Shark Island

If you’re considering writing a novel about sharks, you have to realize that comparisons will be made. For those over 30 years of age, you’re going to be brought up against people who have read Peter Benchley’s JAWS and seen Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation of the same name. For those under 30, you’ll have an easier road because people will just compare you to SHARKNADO.

In the former, you’re going to come off poorly, but you’ll probably win the latter battle. That’s the case with Chris Jameson’s enviro-thriller SHARK ISLAND.

The book opens with a shark attack and our protagonist, Naomi Cardiff, loses her leg to the voracious fish. Her mother happens to be the state’s Lieutenant Governor, so the attack raises a firestorm about what the state is going to do about the Great White sharks that patrol the coastline. The sharks are simply hunting the seals that tend to congregate there, and so then the question is, what can be done about the seals?

Months later, outfitted with a prosthesis and a new career as a photojournalist, Naomi finds herself on a research boat of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution going back out in those same frigid North Atlantic waters. Her mission? To document a unique experiment: the WHOI is attempting to lure the seals along the coastline away from the public beaches and out to a remote and unpopulated island. The idea is that the seals, which serve as food for the sharks, will draw the sharks away from the coasts. Seals are gone, sharks are gone, everyone is happy.

Except for the environmental organizations that feel the natural order is being disturbed. And except for the fishermen near where the seals are being lured to since the seals feed on the fish that support these men and women’s livelihoods. But the experiment proceeds. The WHOI boat plays an acoustic sound, which lures the seals, and lures the sharks after the seals and the boat and the sharks and the seals all head out to a less populated area. Until the sharks’ behavior changes drastically, and they’re not just swimming along, taking a random seal here and there, but now, they’re attacking the boats, over and over again, banging the hull, boom boom boom, until you can hear the structure weaken. Things go from very very bad to much, much worse in just a few pages.

Admittedly, Jameson has a nice thriller writer’s touch. Chapters are short, well-paced, dialogue is brisk. Descriptions and characterization are a little weak and there are far too many characters to begin with. But some of the characters, like Naomi and the two male fisherman friends, are fresh and lively and fun to read about. The action is certainly shark-forward, and if you find yourself gleefully watching Shark Week on TV, then you’ll love SHARK ISLAND.

I admit, I was expecting to rail against this book and then use it as a springboard to talk about JAWS, but SHARK ISLAND kind of won me over with its non-stop action. It’s not the greatest book ever and certainly not the greatest novel about sharks, but it’s pretty entertaining and would make a good beach …er, maybe mountain … read.

—Mark Rose

Get it at Amazon.

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