In Fathomless, the greatest predator the world has ever known is coming home in 2016.
Carcharodon megalodon. The largest and most fearsome predator to have ever existed on our planet. Rumours of its existence in our modern oceans have persisted for centuries. Now, in a new adventure, the rumours explode into brutal and terrifying reality in Fathomless, by Greig Beck.
Baranof Island, Gulf of Alaska, 1952. Jim Granger is searching for a place of legend. Known as Bad Water by the island's elders, it's reputed to be home to many dangerous creatures. Through a seam in a cliff face, Jim finds what he seeks. He also finds, too late, that the water demon he was warned about is horrifyingly real.
Today Cate Granger is following in her grandfather's footsteps. Along with a team of scientists and crew, she accidentally releases a creature from Earth's primordial past into today's oceans. The giant megalodon shark follows its instinct and a genetic memory of a home that existed millions of years ago along the Californian coast.
Nothing is safe on or below the water as the monster stakes its claim on the world's oceans. Now Cate and her team must do battle with a creature that has no rival, knows no fear, and regards humans as nothing more than prey.
"Mr Beck is a master at building up suspense." (Good Reading)
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Annoyance, WTF moments, and Deja Vu.
I am a fan of Greig Beck's Alex Hunter series; those books are an enjoyable way to escape reality and unwind for a few hours. I've never been particularly impressed by his portrayal of military technology, tactics, structure, operations, etc. but he writes science fiction and for the most part, it's a bit of good fun.
I had hopes for something similar and imaginative with Fathomless, but I was woefully disappointed. The lead protagonists, Cate and Jack were inconsistent and grating. She started her expedition to the Alaskan subterranean ocean with a lot of unnecessary risks that did not seem in form for an educated scientist. For example, when her drone first entered the caves that led to the underground sea, there was no need for her to run the drone past the point of no return. She and her comrades were not under pressure of time or space, and they could easily have made several flights, progressively mapping the cave better and moving deeper by bringing the drone back and recharging. Her decision to just push the drone in and see what they got was foolhardy and it was just too convenient that it happened to make it all the way to the water and also just happened to be eaten by a C. Megalodon just in time for a final transmission to be made over WiFi. (Over a distance of thousands of feet and under water? A WTF moment.)
Furthermore, when they actually make it into the cave and are attacked by a Dunkleosteus and Jack proposes that they turn back and get better prepared, she irrationally insists that they press forward. At this point her interactions with Jack have been mostly hormone driven and immature, and so her grating personality was established for me. But again, her decision-making is questionable at best. They are exploring an unknown ecosystem that has already provided them with a prehistoric placoderm predator and she insists that they've seen the worst that the sea has to offer them? (WTF moment) It's either hubris, or willful ignorance that drives her at this point and regardless, neither trait redeems her.
Jack is similarly one dimensional and irrational, first depicted as a womanizing ass then clearly set up to become to knight in shining armor by the climax. I could not take him seriously. He contemplates diving below the crippled boat to untangle the propeller and the Coastie asks him if he knows how to use tools under water; his response is to deflate and concede that the Coastie needs dive alone to do it. It ends up being a set of wire cutters and a blade he uses to cut the cable fouling the propeller. (WTF moment) You mean this heavily muscled, intelligent, man of action can't figure out how to use a set of wire cutters and a blade under water to turn a slow one-man-job into a faster two-man-job when time is critical? Get off the ship, man.
Conversely, the only two characters I actually enjoyed were Sonya and Valerie. (Please excuse my spelling if inaccurate, I listened to the audio book.) She was an intelligent and lethal bodyguard whose relationship with her employer was simple but believable and his characterization of a billionaire motivated by knowledge was also authentic and well executed. Their motivations made sense, whereas Cate and Jack seemed to flash back and forth between two extremes of a spectrum of contention and unified adoration.
My critiques extend to the author's depiction of time and space considerations. Within hours of discovering Valerie's hidden communication relays, the Russian enemy (I forget his name) has a stealth Blackhawk helicopter ferrying a former Spetsnaz assault team to the communication points on US soil in order to destroy them. This is implausible to say the least; I may have misinterpreted the time elapsed between events, but I got the impression that it was all happening very quickly. If this is true, that helicopter and the operatives would have had to have been pre-staged in Alaska to carry out the mission, also highly implausible. This same Russian antagonist uses a dirty thermo-nuclear weapon to seal the cave entrance and prevent rescue for his foe in the subterranean ocean. (WTF moment) There are a hundred other ways to accomplish the same goal in a manner that wouldn't bring every federal agency and the US military swarming all over the area you were hoping to clandestinely extract your hated enemy.
Also, when describing the final confrontation with the C. Megalodon, the sinking ship is described as being 50 miles from shore and 50 miles further again from the nearest coast guard base. The helicopter scrambled from this base is said to be 3 hours away, even if they hurry. A Coast Guard Jayhawk rescue chopper has a cruising speed of 165 knots, or about 190 mph. That means the helicopter could cover that distance in just over half an hour, so it can't be distance that is delaying the chopper. If the author is implying it takes that long to get a rescue helicopter ready, I find that difficult to believe. I don't know what Coast Guard SOPs are, but I imagine that each base has an alert aircraft and crew on some sort of ready tether, whether it's strip alert or 20 minute alert or something similar. A 20 minute alert would mean that a helo is fueled and ready to go with a crew standing by within 20 minutes of the bird, so that following notification, that helo is in the air within 20 minutes. Whatever the case, I'm confident the Coast Guard could get a rescue bird in the air long before the 2.5 hour mark.
If you wonder why I can't suspend my disbelief for something like this but I can for a prehistoric shark species surviving in a subterranean sea, it's actually quite simple. The author claims to use facts and science to bolster his writing and make the fiction more believable. A simple google search would have revealed that the time space considerations that precipitated the climactic battle were inaccurate and forced. I have come to expect more from this author and this is a large part of why I am so disappointed.
Finally, on several occasions, the book sounded like a less imaginative rehash of Meg by Steve Alten. From the way the scientists in the narrative interacted with people they needed to convince of the danger and how they actually went about dealing with the shark, this book screamed Meg. Just a much later, annoying, and poorly written Meg. Despite its own inaccuracies and issues, the Alten novel is the superior story.
As the performance went, the narrator did okay. He didn't bring anything special to the reading he often sounded like he overextended himself and was gasping at the end of sentences. His pronunciation of Carcharadon Megalodon was also infuriating. Google, dude, Google. They will tell you how to pronounce it.
In the end, this book was a waste of time. I nearly stopped listening numerous times but I held out hope that the author would redeem this book. He didn't; skip this one and read Greig Beck's other stuff. It's more entertaining and better executed than this.
- Jason Sta. Ana
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