BEAST by Peter Benchley

BEAST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 At least Benchley (Rummies, 1989, etc.) didn't call it Tentacles--although he might have. Seventeen years after Jaws chewed up the bookracks, he now weaves another ripping sea-monster yarn, this one about an Architeuthis dux, or giant squid, menacing Bermuda. Benchley puts a 90's ecological spin on his story--the squid is on the prowl because its food supply has been diminished by wanton overfishing--but at bottom this is just another Jaws retread, opening, as did Jaws, with a night attack by the monster (here, on a castaway sailing couple) and concluding, as did Jaws, with a daylight frontal assault on a ship and crew determined to destroy it. In between, there's no romantic subplot like the one Spielberg discarded for his film of Jaws; the narrative is full- tilt action adventure, beginning with hero Whip Darling, the 41- year-old Bermudan fisherman who identifies the squid from its traces after it kills a pair of young twin divers, children of Manhattan media magnate Osborn Manning. Knowledge of the squid sends Bermuda tourism--and Darling's business--into a nose dive, but when a vengeance-minded Manning, accompanied by a Canadian squid-expert, tries to hire Darling to help hunt the squid, the Bermudian refuses: better poor than dead. He does agree to guide a submersible party, including a journalist and an obnoxious politico, to the squid's most likely haunt, leading to a terrific scene in which the hungry squid--still not fully revealed--toys with the submarine, then cracks it open to enjoy human-on-the-half- shell. Finally, Manning uses financial blackmail to force Darling to the hunt. The extended conclusion, surpassing Jaws's for excitement, sees the 100-foot squid climbing onto Darling's boat, tentacles and whips flying, eyes glowering, beak chomping, as Manning meets a predictable Ahab-like fate and Darling fights for his life. Although necessarily lacking the shock value of Jaws, this crafty, well-researched, exhilarating semi-sequel, powered by that marvelously demonic squid, who's every bit a match for the Great White, is bound to clamber way high up on the best-seller lists.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40355-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991




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