Review By Richard Ellis

[The following is excerpted from Search for the Giant Squid, by Richard Ellis. Reproduced with permission of the author.]

Peter Benchley's novel Beast was published in 1991, and like all of his "man-eating monster" stories, it became a best65895 seller. Jaws was a blockbuster when it was published in 1975, but it did not enter the stratosphere until it was made into a film, directed by Stephen Spielberg. Before the 1977 release of Star Wars, Jaws was the highest-grossing movie in Hollywood history. Benchley had intended to call his giant squid novel "The Last Monster," but his editors thought that "Beast" would be a better name, and "Beast" it became. (In the novel, however, he has an expert on giant squid write a book called "The Last Dragon."

Just as in Jaws, the book opens with a description of the eponymous monster, lurking in the darkness of the ocean:

It hovered in the ink dark water, waiting.
It was not a fish, had no air bladder to give
it buoyancy, but because of the special
chemistry of its flesh, it did not sink into the abyss.
It was not a mammal, did not breathe air, so it felt no impulse to move to the surface.
It hovered.
It was not asleep, for it did not know sleep, sleep was not among its natural rhythms. It rested, nourishing itself with oxygen absorbed from the water pumped through the caverns of its bullet-shaped body.
Its eight sinuous arms floated on the current; its two long tentacles were coiled tight against its body. When it was threatened or in the frenzy of a kill, the tentacles would...
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