The first sentence of any novel is important. Not only does it grab the reader’s attention, but it also affords the author an opportunity to craft something eloquent and memorable.
Many first sentences are so extraordinarily notable they are absorbed into the culture and exist beyond the page. “All happy families are alike,” wrote Leo Tolstoy back in 1867, “and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” With a flick of his quill pen, Tolstoy was able to encompass the entire human experience in one snappy sentence.
Tolstoy wasn’t the only writer with a knack for writing first sentences. Off the top of my head, I can recall plenty of great openers. “It was a pleasure to burn,” for example. Or “If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me.”
Author William Meikle begins his novel Crustaceans with a memorable sentence too: “The whale farted,” he writes. It may not be the politest way to start a book, nor does it exist on the same level as Ray Bradbury or Saul Bellow, but it does kick things off in a lively fashion. And it sure is memorable. Job well done, that’s what I say.
The reason the whale farted, btw, is because it ingested a bunch of over-sized crabs. The critters are using the whale as a taxi to travel up the eastern coast from Cuba, to Florida, to Virginia, and ultimately to New York. Their destination: the abandoned tunnels beneath the streets of Manhattan.
It’s up to the U.S. military, a lone marine biologist, and a boozing down-on-his-luck fisherman to stop the upcoming Crabageddon. “If those things reach Manhattan,” warns Colonel Stack-Stark, “there will be panic and slaughter on the streets of New York.”
That’s okay with me, of course. I bought this book because I wanted to see giant crabs rampaging down Broadway and Wall Street. I don’t want the military to yuck my yum. And I definitely don’t want to read an Anna Karenina-like doorstopper about crabs and infidelity and social mores. I want 10-foot-wide crustaceans decapitating and eviscerating New Yorkers. And thankfully that’s pretty much what I got. I also got a little bit of romance and redemption too.
At some point in the novel, the marine biologist tells the clueless Homeland Security agents that giant crabs have been causing trouble since the 70s. Her history lesson will no doubt put a smile on the faces of informed readers. Guy N. Smith, after all, wrote his first monster crab novel back in 1976.
Many other authors (most notably J.F. Gonzalez) have contributed their two-cents to the crabby sub-genre over the years. Like it or not, the giant crustaceans are here to stay. The only way to get rid of them for sure, says the biologist with a shrug, is to nuke the entire island of Manhattan from orbit.
[Crustaceans / By William Meikle / First Printing: April 2012 / ISBN: 9781626410947]