Hank Searls JAWS 2 Book Review

I went and scoured all of the local op-shops the other week, looking for a few cheap horror books to read. I ended up finding quite a few that I'd never read before, including this gem which I was expecting to be pretty mediocre but was a surprisingly good read. The reason I only expected it to be average at best was that I've never really liked books adapted from films. But this isn't quite what I expected. It is based on the original screenplay for JAWS 2 written by Howard Sackler and Dorothy Tristan, but was actually released before the movie. And the screenplay was changed a lot before the film came out. While the basic storyline is pretty much the same, there are a lot of differences between the book and the film, and the novel definitely comes out on top. I think the movie would have been a lot better if it had been adapted from the original screenplay.

The story takes place on the small island of Amity, just as in the original and once more revolves around the Brody family. It's been some time since the last shark attack (or 'The Trouble' as the locals refer to it) and the town has mostly recovered from the tragedy. They all know that the shark was killed and they have nothing to worry about anymore. Or do they? There is another menace making it's way through the waters to Amity. Another Great White, but this time it's an even bigger female and she's pregnant. And hungry.
That's the basic plot, but there are a few fairly in depth subplots which are missing from the film version and definitely make this a more interesting story.
After a couple of mysterious tragedies including two divers disappearing and a speedboat exploding, Chief Martin Brody finds a man on the beach shooting at a seal. He's convinced that this man is responsible for the aforementioned tragedies and so arrests him and decides to do some investigating. But it turns out that he's chosen to arrest the wrong man. He just so happens to be an important member of the police, and threatens to jeopardize the construction of a casino which will be the town's saving grace. But Chief Brody refuses to back down. There is also a member of the mafia who holidays on the island and has an interest in the casino, and will do anything to get his way.
The climax of the book is similar to the movie. There is a regatta which has been organised for the children. But once the boats leave the fog moves in, and it's too late to call them back in. Then once the shark is discovered the whole town panics, and Chief Brody has to save his children. The manner in which the shark is killed is the same as in the film, however it is more accidental in the novel.

Hank Searls actually has a bit of a history with maritime themed literature, and so he knows all of the proper terms and the writing is excellent. Even the way the shark attacks are described are great, and more powerful than even the movie could make them -

He had a vision of himself, as if from above, enveloped by a dark shadow from the sea. No thought of a shark entered his consciousness: he'd offended somewhere, this was the hand of God. Mangled and torn, he knew nothing else.

Another aspect I liked was that parts of the story are told from the shark's point of view and you actually get a kind of emotional attachment to her. After all she's just a pregnant mother trying to find enough food and a safe place to give birth to her children.

So even if you've seen the movie and even if you didn't like it, this novel is still worth reading because it is a lot different. And a lot better.


  1. I read this book when I was about 12 and it cemented my heebie-jeebies over sharks, well and truly. The scenes where the unborn baby sharks cannibalize each other, until only the fittest survived, were horrifying to me. I remember enjoying the novel, though.

  2. I think it is definitely more dark and mature than the film, it was a good read. And yes I know what you mean about those parts about the unborn sharks. Kind of creepy, kind of cool.