“Throwing the gun” is an age-old trope of genre fiction. I don’t know exactly when it first popped up (probably in a Western or Detective movie), but I clearly remember reading Action Comics as a kid and seeing criminals toss their empty guns at Superman after running out of bullets.
Thus the term “throwing the gun” represents a character’s ineffective last stand. Or maybe it’s simply an exclamation of frustration. Either way, it’s a visual cue that underscores the dire situation. If you throw a gun at Superman it can only mean one thing—you’re about to get thumped.
A character does indeed throw an empty gun at the half-shark half-tarantula creature in Sharkantula, but that’s not the only genre-defining trope in Essel Pratt’s novel. There are others such as mad science, hybrid monsters, graphic dismemberment, horny teenagers, secret government agencies, creepy amusement parks and many, many more.
Don’t be mistaken, however; this isn’t a criticism from me. Embracing tropes is what genre fiction is all about, and it’s something you should expect from a book that advertises itself as a “B-Movie Novel.”
Wholly self-conscious, Sharkantula is intended for anyone who enjoys 50s-era monster movies and tokusatsu imports. Says the author early on: “Like a scene out of a cheesy Japanese monster movie, the girls dropped their cameras and screamed as Danae (the monster) hovered over them and snapped her jaws down onto their slender bodies.”
Once the hybrid creature is unleashed, it’s up to a daffy scientist and a group of teenagers to save the world (events escalate quickly in these types of stories). “With the hunting prowess of a tarantula and the insatiable hunger of a great white shark, Danae may be unstoppable,” says one of the desperate teenagers.
It quickly becomes apparent that the doctor and his young sidekicks are ill equipped for the job of saving the world. Armed with a collection of dopey weapons (like an aluminum trident, a wooden oar and an anchor prop), the team is hardly imposing. “We look like a rejected superhero group,” they agree. The Fantastic Lames.
In a novel-ending switcheroo, the author introduces a deus ex machina to defeat the rampaging shark. Sometimes described as a gimmick, this hoary plot device nevertheless remains a great way to spring a surprise ending on readers. I wouldn’t expect anything less. Long live genre tropes!
[Sharkantula / By Essel Pratt / First Printing: October 2018 / ISBN: 9781729249185]