Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beast by Peter Benchley

Beast is another tale of a monstrous creature from the deep wreaking havoc on an oceanside community from the creator of Jaws. Substitute giant squid for shark and you get the idea.
Whip Darling is a fisherman struggling to make ends meet in the fished-out waters of Bermuda. When he finds an abandoned raft emitting a distress signal and covered with a mysterious ammonia-scented slime and a curious claw inside these are the first clues to the danger lurking beneath the sea. The claw is subsequently identified by Dr. Herbert Talley, one of the world's leading experts in cephalopods, as being from one of the tentacles of Architeuthis dux, the Giant Squid. And when two young divers are killed while exploring a shipwreck panic Bermuda suffers yet another economic blow as squid scare drives tourists away. Now the quest to kill the squid is on, fuelled by the deceased divers' millionaire father's wrath and money, and Whip is compelled to to play a leading role despite his personal beliefs that the squid should just be left alone.
Although this book is the literary equivalent of sitting back and watching a monster movie on tv (the movie based on the book is frequently shown on the Sci-Fi Network) I like the way the author portrays the squid, writing some chapters from its viewpoint. Though it does feel anger, and is sometimes moved to kill by this emotion, it is in reality just an animal, a hungry scavenger forced to become a hunter, a predator, more aggressive than passive, now that its once plentiful food supply has been depleted. I have always been fascinated by cephalopods (squids, octopus, and cuttlefish) and when I was a little girl I wanted to be a marine biologist and specialize in studying these fascinating creatures when I grew up. Though that was yet another dream that never came true for me, my interest in is still alive and well, and, as well as being a fan of horror movies and creature features, it was fun to spend a summer afternoon and evening with the book and watch the movie afterwards.
An extended version of the movie, with scenes cut out from the original broadcast now restored, is available on dvd. Though the movie takes numerous liberties with the book, for example Whip is made a widower, though in the pages of the book his wife is alive and well, and a navy officer is given a sex change of the nonsurgical variety courtesy of the screenwriter to add a touch of romance, and Whip's daughter Dana who is just a name mentioned occasionally in the book is given a starring role in the movie, and the ending is also changed as well, it is still essentially a longer version of Jaws with a squid instead.

1 comment:

librarypat said...

I have seen this book, may even have it, but haven't read it. Have not seen the movie either. Jaws was enough to keep me out of the water.
I read a similar book or saw a similar movie many, many years ago. I think the title was TENTACLES. I get freaked out much too easily.