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on 10 June 2012
Firstly, Is it horror? Despite the protestations of one of my dearest friends, "What's scary about a big fish?" I would respectfully submit to you that yes, Jaws is in fact a horror. If you are of the opinion that a masked man stalking teenagers in smalltown America, picking them off one by one is horror; then a man-eating shark preying on unsuspecting bathers off the coast of smalltown America is no different.

For me, if there was a physical embodiment of fear, it's a shark. This is an absolutely primal fear of an animal whose basic design has not evolved or changed in millions of years. Sharks are effectively living fossils, an apex predator so perfectly acclimated to its ecosystem that they have survived for million of years at the top of their food chain. So yes, `Jaws' is a horror novel.

Released in 1974, `Jaws' hit the bestseller lists and stayed there for nearly a whole year.

The author (Peter Benchley) drew his inspiration for this novel from a number of real-life incidents, most notably the 1964 landing of a 2000kg Great White Shark caught off the coast of New York state and the infamous Jersey Shore attacks of 1916.

As stated previously, `Jaws' is the story of a small American coastal town, reliant on summer tourist trade that is preyed upon by a man-eating Great White Shark; and the subsequent hunting of said shark by the town's police chief, an Ichthyologist and the local seasoned shark hunter. Many will already be familiar with the Spielberg film adaptation but I would suggest to you all that the novel is by far the superior of the two.

`Jaws' the novel provides far greater depth to the characters involved with the backstory to Ellen Brodie and the Chief's marriage, the Mayor's shady dealings and other aspects that I choose not to reveal to those who are not familiar with the book. As opposed to the film, the book offers significantly different relationship dynamics for the lead protagonists and a palpable feeling of tension on board the boat that viewers of the film will already be familiar with. Overall, there is a generally darker tone throughout the book and an ending that is poles apart from the distinctly Hollywood finale of the movie.

This is one of my shorter reviews but I fail to see the point in a book review that simply gives the whole plot of a novel away, effectively ruining it for any potential reader!

In my opinion, `Jaws' is an incredibly satisfying read that easily drew me into the world created by Benchley. My only warning with this book would be to save it for dry land; this is not a book you want to be reading on the beach!
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Peter Benchley's Jaws is one of those books I kind of forgot existed, thanks in part to the brilliant film overshadowing it. I saw the film at the cinema a few months ago and it reminded me what a great story it is. The book was 99p on Kindle a few weeks ago so I bought it straight away. I'm glad I read it but I think the screenplay was better and I'm sad to say it isn't a book that has stuck in my head.

I didn't like Brody and Hooper's characterisation in the novel, I thought Brody's wife was insufferable and that there wasn't enough shark action. The beginning started off well with the first shark fatality, but the middle section lagged and I was willing something to happen. Benchley had a tendency to ramble in this book, and to be honest I could have done without it. Saying that, the latter part of the book was tense and exciting and I could finally see where the film got its quality from.

Benchley's knowledge of the sea and great white sharks made for interesting reading, and I liked learning more about this species and it's feeding patterns etc. I'm personally quite terrified of the thought of meeting a great white (I never go near water so that won't happen!) as I'm sure many other people are. Jaws is basically a nightmare of a book and one that would put people off swimming for life!

While I enjoyed elements of this book, and the last quarter in particular, I'm not sure it's one I'd immediately recommend as a random read. I do prefer the film and it's genuinely clever script, though the original novel is an interesting read for fans of the big screen adaptation.
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I am not judging it by high literary standards, but 'Jaws' was made into arguably the first Blockbuster summer film and changed the way that films were made: a big summer hit with mass appeal. It is effectively rather than stylishly written, well plotted with characters more nuanced than in the film, where Hooper and Brody get along famously after their initial mutual wariness. The narrative is basic: danger menaces community, hero/official knows, menace strikes again, hero Brody has to decide whether to Take Measures and imperil the season's trade or keep quiet/business-as-usual but at a fearful possible cost. Recognise the plot? Indeed, it's that nice old Henrik Ibsen, whose 'An Enemy of the People' the story follows. Throw in a REALLY NASTY shark, the ripest of hams as a sea-dog who they hire (Quint, marvellously overplayed by Robert Shaw in the film) and you have a story that'll make you not want to swim in the sea again. Heck, it made me scared to go to Cirencester's open air pool! Very enjoyable
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on 6 March 2010
Peter Benchley's 'Jaws' is a book very much of its time: there are some characters that resonate the recent history of America (Hendricks, a Vietnam veteran with obliviously homophobic undertones- a role significantly reduced in the film). There is also a somewhat mysoginist view of female sexuality (a discussion about sexual fantasies in the book focuses shockingly on Ellen Brody's apparent desire to be raped- that's no way to flirt)... but if you're going to read 'Jaws' for informed social commentary, you've probably picked up the wrong book.

When Benchley isn't concerning himself with domestic issues, class conflict and shady political dealings (something he is clearly interested in exploring in Part Two), he excels at constructing taught, tense sequences that move at such a thunderous pace they are actually heart-pounding. The opening sequence is much what you would expect having seen the film, as is the inevitable finale, but the difference between this book and the unsurpassable movie that it inspired is largely in the characters. A major supporting character is entirely excised from the film (journalist Harry Meadows), the touching connection Brody has with his sons is absent from the book, and Hooper is an entirely different animal altogether.

There are some incosistencies within the book; in the first two acts, Benchley seems unsure whether to follow the shark or the effects it has on the small town leading into an entirely unnecessary and uncomfortable emotional betrayal (it's here that Benchley shows weakness) and also giving too little focus to a subplot about Mayor Larry Vaughan's shadowy mafia connections (perhaps something better left hinted at rather than exposed- I don't entirely understand the point of the cat sequence at all). The book is quite largely devoid of any true wit, something the screen version has in spades. But in the characters of Brody and Quint, Benchley has created something that the screenwriters couldn't avoid. Quint is very much the Ahab seadog we see in the film (if not quite as developed as Robert Shaw's outstanding turn) and Brody is still the conciencious everyman trying to do the right thing, even though it terrifies him.

The third act is rewarding, and equally as gripping as the film's- but it's that screenplay (co-written by Benchley with Carl Gottlieb) that just outdoes it. Benchley was right to make changes for the adaptation, it's simply better. That's not to say that this book is not worth reading. On it's own merits it's a taught little thriller, with some stomach turning depictions of the shark's numerous attacks, and I really relished some of the elements that didn't make the final cut of the film. If unfaithful adaptations are bad, then Spielberg's 'Jaws' would be an awful film. Sometimes changes need to be made, and I think that these two different versions of 'Jaws' should be appreciated in their own right. The novel could've been a little leaner, a little more to the point- but it's those diversions that add to the palpable tension and create an atmosphere of unrest and incredible power in what has to be one of the most grippingly cinematic conclusions to a book I've ever read. Part Three of 'Jaws' doesn't waste a word, leading me to suspect that some of what preceded it was just a bit of padding. Still, when you finally get out on that boat it's just flawless.
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2015
When a 25-foot Great White Shark takes up residence just off the popular bathing resort of Amity sound and starts eating the residents, there is a desperate and perilous race to catch and kill it and save the town from financial ruin before the end of the summer. Will the police chief, along with an eccentric fisherman and a Woods Hole Scientist catch the beast and save the town?

There is no getting away from the fact that Jaws is not a particularly well written book. The dialogue is fairly clunky and a little strained, and even though that linear narrative does zip along nicely and the descriptions of island life are pleasing to a mainlander like me, it does still feel like the work of a very gifted amateur or a talented student. Blockbuster books are rarely great literature, but are usually cracking reads all the same. That said Benchley’s real genius was to concentrate on creating memorable characters like, Quint, Brody, Hooper and Mayor Vaughan, to create an extremely powerful and unforgettable story that had never been told before, it was new and very different, not since Moby Dick (Quint the fisherman does have a passing resemblance to Captain Ahab) had readers faced such a sickeningly frightening and terrifying threat from below the waves. The sheer terror of being eaten alive by a dead eyed monster shark the size of a bus is now so ingrained in the popular imagination, that millions of people around the world are still afraid of the ocean and what might be just below the surface.

Jaws is a tremendously good read and at only 270 pages it really is quite short. My copy from 1975 is only ¾ of an inch thick. The story is essentially a monster movie on the ocean that never tries to anything other than an effective thriller but what turned out to be so much more. Benchley was never able to replicate this success again, and all his subsequent books, although reasonably well received, didn’t have the Jaws magic and have pretty much been forgotten. Peter Benchley had a good idea and ran with it and the public fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The book and the film are quite different, especially the end, so seeing the film shouldn’t mar your enjoyment too much.
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VINE VOICEon 29 December 2010
I don't know why I love this book as much as I do. Peter Benchley's style isn't particularly distinctive, the characters are not especially colourful, and though the idea of revolving the story around the danger posed by a shark is original, the sub-plots are not. Nevertheless, I've read 'Jaws' several times. I was first drawn to the book by the publicity surrounding the film when that was released, but didn't see the film until I'd read the book. While I understand why the film created a sensation, it didn't particularly excite me.

Those who rate the film and not the book are interested in the superficial aspect of 'scary' films and miss the point about the book. It's the same with Dean Koontz's bestselling horror novel, 'Watchers'. In that, the horror consists of a standard 'monster' that makes occasional appearances. What makes the novel great is its characterisation, the way the characters interact and deal with the situations they're in. The same is true of 'Jaws'. The presence of the shark raises conflict and tension, bringing deep-seated instincts to the surface. It is always the characters who make a good story, not the 'monster'; that is merely the catalyst.

The novel contains subplots missing from the film, which is not unusual. Chief Brody is the central character and his multiple problems (marital, moral and political) make him the character most ripe for development as events progress. 'Jaws' the novel is not likely to leave as lasting an impression on any reader as, say, a political thriller by Frederick Forsyth, but it is an entertaining and suspenseful read.
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on 10 January 2014
I have always been a big fan of the movie and before now i'd never really considered the original book.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see such a difference from the movie, which kept all the qualities I came to expect having watched the movie countless times.

There are plenty of sub-plots in the story and a lot of suspense. A very enjoyable read, from the first page to last I was hooked.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who has watched and enjoyed the movie, or even if you haven't!
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on 28 August 2012
This novel, (Jaws by Peter Benchley) was a quick and easy read, but I can't help but feel that I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't seen the classic film before picking it up. Characters you rooted for in the film are less likable here, and the affair sub-plot really does detract from the story - I would even go as far as saying that this particular section of the novel was pointless and long-winded. Prose was clunky in places, (Broady did this, then he did that, then he picked this up, then he read that...etc) and the ending felt rushed and very anti-climactic. The suspence was lost on me for the most part (if you've seen the film, you pretty much know who gets killed by the shark and how.) However, one scene absent from the film, (a boy gets dared to swim in the sea by his friends,) I found to be the most exciting and tense part of the novel.

Despite the negative aspects listed above, I did enjoy the novel overall, with its descriptions of the shark and its 'grin', and the snappy dialogue. I would recommend it to fans of the film, if nothing else than to discover what gave birth to the film in the first place.

Jaws, a book that spawned a classic, but fell just short of obtaining the same accolade.
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There's something happinin here
What it is ain't exactly clear (Buffalo Springfield)

So this is "The" book behind the film. Now let's forget about the film.

I like stories about big bugs, dangerous plants, and was looking forward to voracious sharks. What I got was a love story and a dead cat. I do not like stories where the bad guys have to pick on cats and dogs to show how bad they are. Not even sharks look for cat chow or doggie snacks.

We start out with a great premise of a displaced shark that just needs a kinibble on the way to where ever he is going. There is a consciences sheriff that does not want people feeding the wildlife (especially with their bodies). A standard money grubbing business man that wants the beaches left open.

A few bites now and then "and the search is on" makes for a great read. Then we forget about the shark and the havoc to concentrate on a woman with bodily needs (in very graphic pros.) Back to the shark and again forget about the shark again as the family pet gets dispatched (in very graphic pros.) Then back to the shark and captain Ahab.

Nice ending sort of makes up for the straying off target middle.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
There's something happinin here
What it is ain't exactly clear (Buffalo Springfield)

So this is "The" book behind the film. Now let's forget about the film.

I like stories about big bugs, dangerous plants, and was looking forward to voracious sharks. What I got was a love story and a dead cat. I do not like stories where the bad guys have to pick on cats and dogs to show how bad they are. Not even sharks look for cat chow or doggie snacks.

We start out with a great premise of a displaced shark that just needs a kinibble on the way to where ever he is going. There is a consciences sheriff that does not want people feeding the wildlife (especially with their bodies). A standard money grubbing business man that wants the beaches left open.

A few bites now and then "and the search is on" makes for a great read. Then we forget about the shark and the havoc to concentrate on a woman with bodily needs (in very graphic pros.) Back to the shark and again forget about the shark again as the family pet gets dispatched (in very graphic pros.) Then back to the shark and captain Ahab.

Nice ending sort of makes up for the straying off target middle.
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