Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974)


L: 7/10

M: 4/10

Analysis from a dried-out highlighter, in a forgotten drawer, in an abandoned house, in an unpopular ghost town.

Have I ever seen the movie this 70′s book was based on? I’m not entirely sure, yet visions of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw flashed in my brain as I read these pages. When getting out of any body of water, even a small pool, the fear of a shark closing in on me was engrained at some point, so surely I must have at least seen pieces of the film at some point.

What I’m not so sure of, and what stuck with me after finishing this book, was the strange middle section. A bored wife cheats on her bored husband, the New England mafia puts out a hit on a house cat, and a huge fucking shark is forgotten. All the writers working to turn this pulp into a summer blockbuster must have looked at this section and quickly blasted it with red ink into oblivion.

The bloody action pieces of meat that sandwich this confusing, yet well written, middle portion are so fast-paced and thrilling that it led to some heavy forgiveness. This book created one of the biggest monsters (natural disaster?) movie franchises. Ever. It’s not hard to see how these pieces came together, only to be savagely ripped apart by this summer slasher of a book.

Analysis from an Ambien guzzling relic:

I’ve seen the movie countless times and was so excited to read the book where it all began. I think it’s safe to say I’m a little disappointed. Though it seems unfair to compare a handful of tangible pages to the life-size beast that has been on screen before me, it still left me wanting. If I judge the book solely on its merit alone and not the fuss of Hollywood that followed, I would give it a solid 4 and never think of it again. It reads like a quick summer book you pick up on the way to the beach (maybe not recommended) and finish in a day or two. There’s a love triangle never fully developed and a quick unrelated nod to the mafia that leaves questions you aren’t quite invested enough to ask. The star, of course, of the show, is the shark. He bursts onto the scene at the beginning of the book, and then it’s not until the end that you really see much of him again. Suffice it to say he was the best part, and while I might have given it a 2 if asked in the middle, the book’s end earned those last couple of points. The ending was surprising yet fantastic and left me satisfied enough to call it a day and plan a Jaws viewing party.

peter benchley on jaws.png
Peter Benchley

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