It’s 1945. The Nazis have just lost World War II. Hitler has committed suicide, and the remaining leadership is scattering to the four corners of the world to get away. One of the many is a scientist named Ernst Kruger, a scientist with the Third Reich. He’s created what he believes could be the greatest weapon ever, the “Der Weisse Hai”, or “The White Shark” in English.
Alas, the U-boat Kruger and his weapon are on is spotted by an American airplane, and while diving to get away, the submarine implodes due to a bad welding job, so, as you would expect, the greatest weapon ever ends up on the bottom of the ocean, just waiting for someone to come along and find it. Fast forward to current day, where two divers happen upon it while testing an underwater communication device, and release the contents of the bronze case the “weapon” is packed in. It’s really hungry. Bad things happen to the divers, as you might guess.
Meanwhile, the protagonist of the story, Simon Chase, is having a hard time keeping his marine institute afloat and financially solvent. Little does he realize he is going to have to deal with this ultimate weapon when it comes ashore at his Institute.
As one draws closer to the ending of the novel, you find out what this weapon really is, and how it was made. Without spoiling anything about it, you find out that the Der Weisse Hai is actually a man who’s had some pretty sophisticated, at least for 1945 standards, work done on him to turn him into the unstoppable killing machine he has become.
The ending of the novel is a non stop action sequence that requires Chase to trick the creature into a decompression chamber to finally stop it.
In White Shark, Peter Benchley manages to take the improbable and spin it into a story that seems like it could be believable enough. The monster, as the antagonist in the story, is by far the shining star in a cast of mostly otherwise forgettable characters.
The author once made a comment along the lines of how he regretted writing his most famous novel, Jaws, because of how it slaughtered both the reputation and population of the Great White shark. In this novel, he takes a very similar idea from Jaws, that of a non-stop killing machine, and turns it into a man, or at least some semblance of what once was a man. The reviewer found it interesting that the main conclusion that was taken from this story was that man is by far more dangerous than a shark ever could be.
If one is looking for a fairly fast, entertaining story that does not require too much thinking, then this would be highly suggested. It is just one of those books that one can pick up and enjoy without having to worry about highly intricate plots and a bevy of confusing characters to have to keep up with.
White Shark is available at the Howard County Public Library. Copies are limited, so if it is unavailable, ask at the front desk to be placed on the waiting list for it.
In addition to serving as an associate librarian with the Howard County Library, Nicole Tracy has years of experience in literary fields. She writes an exclusive weekly column for The Nashville News.