Space Sharks by Alan Spencer
My rating: 3/5 cats
this book does not waste any time. i’m spoiler-tagging this only because it’s a huge chonk of text, no book is spoiled by revealing what happens on page five:View Spoiler » Ram Rogan was jolted awake by the rush of broken glass and the colorful burst of hot flames blasting into his bedroom. His curtains were nothing but fluttering particles of ash by the time his eyes sprang open. The walls were being chewed through by hot flames. Everywhere, fire!
The recent warnings in the news were correct. The world would soon be on fire, and absolutely nothing could quell the flames. The pollution crisis had reached critical mass. The atmosphere had turned toxic. The earth had a reset button, and it had been pressed hard. Temperatures beneath the earth’s crusts were steadily rising. Scholars and naturalists alike predicted the earth would turn against its inhabitants anytime now. Nobody knew it would be an overnight transition from safe to fiery abyss.
We still had time, every scientist proclaimed. Years, decades maybe, every mode of media had promised.
They were lies.
The earth had no time left, and everybody was going to burn.
Ram wasn’t going to let himself die without a fight. The earth had made its choice, and now he had choices of his own to make.
By the time he put his shoes on and made a dash for the living room, the bedroom was reduced to a fiery death inferno. His Samoan butt retreated to the front door for escape.
All the living room windows suddenly burst. Jet-burner streams of fire bathed his domicile. His collection of NFL trophies as the quarterback of the St. Louis Rams were melting into something morbid looking. Everything was burning bright. He could hear screams throughout the building as people were being cooked alive. The reek of scorched flesh tainted the air. Ram coughed against the acrid, black smoke that filled his lungs.
Nobody was going to make it out alive. Still, Ram had to try and survive. His basic human instincts kicked into serious overdrive.
Roast or run.
Ram chose run.
He plowed into the hallway with flames licking at his back. The long length of doors into other apartments were actively ablaze. Smoke was pouring through the cracks, reducing visibility. Fires were downgrading the walls into kindling. Explosions, like bursting gas lines, rocked the property outside.
Things didn’t appear to be safe inside or outside.
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EVERYWHERE, WORDS! i suppose i could have appreciated the bracketing echo of Everywhere, fire!/Everywhere, death, if, a few sentences down from the paragraph-ending Everywhere, death lament, he hadn’t then tripled down on the theme:
“It’s raining acid! Don’t go outside! God help us! Death is everywhere!”
everything you need to know about this book is right there in its opening sequence—the repetition, the short declarative sentences, the fact that, buried in that passage is the detail that our protagonist is a footballer named ram who played for the rams and this detail is never addressed further, so it just becomes another example of repetition.
it gets points for economy of prose and not wasting too much time on exposition, but between the lazy editing, lazier science, and laziest character logic, it’s a messy book, both in its writing and in its knee-deep entrails. it’s an absolute gorefest, but it’s somehow not pulp ENOUGH to be as fun as it could be.
still, it has its moments.
The only thing left of her supple body after the devouring were her implants.
long story short, ram lives through the world’s destruction by a stroke of good luck—the 1%, with the foresight of Globo Corps, are prepared for this cataclysmic event; there’s a planet waiting for them to repopulate, and a spaceship coming to pick up all the genetically and financially blessed folks who have purchased a beacon to summon it.
“You each have been selected to be delivered to Second Earth on our vessel, The Redeemer. Through Globo Corps’ selection process, you have been specially chosen by lottery, class, contribution to society, and special vocations and skills. You will be needed to ensure what happened on Earth does not happen on Second Earth. We must ensure the future of the human race by learning from our previous mistakes. Globo Corps has brought you all here to do just that.”
one of the chosen has already suffered too much damage to live, and, half-melted, he thrusts his beacon upon ram, begging him to protect his daughter and get her safely aboard the vessel. which he does, although she will be dead in less than twelve pages. which is not entirely ram’s fault, as he is tased and dragged off for questioning posthaste because trespassing stowaways are unwelcome.
unfortunately, there are already a bunch of crazy religious terrorists stowing away, not to mention all the creatures who got sucked up into the ship via the “hundreds of thousands of gallons of water” funneled in from the gulf of mexico. this water is used in conjunction with a super fluid called “Hydrolyne” which acted as fuel, coolant, and a source of energy to propel the Redeemer, and anything unlucky enough to be sucked up along with the sea water is chopped up by filters and shouldn’t be a problem.
except not everything has been chopped up, and the hydrolyne seems to be having an unusual effect on the marine life that slipped through the cracks, making them bigger, stronger, and more aggressive.
There weren’t just sharks mixed up in the mess. There were many types of sharks. Bull sharks. Thresher sharks. Blacktip sharks. Great white sharks. Tiger sharks. Lemon sharks. Fine tooth sharks. Hammerhead sharks. Mud sharks. The population of sea life didn’t stop there. There was also fish, like salmon, rainbow trout, bass, carp, blue gill, and barracuda. Every once in awhile, a squid, or a sea otter, would also appear.
Joslin started to enjoy the game of spotting living things in the pink tubes. That was until they noticed one disturbing detail about the aquatic life.
Mooch and Joslin reeled at the sights.
They panned in closer on the camera to get a real close view. The digital camera displayed the images on their control panel screens with alarming clarity.
There were many sets of gnarly teeth.
Everything had crazy choppers.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Mooch said. “Sharks have crazy teeth to begin with, but this is insane!”
Joslin agreed. “It’s like they have more teeth, too, and they’re so jagged. That bull shark’s got at least two hundred teeth. I mean, how? Good God, they’d rip right through you. Our flesh would be like butter to those things.”
the gulf of mexico apparently enjoys a more robust biodiversity than i’d realized, but why all those creatures were hanging out together by the shore or why clearing the beach so that more than ninety semi-trucks could extract hundreds of thousands of gallons of water didn’t cause any red flags to go up is not our concern. nor should we spend much time unpacking this passage:
“That’s another thing I don’t understand,” Mooch said, trying to get a grip on his nerves. “We’ve chopped up ten tons of trash, debris, and even dogs, cats, and a few dead homeless people. It’s like the fish are stronger than the filter’s suction, and they’re consciously fighting against it.”
i’m sure there are PLENTY of dogs, cats, and homeless people swimming around in the gulf of mexico.
anyway, back to ram. the president of Globo Corps is very unhappy that ram has made it onboard, ruining his racial pie chart:
“How can he change anything? He’s one man.”
“He’s Samoan! So much planning, and for this to happen? It’s bad enough a lot of people who were supposed to be on board didn’t make it. The catastrophe was unpredictable. We had it down to the month, but not to the day. This project was supposed to be re-starting society from scratch.
We’d have sixty-three percent whites, twenty-eight percent blacks, and nine percent other. Ram will throw it all off. He’s Samoan. He’ll mate with every pair of female legs in the place, and our population will be wrecked.”
the only thing that saves ram from being killed on the spot is his fame—he is immediately recognized by some of the other survivors because even people who don’t follow football remember the face of the man who once killed a terrorist with a football during the superbowl. yeah. that happened. and was THAT terrorist part of the same cult currently hiding out on the ship ready to unleash hell on these
poor rich refugees? maybe even the BROTHER of the one ram killed, delighted by the unexpected revenge-opportunity? you betcha!
i’m not well-versed enough in samoan stereotypes to understand this guy’s fears (although i do know that mating with a woman’s legs is impractical, else we’d have a lot more dog/human hybrids), but it’s true that ram’s not onboard for long before he does, indeed, begin sexxing. although, to be fair, the world has just ended, he’s seen bunches of melted people, and the situation on the ship keeps worsening, so the whole ‘gather ye rosebuds’ approach is only natural.
some people seek their comforts elsewhere, and for me, the most effective pathos in the book rests here:
Crissy Taylor had been on a strict diet for two years. She had lost one hundred pounds and was considered back to her ideal body weight. But when everything went to shit recently, she decided today was going to be a treat. She would stuff herself silly.
Crissy was standing at the buffet of seafood, high end steaks, and desserts tasty enough to make her cream her pants (as her late sister, Brandy, would’ve phrased anything that tasted good to her) when everything went into chaos. Buffet tables erupted into pieces, flinging food, glass, and hunks of wood in every direction.
The fine dining are was being attacked by water that was rushing, spilling, and blasting into the room. The tidal wave tried to mix everybody together like a washing machine’s spin cycle.
Heads crashed together, killing many instantly. Others were smashed against tables and knocked unconscious. Many bled from the shards of glass mixed in with the water. Blood stained the flowing waters.
Years of strict dieting, and right before she could sink her teeth into a juicy steak, a creamy cake, or dip a piece of crab in hot butter, this bullshit had to happen! Crissy didn’t care if she died. She only cared if she died with an empty stomach. She detested that feeling of empty. Fuck society. Fuck being pretty. Fuck moderation. Fuck this situation! Fuck everybody and everything!
Crissy was in such a rage, when the first shark reared its head up from the water, she didn’t cower in fear. She charged forth in anger. Crissy’s mouth was agape. Her jaw opened. Her mouth was as wide as it could go. Crissy leaped on top of a blue shark, clutched its fin, and bit down on its skin. She tore a piece off of its back. When the blue shark shook her off, and turned around to return the favor, Crissy would quickly regret her decision.
She wouldn’t just die on an empty stomach.
She would die in a stomach.
gather ye creamy cakes while ye may.
anyway, back to ram and his ewe. theirs is a meet-lame:
“I could use a drink. You have anything besides rubbing alcohol in this place?” Ram noticed her nametag read: Buffy King. “Well, Buffy, how about a drink? To Second Earth?”
Buffy realized how he knew her name, and she let out a soft laugh. “How clever, Mr. Rogan. You read my nametag.”
that’s some clunky-ass dialogue, but the main takeaway here is reading = clever.
also, every time i read ‘buffy king,” my brain autocorrected it to “buttfucking.”
the best way to sum up this book is that reading it is like looking at one of those ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ games:
They kept moving up the escalator until they reached the thirty-seventh floor. The escalator directed them onto a circular track made of the softest green Astroturf. The track was surrounded by thick Plexiglass walls showcasing outer space. People talked animatedly, pointing at the views in awe and wonderment. Many were holding wine flutes, beer mugs, and smoking fine cigars…Ernie directed him to the nearest wall. He pointed out the planets among the deep black backing of the solar system. Jupiter. Uranus. Mercury. Saturn.
1) escalator 2) people smoking 3) these specific planets visible 4) astroturf? which wouldn’t be odd, but this ship is supposed to be PRIMO LUXURY, so it seems an odd flooring choice.
this spaceship also boasts a swimming pool, a mall and a food court where chefs are available to cook whatever a person could fancy. it’s basically a cruise ship in space that fails to address the whole “gravity” problem, and seems to think smoking and cooking and all that open flamery in an oxygen-rich environment is a-ok.
and what the hell is an ‘open air bar” on a spaceship?
if you want science and explanations, this is not the book for you.
“The Redeemer is forty stories of cutting edge science. The patrons on this ride only have access to half the ship. The rest is complicated machinery, and a lot of other nonsense that’ll mix up even the smartest guy around.”
in other words, ‘i don’t wanna have to write the hard stuff.’
all of the practical explanations are glossed-over or ignored. here’s what a scientist has to say:
“Why the earth has seemingly heated up and destroyed itself is a bit of a mystery. Sure, pollution and global warming are suspects, but the best hypothesis, my hypothesis, is that the earth was simply on a timer. It’s time has come and gone.”
sure, i mean maybe global warming contributed to the earth heating up, but i’m a scientist and i say “timer.” i also invented hydrolyne and that’s working out great.
anyway, carnage ensues: there’s death by animals, death by terrorists, and then things start to get really weird.
“I don’t understand,” Ram said. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
forget it, jake. it’s shark week.
and now my shark week begins.
review to come
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