Book Review: Shark Island by Chris Jameson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks (June 27, 2017)
Length: 320 pages
Author Information: Website
Let’s face it, guys—sharks are so hot right now. Actually, they’ve always kinda been. Ever since Spielberg made Jaws and traumatized a whole generation of moviegoers from swimming in the ocean, the ongoing popularity of books, films, TV shows about these fin-tastic fishes are proof of our obsession. I for one was thrilled when I found out about Shark Island, and literally swept aside about a hundred other books on my TBR just so I could leapfrog this one all the way to the top. My fascination for shark fic is something I can’t really explain, but if you grew up watching cheesy horror flicks and creature features like I did, I’m willing to bet this book will also tickle all the right synapses in your brain.
Our story opens on a beautiful summer day on Cape Cod. College student and aspiring photographer Naomi Cardiff and her girlfriend are sunning themselves on a boat when she notices a large herd of seals on a nearby stretch of beach. Deciding to swim towards them for some close-up shots, Naomi subsequently gets attacked by a shark, which takes off her left leg from the knee down. The incident sparks off a media frenzy and reignites the debate surrounding the seal overpopulation problem, which has been blamed for the increase of Great Whites in the area drawn to their natural prey. The solution ends up falling to a group of Woods Hole scientists who have developed an acoustic signal system that could be used to lure the seals away from the cape, and eleven months later the team is ready for its first trial run.
The result? The signal to attract the seals ends up working marvelously, as thousands of the pinnipeds flock in the wake of the scientists’ boat leading them all up to a secluded channel in Maine. What they didn’t expect, however, was how quickly the sharks would follow. Within hours, they’ve attracted more than few dozen Great Whites, and all around the boat, it’s like:
Now a journalism student, Naomi is also along for the ride, determined not to let what happened to her the previous summer keep her away from the ocean she loves. However, a powerful Nor’easter has blown in, causing torrential rain and massive storm swells. After the frenzying sharks ram and breach the hull of their boat, Naomi and the six other passengers’ only hope of survival is a rusty old watchtower situated atop a tiny piece of rock named Bald Cap. But with the water rising faster than you can say “you’re gonna need a bigger island”, how long can the survivors hold out before the seas swallow up their refuge and let the sharks in to play?
Okay, let’s see what we’ve got. Outlandish premise? Check. Rampaging sharks? Check. Lots and lots of blood and gory death? Check and double check. We’re neck-deep in pulpy, guilty-pleasure reading territory here…and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. In fact, I’d even hazard to say there was probably less cheese than I expected in the story—sure, Shark Island is a book that’s meant to be far-fetched fluffy fun, but I was a little surprised to find it also had plenty of substance, especially in the wonderful and diverse cast. Damn you, Chris Jameson! Damn you for writing sympathetic characters, making me actually care about them before you consign them to their watery, shark-infested graves! When I picked up this book, I expected the usual B-movie style disposable and interchangeable archetypes, but instead you gave me all of these multifaceted and well-realized characters that I genuinely felt bad for as I watched them being chomped up into bloody bits.
And yes, there was a lot of screaming, dying, and limbs getting ripped off. No one is truly safe, so you’re always going to be on the edge of your seat wondering who will be the next victim. So if you’re the kind of reader who just wants to get their gruesome shark porn fix and doesn’t give a fig about anything else, chances are you’ll also be perfectly happy with what Shark Island has to offer. The story is fast-paced and jam-packed with shark action, saving up the grisliest and most intensive heart-pounding moments for the gripping climax near the end.
In any case, if Shark Island sounds like your kind of thing, then it might just well be your perfect summer read. Speaking as someone who enjoys kicking back with the occasional pulpy horror novel about killer creatures running amok, this one seriously hit the spot. When I head up to the beaches of Cape Cod for my vacation later this summer, I’m sure I’ll be thinking of this book fondly from the safety of dry land.