is a long and dangerous trek, going around the Pacific with helicopters, submarines and a research vessel that makes the Glomar Explorer out of date. On the other end of the Pacific, Jonas’ wife is trapped on a movable, underwater station, on a mission of which no one is quite sure.

The hunt alone is a book in itself, with a lightning-fast pace that continually makes Die Hard seem as slow as a garbage truck with slashed tires. But this time, Steve Alten has raised the ante by putting in a distinctly deadly human element whose danger surpasses that of even the Meg. And, it all comes down to a frightful showdown between Jonas, a giant underwater complex and an Angel of death in the bowels of The Trench.