Written by: Dan West
Jaws: The Revenge, for those of you unfamiliar with the cinematic masterwork on which this novel is based, is the fourth and (thus far) final film of the “Jaws franchise.” It is a film that features a gargantuan great white shark that roars like a lion during the movie’s climactic fight to the death and includes sequences in which Ellen Brody (portrayed by Lorraine Gary of Jaws and Jaws 2) experiences flashbacks of incidents that she didn’t actually experience so that the film can include footage of Roy Scheider from Jaws. It is a film about which co-star, Michael Caine said: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Perhaps this was also the mindset of author, Hank Searls when he accepted the job of writing this non-riveting tie-in novel. Or maybe it was just that Searls had become the literary world’s go-to Jaws sequel tie-in novel author after having successfully adapted the screenplay for Jaws 2 several years before. Whatever the motivating factors might have been for their involvement with Jaws The Revenge, neither a seasoned writer like Searls nor a seasoned actor like Michael Caine could do anything to improve an idea that was so astoundingly idiotic from the moment it came into being. This is hardly high art, and no amount of talent could make this experience a pleasant one. Adapting the screenplay for something like Jaws The Revenge into a novel must have been a bit like working on a paint-by-numbers canvas depicting a steaming pile of dog feces—no matter who is painting the picture, in the end it’s still just going to be a pile of shit.
In the hands of a less experienced author, the thrills and chills to be found in Jaws The Revenge might have elicited a response such as “don’t quit your day job,” but in Searls’s professional hands, a reader is moved to suggest: “please do quit your day job, Mr. Searls.”
Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh due to my constant urges to light the novel on fire rather than having to continue reading it. Can I really blame the guy for churning out a paycheck paperback? Perhaps I should take into account that I might be the only other idiot on the planet to have read this turd other than Hank Searls and possibly his editor.
I suppose I should mention that this review contains “spoilers” from 1987, so if you have any plans to travel back in a time machine and purchase this novel in the year 1987, please do so before reading this. So, with that in mind, should you choose to continue reading, I now present my review of Jaws The Revenge (This time it’s personal.)
It’s Christmas season and there’s something terrible lurking in the waters off of Amity Island … I will give you one guess as to what that terrible something might be. Here’s a hint from the novel: “Random impulses had lured the great white shark to warmer, shallow waters from his feeding ground off Montauk Point, as man himself is sometimes tempted to the sea.
He moved slowly through the waters of Amity Bay. He was twenty-eight feet long and weighed three thousand pounds.”
Wow! That’s one big shark! At this point the reader might be struck by a strange sensation of déjà vu. Wasn’t it Amity Island that had been devastated by two previous visits from gargantuan great white sharks in Jaws and Jaws 2? Think of the odds! Well there just might be a very good reason for this strange series of giant shark attacks in Amity, as author Searls hints in this tantalizing excerpt: “The great white drifted lazily for a while. He was near the waters in which he’d been conceived, sired by a male almost as big as he. His mother, enormous, gravid with young, had swept through Amity Sound like death itself.” It just so happens that this particular demon of the deep was birthed when his mother was electrocuted by Police Chief, Martin Brody off Cape North Light in Jaws 2. Given this bit of information, I guess we are expected to assume that his big daddy sire was none other than the shark from Peter Benchley’s Jaws, thus making these routine attacks something of a family tradition in Amity Bay.
Speaking of family traditions, it should come as no particular surprise that despite the fact that Police Chief Martin Brody is now deceased, thanks to a fatal heart attack (which is for some reason attributed to his ordeal with the second great white shark from Jaws 2,) there is still a Brody family member on the force to encounter this new menace of the deep. This unfortunate bit of story chum is none other than Martin and Ellen Brody’s son, Sean: “Now Sean wore his father’s badge: number one. In his holster, when he remembered to wear it, swung Marty’s battered revolver, drawn only once in his father’s career, at a fellow policeman shooting seals. Sean sat in his father’s squealing swivel chair and wrote parking tickets from the same scuffed citation book.”
Sean has taken the concept of following in his father’s footsteps to literal proportions, going so far as to even wear Martin Brody’s old, fleece-lined leather boots when going out to clear a troublesome piling drifting in a channel in Amity Harbor. It is during this sequence that the Brody and great white shark family traditions cross paths yet again. Unfortunately for Sean, he fares far worse than his late father when encountering an enormous great white shark for the first time.
Perhaps if Sean Brody had first read the novelization of Jaws The Revenge before going to clear that piling out of the channel, he would have know that, according to author, Hark Searls, in the case of this enormous great white shark: “The sound of the man-things in the water angered him, for he owned the sea.” Needless to say, Sean’s noble attempts at preventing a boating accident in Amity Harbor are cut short by a “man-thing” related hate crime perpetrated by none other than the aforementioned twenty-eight foot long owner of the sea.
The fatal shark attack leaves the recently widowed, Ellen Brody devastated and alone in Amity, until her son Michael arrives for the funeral with his wife, Carla and their daughter Thea. They’ve travelled all the way from the Bahamas, where Mike Brody spends his time as a marine biologist, working on his PHD and boring the living shit out of the readers of this novel with the details of his work examining the day-to-day activities of the local conch population deep beneath the ocean waves.
I won’t bore you with the details, as I have already been bored with the details of this gobbledygook for you for what seemed like an eternity and I have taken it upon myself to warn anyone who might stumble upon this novel and mistakenly think it might be funny in a “so-bad-it’s-good” sort of way: it is not unintentionally funny, nor is it suspenseful, horrific, or in the least bit entertaining.
This novel might be a much more enjoyable reading experience if one was to turn to page 15 and then rip out all of the subsequent pages up to page 313, because, unlike the film (which lasts only 90 minutes,) this goddamn book seemed to go on forever and ever. In order to expand the thinly plotted screenplay of Jaws The Revenge (This time it’s personal) into a novel, Searls incorporates storylines involving a sinister Voodoo priest named Papa Jacques and a Spanish (or Mexican … I’m not going to bother to refer to the novel to verify which, because frankly it just doesn’t matter unless you’re an idiot) drug kingpin, named Rico Lomas. These non-exciting side stories add nothing between shark attack sequences but a desperate feeling that you should be able to turn the pages of this novel faster to get to the ending … an ending that ultimately seems to make very little sense.
Oh, and lest I forget, there’s also British charter plane pilot character that’s named after a sandwich that was played by Michael Caine in the film … yeah that character flies around in a plane and does some stuff and BLAH BLAH BLAH!
Honestly, I did read the entire novel before writing this review. These are hours that I will never get back and frankly aren’t even worth discussing. That is how much I enjoyed this novel. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go drop kick this piece of crap into the nearest garbage can. With Jaws The Revenge, author Hank Searls accomplishes one thing, and that thing is proving that you just can’t polish a turd.