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Old 10-10-2014, 03:54 PM
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The Loch (novel)




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: October 10, 2014

Released by: Tsunami Books
Release date: 4/1/2005
MSRP: Various
Kindle Edition
2005



I first stumbled across author Steve Alten when I finished reading Jaws for the first time a few years back. While the Jaws novel is decent enough, it's a rare case where the movie is better. The novel is bogged down by some ridiculous side plots that essentially add nothing to the story. After finishing the book, it got me thinking that there must be some other shark novels out there. Some google searches led me to many choices, some of which were dreadful and some of which looked like they might be fun reads. That's the key, friends. "Fun" reads. For me, I'm not expecting A Tale of Two Cities when I sit down to read a novel about a killer shark. When Meg, a novel based on the extinct Megalodon shark reappearing in modern times, found its way onto my Kindle, I jumped in with eager anticipation. Meg was a fun, albeit over-the-top, read. I read a few of the sequels and while they each got a little worse, they still delivered some Megalodon fun and mayhem.

I have long been fascinated by aliens, Bigfoot, and monsters such as the Loch Ness Monster. I realize in all likelihood Big Foot and Nessie don't exist. It's still fun to speculate about such possibilities. As for aliens, well, to not think that some type of life form exists outside of Earth, it's just narrow minded. I had searched for some fiction on Bigfoot and Nessie and while there isn't much out there, I did stumble across Steve Alten's, The Loch. I enjoy longer books - preferring 350+ pages as my minimum (though I would rank 500+ as 'long'). Typically with longer books you get more character development. When you care about the characters, you care about the story. I still think that is the magic in much of King's writing - he writes characters you care about. When I found out The Loch was 560 pages, I was on board. Is it going to be another guilty pleasure/fun read in the vein of Meg, or does Alten's The Loch take on a more serious tone? Lets have a look and find out.

The Story

Zachary Wallace is a marine biologist on an expedition in the Sargasso Sea. He is there with his associate and boss, David Caldwell. David isn't too knowledgeable in marine biology and is constantly trying to steal the glory from Zach's hard work. They are there researching giant squids. The two, along with additional crew and scientists, take a submersible down to over 2000 feet below the surface. They discover the giant squid they've been searching for but get an unexpected surprise when the squid itself is attacked. Zach believes the attack was by "bloops", an unknown and mysterious creature named by the US Navy. The submersible is attacked while trying to escape to the surface. Lives are lost. The submersible is destroyed. Zach ends up being blamed for the incident. His career is ruined. He develops a fear of the water and starts experiencing night terrors. He sinks into depression and turns to alcohol and cheap women for comfort. It seems Zach is content to drink his life away until a strange man by the name of Max shows up at his doorstep. Max informs Zach that his estranged father back in Scotland is on trial for murder and he's needed back home for support. Zach's reluctant to go but agrees after some prodding from Max.

Back in Scotland, Zach is reunited with his father, Angus. It's not a happy reunion. Angus was a drunk and womanizer in Zach's youth. His mother packed them up and moved away during his childhood. While his father claims innocence, Zach isn't so sure. At the trial, things go awry when his father claims it was the Loch Ness Monster that murdered the victim. Who better to investigate than a marine biologist? Perhaps a marine biologist that isn't deathly afraid of the water. Zach reunites with True MacDonald, a childhood friend, who assists Zach in his research into the infamous monster. When news gets out, anyone and everyone with a boat heads to the loch in hopes of finding the monster and assuring their fame and fortune. Instead of monsters being found, bodies start piling up. Has the monster turned deadly? And if so, why? Zach must discover these answers and more if he hopes to clear his father and conquer his night terrors.

There's three speeds of sorts in which I read a novel. That speed tends to indicate just how much I like or dislike a book. There's the fast, page turning speed in which I will blow through a 4 or 500 page book in a few days. That typically means I loved it. It doesn't necessarily mean it's a fast paced book, either. It just means I enjoyed the story and characters enough to tear through it. Next is the slow but steady read where I'll finish a 4 or 500 page book in a week to a week and a half. It's almost always a story that I enjoyed and would rate above average. It's just not something where I fell in love with the story and had to tear through it. Last is the excruciatingly slow pace where it might take me a few weeks to finish a 4 or 500 page book, though I'll almost always abandon a book in this instance. I read a lot of reviews prior to picking up a book, or I know it's a genere I will enjoy, so I don't tend to abandon books too often. I do abandon audio books more often because the narrator can have such a big impact on the telling of the story. The Loch fell into the second category, a slow but steady read that I enjoyed. It took me about a week and a half to finish. I knew going in that you can't have a 500 page story that is purely about the Loch Ness monster. Everything is centered around Nessie and the loch, but it's Zach and his struggles that are the true meat of the book. Zach goes through a variety of challenges and because the character is well developed, it helps make the book that much more enjoyable. There's some enjoyable Nessie action, particularly towards the conclusion, but when you consider all that's going on in the book - a murder trial, night terrors, women troubles and daddy issues - it's easy to see how it takes 500 pages to tell the tale.

Steve Alten, known for his prehistory shark book, Meg, keeps the tone of the book a bit more serious than Meg. Even so, some of the ideas in The Loch are a bit far fetched even for a book about a mythical monster. When you have ancient order sworn to protect Nessie, well, things can get a bit silly. I expect some of that with this type of book and it doesn't hinder my enjoyment of it. More importantly to me is that Alten told an enjoyable story that kept my interest. He wrote some good characters, mainly Zach, that you care about and that's always the most important aspect to keeping me interested. At the beginning of each chapter is a small testimony from an actual Loch Ness Monster sighting; that was a great touch to the book and I enjoyed reading those. Those looking for lots of monster mayhem maybe be disappointed until you hit the last third of the book. It is there you just need to be patient. Once the mayhem begins, it's a fun ride. It all ties together nicely. Silly, yes, but a fun, enjoyable ride.

I can say that without question that The Loch is the best Loch Ness Monster book I have ever read. Okay, it's the only one I have ever read. Sadly, there's just not a lot of fictional books out there. My usual searches for similar books bring up suggestions of shark novels. I did find one titled Monster A Tale of Loch Ness and I likely will check that one out at some point. Otherwise, Alten's The Loch seems to be the most popular and most recent book on Scotland's Loch Ness Monster. Thankfully, it's an enjoyable read and one I recommend to anyone interested in the subject. Now, lets find some good fiction on Bigfoot and Abominable Snowman!

Final Thoughts

The Loch ended up being an enjoyable read for me and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Loch Ness Monster. The story and characters that tie everything together with the monster are enjoyable enough to make it a worthwhile read. Don't expect Moby Dick here. Know that any book dealing with mythical monster is bound to have some silliness to it. That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. It just means you need to be interested in Nessie to enjoy this one. All things considered, that seems like a reasonable prerequisite to me. Shark fiction is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I may still recommend Alten's Meg over The Loch. The best suggestion: Read both!

Rating

.
Story - B-


 

 

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Old 10-11-2014, 11:19 AM
Master of Doom
I actually bought the paperback a couple years back, but still haven't had a chance to actually sit down and read it. I think I'll pull it out and read it next!
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