“Vostok” by Steve Alten Review

VostokVostok

Author:  Steve Alten

Released:  2014

I can’t really review this book without spoiling the twist half way through the book, because the twist jades my entire overview of the book. Spoilers follow throughout the review.

Vostok is a sequel to The Loch which is Steve Alten’s novel about the discovery and conflict with the Loch Ness monster. It fits right in with his Meg books about giant prehistoric killer sharks. Vostok also ties into the Meg books with those books main characters showing up here as well. Here Zachary Wallace (the main who bested the Loch Ness monster) is unhappily married and in financial troubles as the main attraction for Loch Ness is no more. He’s approached by some scientists who want to use him to help gain funds and notoriety for an exploratory mission to Lake Vostok in Antarctica. Lake Vostok is much like the Marianas Trench is in Meg, a never before visited by man ecosystem that may be home to prehistoric giant animals.

Once Wallace and crew get down to the ice in Lake Vostok through the use of some nifty lasers, the giant monsters start showing up, including giant crocodiles and moby dick whales. I was all on board until the true reason for the mission showed up, which was a source of infinite power and possible proof of alien visitation on Earth. What follows is at first a sequence straight out of Edge of Tomorrow, followed by a sequence of close encounters of the third kind, then followed by a seven year time jump.

My enjoyment of the first half of the book were fairly standard for Alten’s writing. I enjoyed the mission to Antarctica, and was hoping to see more giant sea monsters but the amount present was adequate. However even before the big time jump and alien encounter I could see the writing on the wall that Alten was going to go a little crazy with his plotting on this one. As much as I enjoy his writing, I’ve noticed a trend to take simple stories and overcomplicate them with big ideas that should probably have their own book to flesh out.

The big time jump here is followed by about 8 pages of exposition about how the world and all the characters have changed since Wallace’s encounter with E.T. Almost immediately afterward, Wallace is drawn back into another mission into Lake Vostok, and the entire thing feels very rushed to the point that nothing that follows (including the deaths of several major characters) feels even a little bit in danger of really sticking. The big ideas that follow aren’t terrible on their own (including explanations for the existence of life on Earth, the cause of our planet’s next ice age, and who the aliens are) but are mostly relegated to the simple idea of here’s something wild that the United States government is using to protect oil consumption.

I think the ambitious swing here worked a bit better to me than Nightstalkers (the fifth book in the Meg series) which also tied directly into Vostok but in a more rushed manner. My ideal Alten book is the more streamlined version without an additional plot that is more ridiculous than a prehistorical sea creature eating people also shoehorned in.

3 star

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