Columns > Published on August 10th, 2018

Primer: What You Need to Know About Steve Alten’s ‘Meg’ Series Before Seeing the Movie

Today Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg swims into theaters, based on Steve Alten’s bestselling Meg series about Carcharodon megalodon, an extinct (OR IS IT???) shark species that could grow up to 100 feet long. There are currently seven books in the series: 1997’s awesomely-titled Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (recently republished with the 2011 e-prequel Meg: Origins), followed by The Trench (the only Megless title, and digitally released as The Trench: Meg 2) in 1999, then Meg: Primal Waters, Meg: Hell’s Aquarium, Meg: Nightstalkers and this summer’s Meg: Generations, with the upcoming Meg: Purgatory announced for next year. Alten, a doctorate of sports administration turned voraciously prolific wordsmith, doesn’t appear to have any plans to slow down.

The Meg is loosely based on the first book (excuse me, novel of deep terror) in the series, with Alten cheerfully signing off on the changes to the source material. Here we’ve got new characters, newly named old characters, a no-longer-albino megalodon and an entirely different backstory explaining protagonist Jonas Taylor’s PTSD. But even though the film diverges wildly from the book that inspired it, it might still help you to know the following about Alten’s Meg series before you watch Jason Statham wrestle a giant prehistoric shark on the silver screen.

They’re Fun

Alten’s writing tends to the prosaic and weirdly sexist (boyyyyy, is Jonas Taylor’s wife a real piece of work! Fortunately, she's been completely updated in the film, as has the book's character Terry, whom Book Jonas derisively calls "Gloria Steinem." The movie is much better about this stuff). But while these books might not be **pushes glasses up nose, over-enunciates** highbrow literature, there’s no denying they're a blast. The chapters fly by, the energy is propulsive and the premises are uniformly intriguing, from Meg’s deep sea dive redemption story to Primal Waters’ daredevil reality TV plot. And Jonas himself is undeniably compelling, the sort of terse, grizzly antihero with a heart that Statham was born to play.

They’re Scary

While Alten may not adequately sell romance or profound human sentiment in these books, there’s one emotion he’s very good at generating, and that’s fear. Meg opens with an account of the Meg back in her Late Cretaceous days. A Tyrannosaurus rex stalks a couple of hadrosaurs into the surf when “a six-foot gray dorsal fin rose slowly from the sea, its unseen girth gliding silently across their path.” Soon the T. rex gives up on the hadrosaurs because it has bigger fish to fry, and we’re treated to a completely gnarly T.rex vs. Megalodon battle that ends with this note-perfect sentence:

A moment later the dinosaur surfaced again, drowning in its own body fluids as its rib cage crushed and crumbled within the powerful jaws of its still-unseen hunter, its gushing innards strangling it to death.

GUSHING INNARDS STRANGLING IT TO DEATH. These books rule.

They’re Science-y

Look, I’m not a scientist. The only science class I took in college was called “Science For Liberal Arts Majors.” But these books seem very scientific! There’s tons of paleontological speak, a litany of jargon matched only by the lovingly rendered technical specifications of submarines. Alten goes to great lengths to establish that Megs could still exist in the deep recesses of the ocean, of which we know less than we do outer space. He reminds us in Meg’s preface that dead sharks sink, their carcasses eaten and dissolved, and that less than 5% of the world’s oceans, and less than 1 percent of the deep abyss, have been explored. I’m convinced! Megalodons exist and we need Jason Statham to kill them!

They’ll Make GREAT Movies

One chapter into Meg and I couldn’t wait to see The Meg. Having now flown through the series and cheered my way through the ridiculously fun film, I already can’t wait for any sequels that Hollywood wants to throw our way. This is fun, silly, thrilling stuff, and as big as Carcharodon megalodon feels in my imagination, she's even bigger on that big ol’ screen.

Get Meg at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Meredith is a writer, editor and brewpub owner living in Houston, Texas. Her four most commonly used words are, "The book was better."

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Freeimages.com Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Learning | Free Lesson — LitReactor | 2024-05

Try Reedsy's novel writing masterclass — 100% free

Sign up for a free video lesson and learn how to make readers care about your main character.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: