Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, along comes Architeuthis , a giant squid, the eponymous beast of Benchley's latest tale. At an estimated length of anywhere from 30 to 90 feet and armed with two predatory tentacles, a huge, snapping beak and eight writhing arms, each lined with razor-sharp hooks; the giant squid has been wreaking havoc off the coast of Bermuda. By the time the protagonists--Bermuda native Whip Darling and Navy helicopter pilot Marcus Sharp--figure out what sort of beast they're dealing with, Architeuthis has killed five people. As they ponder this carnage, both men remember another scary fish story, Jaws --Marcus recalls ``parents refusing to let their children get their feet wet,'' while Whip proclaims, ``Whenever I hear talk about monsters, I think about `Jaws.' '' This monster, unfortunately, is not nearly as scary as the one they remember so vividly, because the reader comes to know it too intimately. Each time the squid prepares to attack its next unwitting victim, we are given an in-depth, close-up view of the beast, usually in a separate chapter. This technique, used sparingly (as it was in Jaws ), can be a heart-stopper, but overindulged, as here, it robs the narrative of dramatic tension. Worse, the author's own references to his more memorable work only serve to emphasize the weaknesses of his newest. (July)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Jaws revisited, but this time with a giant squid as villain. The Beast eats swimmers and everything else in sight off the Bermuda coast. Benchley contends that greedy fishermen created the condition for the squid's presence. Overfishing the oceans, destroying coral reefs with bleach, using nets and explosives, and trapping protected sea creatures have eliminated the beast's natural enemies. Any aquarium visitor knows the delicious revulsion of watching this boneless, otherworldly creature, and Benchley plays on our reflexes. But unfortunately he hasn't added any new elements to the Jaws' tale. The chase follows the same pattern. Innocent victims are introduced only to perish. And the ultimate showdown is won more by luck than by skill, and really only because of the fortuitous (telegraphed) presence of a most unlikely weapon. If this were more original, it would be lots more fun, but The Beast will be demanded by diehard Jaws fans. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/91.-- Elsa Pendleton, Boeing Computer Support Svces., Ridgecrest, Cal.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
YA-- Small boats are ripped apart, their passengers vanish, divers disappear, and partially eaten body parts are found. Because Bermuda's waters are depleted, Architeuthis Dux (giant squid) turns to the residents and tourists as its primary food source. Whip Darling, local marine expert with a boat for hire; Lt. Marcus Sharp, Navy pilot and amateur oceanographer; Dr. Herbert Talley, foremost authority on the giant squid; and media magnate Osborn Manning, whose two offspring fell victim to the squid, form an alliance to track down and destroy it. Beast is set in an ocean community filled with bumbling officials and red tape. The monster terrorizes the island, gobbling up its citizens and forcing a group of experts to join forces to combat it. Benchley has combined interesting, colorful characters with a surefire plot, producing another of the well-written, well-researched sea adventures at which he excels. However, its similarity to Jaws (Doubleday, 1974; o.p.) lessens its impact. --John Lawson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
At least Benchley (Rummies, 1989, etc.) didn't call it Tentaclesalthough he might have. Seventeen years after Jaws chewed up the bookracks, he now weaves another ripping sea-monster yarn, this one about an Architeuthis dux, or giant squid, menacing Bermuda. Benchley puts a 90's ecological spin on his storythe squid is on the prowl because its food supply has been diminished by wanton overfishingbut at bottom this is just another Jaws retread, opening, as did Jaws, with a night attack by the monster (here, on a castaway sailing couple) and concluding, as did Jaws, with a daylight frontal assault on a ship and crew determined to destroy it. In between, there's no romantic subplot like the one Spielberg discarded for his film of Jaws; the narrative is full- tilt action adventure, beginning with hero Whip Darling, the 41- year-old Bermudan fisherman who identifies the squid from its traces after it kills a pair of young twin divers, children of Manhattan media magnate Osborn Manning. Knowledge of the squid sends Bermuda tourismand Darling's businessinto a nose dive, but when a vengeance-minded Manning, accompanied by a Canadian squid-expert, tries to hire Darling to help hunt the squid, the Bermudian refuses: better poor than dead. He does agree to guide a submersible party, including a journalist and an obnoxious politico, to the squid's most likely haunt, leading to a terrific scene in which the hungry squidstill not fully revealedtoys with the submarine, then cracks it open to enjoy human-on-the-half- shell. Finally, Manning uses financial blackmail to force Darling to the hunt. The extended conclusion, surpassing Jaws's for excitement, seesthe 100-foot squid climbing onto Darling's boat, tentacles and whips flying, eyes glowering, beak chomping, as Manning meets a predictable Ahab-like fate and Darling fights for his life. Although necessarily lacking the shock value of Jaws, this crafty, well-researched, exhilarating semi-sequel, powered by that marvelously demonic squid, who's every bit a match for the Great White, is bound to clamber way high up on the best-seller lists.