Thursday, September 4, 2014

Big Ass Shark review

    Big Ass Shark has one of the best titles I've seen in recent years. It's a rare title that manages to explain everything you need to know about a book in three words. Big Ass Shark says what the book is about, shows you the author has a sense of humor, and is pretty damn memorable. All of the authors I've talked to have said the important quality of a title is to be something which sticks in your head long enough you can order it at the bookstore (or online).

    Big Ass Shark certainly has a title which does that.

    The premise of the book is self-explanatory. There is a shark, which is extremely big. One might even say big-ass. What is surprising is this particular example of the species is not the kind of underwater assassin depicted by Jaws and its imitators. I went into this book expecting a slaughterfest like Deep Blue Sea and got, instead, a book which treats its titular creature with respect.

    Way to surprise me Briar Lee Mitchell.

    The premise of the book is Misty Witlow, an adorkable young aspiring actress in L.A (which the book lampshades is a group in the millions), spots the world's largest shark just off a beach where she's filming a video message for her mother. After causing a minor panic, Misty becomes the darling of the science community due to both her footage and the tooth which proves the continuing existence of megalodons.

    A lesser writer would have left it there with the big ass shark (called "Ghostie" in the book) preying on unsuspecting humans it's decided to make its prey. There's even a wild theory by one of the scientists that Ghostie could have been preying on humans for a long time but no one would notice because it wouldn't leave any survivors. A media frenzy begins as everyone flocks to capture or kill Ghostie..

    Where the book could have gone right, Briar Lee Mitchell chooses to go left. At the end of the day, Ghostie is not a monster. She's not even a feral or deranged shark. No, she is simply an animal. While there is much terror about what Ghostie can potentially do, the only victims of the shark turn out to be those individuals who deliberately antagonize the animal or present itself in a way which can be mistaken as prey.

    In other words, just like in real-life.

    Big Ass Shark is an environmental parable masquerading as a horror novel, a very good horror novel, with a side bit of mass-media satire. Ghostie is interesting and captures the public's attention, though it's implied it wouldn't last for more than a week, which creates a circus around the creature.

    People want to capture, kill, or simply harass the shark to the point they're putting themselves or those around them in danger. Misty Witlow, showing more environmental conscience than most, is horrified when some moronic would-be poachers kill whales to try and lure the massive beast out.

    I don't agree with all of the book's premise. The ending of the novel implies it is better for humanity to avoid studying the environment if all human beings can do is destroy it but I believe education is one of the best ways to make sure our world survives for future generations to appreciate. Still, I have to say I'm pleased that there's a "shark novel" where the author is squarely on the side of the shark.

    While not a perfect novel, I really liked Big Ass Shark. The protagonist is a fun heroine with a sense of humor and likable personality. I wouldn't mind being friends with someone like her in real life. I approve of the environmental message and enjoyed the dramatics surrounding Ghostie's discovery. In short, I like this book and recommend it to both horror fans as well as those who love sharks. Here's hoping we'll be seeing Big Ass Bear or Big Ass Squid sometime in the near future.


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