"Two Words: Jurassic Shark!"The flagship series of novels by Florida author Steve Alten - except the "flagship" is actually a really, really big Threatening Shark.
— The Los Angeles Times
The series' continuity (by in-universe order) includes:
- Meg: Origins (2011) - an e-book set in 1989, detailing Jonas Taylor's first encounter with the Megalodon.
- Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (1997); a modest bestseller set in 1997.
- The Trench (1999) - set four years after Meg.
- The Loch (2005) - originally a standalone, brought into Meg continuity by its direct sequel. Set between The Trench and Primal Waters.
- Vostok (2015) - sequel to The Loch. Part 1 of the book is set between The Trench and Primal Waters; part 2 alongside Night Stalkers.
- Meg: Primal Waters (2004) - set eighteen years after The Trench.
- Meg: Hell's Aquarium (2009) - set four years after Primal Waters.
- Meg: Night Stalkers (2016) - set six months after Hell's Aquarium.
- Sharkman (2014); initially unrelated to Meg until one of its characters was referenced in Meg: Night Stalkers.
- Meg: Generations (announced for summer 2017) - sequel to Night Stalkers.
- Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (2005); a revised edition of the original novel.
- Meg: Special Anniversary Edition (2015); limited edition hardcover omnibus of a further revised version of the original novel, adding elements from the film version's script, and Meg: Origins.
- Meg: Revised and Expanded Edition (2015); wide release paperback edition of the Special Anniversary Edition, with all the same content.
"Meg" is short for "Megalodon", the name of an actual, over-sized, prehistoric relative of the Great White. (Although its size, strength, intelligent, and probably its ferocity are frequently exaggerated in the books; that, and it glows.) The books detail the adventures of Jonas Taylor (and later, his family), a former member of the Navy who came face to face with the shark while diving in the Mariana Trench, reacted about the way you might expect, and was drummed out of the Navy for allegedly going insane. Later, having become a marine biologist obsessed with proving he isn't crazy, Jonas ventures back into the trench, meets the shark again, and accidentally unleashes it. Terror, thrills, and more all ensue.And we do mean ensue. These books delight in taking their narrative about humans going up against giant sharks everywhere and anywhere they can think of, no matter how crazy, unrealistic, or controversial it may be. Indiana Jones—caliber exploits by members of the human cast tend to be the result, with a Crowning Moment of Awesome or Crowning Moment of Funny, or both, often capping it all off at the finale.The series is also becoming notable as one of Steve Alten's outlets for issuing a Take That! against whomever he's mad at, and there seem to be a lot of them. The result may well qualify as Badass Decay for many readers, and although Steve Alten has improved as a writer tremendously since he wrote the first Meg book, the series has arguably declined in quality as Alten continues to supplement the series that everyone still associates with him.And yet, the series at its peak is affable in its cheesiness to the point of being like an old B Movie—So Bad, It's Good, if you will, and there's just something about a man slaying a shark by letting himself be swallowed and then cutting up the shark's organs using one of its lost teeth or a shark attacking a baseball game, of all things that has the ability to put a smile on readers' faces, even as they shake their heads.A film adaptation has been in some truly memorable Development Hell since 1997 under the now defunct Hollywood Pictures. In the mid-2000s, New Line Cinema held the rights to the series with Jan de Bont (Of Speed fame) and Guillermo del Toro involved. Eli Roth later came onto the project, but it fell through. Principal photography finally began in October 2016, with Jon Turteltaub as director and Warner Bros. releasing the film in March 2018.
The initially unrelated The Loch features another scientist, Zachary Wallace, whose career is nearly destroyed when an expedition to the Sargasso Sea to find a giant squid leads to disaster. Months later, Dr. Wallace, suffering from a crippling fear of the water, is forced to return to his native Scotland in order to support his father, who is on trial for murder and claims the Loch Ness Monster was the real killer. This forces Zach into confronting his own inner demons and, after tracking it down, Nessie itself. The book's sequel brought characters from both Meg and The Loch together, Canon Welding the two series.
Also initially unrelated, Sharkman was made a part of the series when scientist Barbara Becker was mentioned in Meg: Night Stalkers. It features Kwan Wilson, a promising young athlete paralyzed by a car accident, who agrees to a risky treatment involving shark stem cells that could repair his damaged spine. Unfortunately, Dr. Becker's treatment also mutates Kwan into a humanoid shark-like being.
The Meg series contains examples of:
- Anti-Hero: Angel.
- Artistic License – Paleontology: Despite Steve Alten claiming to have done the research, this trope is readily apparent from the first scene of the first novel, where a Megalodon eats a Tyrannosaurus rex that waded into a shallow sea chasing prey. Ignoring the bizarre reasoning for this scene, Megalodon didn't exist until tens of millions of years after the dinosaurs went extinct. They also were not twice the length of the largest Tyrannosaurs, as the novel claims.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Hell's Aquarium, which gives us a 122ft, 100-ton Liopleurodon - a good five times the size of the actual historical Liopleurodon.
- Asshole Victim: More than a few jerks get eaten by the Megalodon and other predators. Could also apply to Angel and her offspring Bela and Lizzy. All are responsible for a ton of death and destruction before getting killed by the Liopleurodon.
- Avenging the Villain: Michael Maren blames Jonas for Celeste Singer's death, which is part of what motivates him in Primal Waters. Allison Petrucci, his assistant and fiancee, has the same goal in Hell's Aquarium, though she's mostly kept in check by her bosses Bin Rashidi and the Crown Prince.
- Big Bad: Angel's mother could be considered the main villain in the first book, though she wasn't outright evil. Benedict Singer serves as the main antagonist in the second book and Michael Maren in the third.
- Bigger Bad: Benedict Singer's organization is backed by an Arab conglomerate, including Osama Bin Laden. In a book published two years before 9/11.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: The two leaders of RAW (a PETA-type organization), could qualify as this in Hell's Aquarium. They form a Big Bad Ensemble with the Liopleurodon.
- Canon Welding: Scientist Barbara Becker debuts in Sharkman and is subsequently mentioned in Meg: Night Stalkers.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Panthalassa Sea and Liopleurodon are both introduced by Michael Maren (though not using those terms) when he and Jonas meet again in Primal Waters, but do not appear until Hell's Aquarium.
- Cool VS Awesome: Megalodon vs. Kronosaurus in The Trench. And a super-sized (read:bigger than a blue whale!) Liopleurodon in Hell's Aquarium.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Averted when Angel faces the Liopleurodon in Hell's Aquarium. Despite the size difference (Angel is 74ft and 50 tons, the Liopleurodon is 122ft and 100 tons) Angel has a significantly more lethal bite and only loses when she's accidentally trapped in the supertanker's netting. Played straight in Night Stalkers when the Liopleurodon and Bela face off. Much smaller and less experienced than Angel was, the Liopleurodon kills her by crushing her skull.
- Driven to Suicide: Bud Harris, a friend of Jonas who's also been sleeping with his wife Maggie. After she's killed by the Megalodon and he fails to kill the shark itself in revenge, Bud blows his own brains out.
- David Taylor tries this when he slits his own wrists in the two months after his girlfriend is killed by Liopleurodon. Fortunately, the wounds aren't fatal.
- Extreme Omnivore: Megalodons will eat almost anything they can catch. However, there is one notable aversion: even Angel's largest male pup, over 60 feet in length and weighing over 30 tons, can't digest a full-grown grizzly bear, as seen in Primal Waters.
- Eye Scream: Angel's mother is blinded via bright light in book 1. Bela is blinded in one eye in Meg: Night Stalkers in a more violent fashion (she gets a shotgun blast in the eye); her eye is later noted as hanging out of its socket after being on the losing end of a battle with a Liopleurodon.
- From Bad to Worse: In Primal Waters an unscrupulous property developer attempts to plant mines to blow up the door of the Meg lagoon, so that Jonas will be forced to sell the land to him to turn into profitable hotels and condos. Unluckily for him, he has no idea that Angel's largest male pup (over 60ft in length and 30 tons in weight) has been lured into the lagoon and is attacking the gate in order to get out. He immediately tries to swim away - then Angel herself shows up...
- Infant Immortality: Averted. In the original edition of the very first book, both of Angel's brothers are killed off, one moments after birth by its mother, the other at just a few days old by a pack of orcas. The Trench has two children dying, one killed by Angel, the other being Jonas and Terry's unborn child, who was stillborn before the events of the book.
- Karmic Death: Michael Maren in the third book is ultimately killed by his own pet Megalodon, Scarface.
- Killed Off for Real: Angel in Hell's Aquarium, at the jaws of the same Liopleurodon that previously killed her son Scarface. The Liopleurodon then kills Angel's daughters Lizzie and Bela in Night Stalkers, and is subsequently killed by David Taylor, but both the sharks and the Liopleurodon have surviving offspring.
- Large Ham: Mac.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Benedict Singer is the biological father of his protege Celeste. Given that he's also her lover, she does not react well to learning this.
- Lost World: The Mariana Trench, and especially the Panthalassa Sea.
- Mama Bear: Averted with the Megalodons themselves. Being alpha predators, Megs see their own young as future competition - Angel's mother devours the runt of her litter of pups shortly after birth. Played straight with the Liopleurodon in Night Stalkers, following the supertanker which captured its pup all the way from the Arctic to California, then battling Angel's pup Bela when she also turns up.
- Meaningful Name: Several of the Megalodons, including Angel (short for "white angel of death") and Scarface (the second-born of Angel's first litter, named by Michael Maren). In addition, four of her daughters are Named After Somebody Famous. Averted with Scarface's nameless brother and Angel's fifth daughter Angelica.
- Meaningful Rename: Mary-Kate and Ashley, two of Angel's daughters from her second litter, are renamed Afra' (Arabic for white) and Zahra' (Arabic word for "bright" or "shining") after being purchased by the prince of Dubai.
- Monster Is a Mommy: A recurring theme in the series. The original Meg gives birth to Angel in the first book before being killed, while Angel gives birth to two male pups at the end of The Trench - one of whom later impregnates her again in time to have given birth to a new brood for Hell's Aquarium. This becomes a major plot point when it turns out that the Megalodon species has evolved to the point where the females inseminate themselves, basically disregarding the males to produce genetic clones of themselves.
- The species of the Panthalassa sea can also do this - the escaped Liopleurodon gives birth mid-way through Night Stalkers.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Four of Angel's five daughters. Runts Mary-Kate and Ashley were named for the Olson Twins. Their older half-sisters are Elizabeth, or Lizzie for short, who is named for Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous "Countess of Blood". Belle, or "Bela the Dark Overlord" (so named for her dark coloration, as she is the only known Megalodon with pigment) is named for American serial killer Belle Gunness.
- Offing the Offspring: Angel's mother devours one of her own sons moments after birth. Flashbacks in Primal Waters have another Meg female doing much the same. Near the end of the book, Angel kills her own older son after mating with him.
- Parental Incest: Benedict Singer and his daughter Celeste in The Trench, Angel and her nameless elder son in Primal Waters.
- Patricide: Celeste kills her own father in The Trench shortly after discovering he IS her biological father.
- Prehistoric Monster: As the series has gone on, more and more of these have been introduced. Aside from the titular Megalodons, there have also been Kronosaurs, a giant Liopleurodon, Mosasaurs and most recently Livyatan Melvillei, an 80ft ancient sperm whale with a lower jaw shaped like an orca's.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Terry Tanaka wants the female Meg that killed her brother dead; she eventually loses her anger at the creature and winds up surviving the book (though the Meg does not). Bud Harris, Frank Heller and Richard Danielson team up to try and kill Angel's mother after the deaths of Bud's lover, Frank's brother and most of Danielson's crew; none of them survive the attempt. More than a few people who lost loved ones to the Meg attempt revenge by proxy, suing the people who tried to capture the beast instead of outright killing it.
- At the very end of Hell's Aquarium, David Taylor makes it clear that he wants revenge on the Liopleurodon that killed his girlfriend. He succeeds in Night Stalkers, but holds no such grudge against its offspring.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Over half of the fourth novel sees David, Jonas's son, try to save/protect his girlfriend from the abyss and their less than scrupulous employers. Near the end it looks like he has succeeded as they narrowly escape the abyss. She is then promptly eaten by the Liopleurodon (by accident no less). It's… jarring to say the least.
- Straw Character: Both left and right.
- Threatening Shark: And even more threatening when they're giant sharks!
- Time Skip: There's an 18-year gap between The Trench and Primal Waters.
- Truly Single Parent: Sharks in general are apparently moving towards reproduction by parthenogenesis. Angel's three youngest daughters (Mary-Kate, Ashley and Angelica) were born this way, and they and their half-sisters Lizzie and Belle are fully capable of it.
- Night Stalkers reveals that the Liopleurodon is also capable of it.
- The Worf Effect: There are many examples in the series where a Megalodon defeats equally large and dangerous predators, but only the opening scene of the first novel qualifies (wherein Meg eats a Tyrannosaurus rex) because the marine reptiles are too obscure to the general public to be this trope.
- The Megalodon Scarface is on the receiving end in the first chapter of Hell's Aquarium. Having spent the previous novel terrorising Jonas and Dani, it is unceremoniously killed by the Liopleurodon to show how dangerous it is.
The Loch books contain examples of:
- Ancient Conspiracy: One is responsible for trapping the largest beasts in the loch in the first place, forcing them to serve as guardians of a silver casket containing the heart of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329.
- Asshole Victim: David Caldwell, a self-promoting hack who mostly relies on stealing other people's work to advance his own position. When Nessie eats him, nobody is upset.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Nessie has grown to over 50 feet long due to being trapped in the loch for so long, unable to escape, mate and die like her ancestors did.
- Break the Cutie: Brandy MacDonald, Zach's love interest, underwent this in the years before Zach's return to Scotland. She's gotten better, but it took some doing.
- Canon Welding: Vostok brings The Loch, formerly a standalone novel, into continuity with the Meg series.
- The Conspiracy: MAJESTIC-12 is the main antagonist of Vostok, not only suppressing evidence of alien life but preventing clean energy sources from coming into widespread use and threatening Big Oil, which is a large source of their revenue.
- Eye Scream: How Nessie dies - Zachary Wallace faces the overgrown Guivre in its own den and stabs through its eye and into its brain with a sword he finds down there. If that didn't finish it off, the creature's flailing, causing it to crush its own skull against the rocky ceiling, did.
- Gaia's Vengeance: The monster goes on a rampage when the vibrations from dynamite, used during construction, set it off. When oil gets into its brain and damages it, she gets even crazier.
- Happy Ending Override: The Loch ended with Zach being happy, famous and married. Vostok, starting about three years later, has he and his family almost bankrupt, and he and Brandy are on the edge of divorce. Fortunately, the time reset at the end lets him regain his wealth and repair his relationship with his wife.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Nessie has developed a taste for human flesh, due in part to its natural food chain being disrupted. Oil is seeping into the Great Glen, and has damaged her brain, causing her to become more violent.
- Lost World: The sequel features Vostok, a six thousand square mile liquid lake, over a thousand feet deep located two-and-a-half miles beneath the Antarctic ice cap, home to Mesozoic life forms long thought extinct. And to something responsible for the evolution of modern man.
- Mysterious Antarctica: The setting of the sequel.
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: Purussaurus, a prehistoric species of caiman, is on the cover of Vostok. And several live within the lake itself.
- Peggy Sue: Zach, during his trip to Vostok, gets seven tries to escape to the surface, each ending in his death; the last time, he's allowed to remember the sixth attempt. When he returns to Vostok again seven years later, following an encounter with his own past incarnation, he returns to the day the book started with full knowledge of the future, allowing him to effectively shut down the Vostok mission and prevent the tragedies that resulted, including the death of his brother-in-law.
- Stock Ness Monster:
- Nessie herself, revealed as the Guivres, a giant species of eel, kin to the Anguilla, or Conger, eel. Others of her species are known to the public as the Bloop, a mysterious noise initially detected in the Atlantic Ocean by the Navy in 1997.
- A Purussaurus egg is transported to the Loch in Vostok and subsequently hatches, becoming a new Loch Ness Monster, nicknamed Plessie, but this is undone by Zach changing history at the end of the book.
- Stuff Blowing Up: How True attempts to kill the Purussaurus he accidentally let loose in the Loch in Vostok, baiting it with a dead cow stuffed with C-4. Instead, the explosives go off early and kill True. Fortunately, this is undone in the final time reset.
- Time Skip: There's a seven-year one between parts 1 and 2 of Vostok.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: A huge part of the story of Vostok, eventually encompassing alternate dimensions and multiple timeline resets as Zach gets repeatedly killed trying to access the alien spaceship.
- Trigger: The events that lead to Zach's near-drowning on his ninth birthday are his trigger, causing him to suffer from fierce migraines whenever anyone mentions them. He eventually gets over this after being forced to confront his inner demons and the truth about that night.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: After the accident in the Sargasso Sea, Zach develops a crippling fear of the water. Like his migraines, confronting his inner demons (and Nessie) causes him to get over this.
- Wife-Basher Basher: Angus, of all people. Johnny Cialino's death came about when he started getting violent with his wife, and she called Angus for help; in the resulting meeting near Loch Ness, the two men argued until Angus punched him hard enough that Cialino stumbled backward, tripped over a tree root and fell backward into the loch. And then Nessie rose up and killed him.
Sharkman contains examples of:
- LEGO Genetics: A key element of the plot, as shark DNA is incorporated into Kwan Wilson, resulting in his transformation into the title character.
- Shark Man: Kwan, the main protagonist, is turned into one.