Alten, Steve 1959–
Alten, Steve 1959–
PERSONAL: Born August 21, 1959, in Havertown, PA; son of Larry and Barbara Alten; married Kim (a physician's assistant), June, 1992; children: three. Ethnicity: "Jewish" Education: Pennsylvania State University, B.S., 1981; University of Delaware, M.S.; Temple University, Ed.D., 1988. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Matthew Snyder, Creative Arts Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Worked as a self-employed water purification systems salesman and general manager of a wholesale meat plant.
Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997, revised edition, Tsunami Books (Mayfield Heights, OH), 2005.
The Trench, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Meg: Primal Waters, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
Domain (first novel in "Domain" trilogy), Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
Goliath (first novel in "Goliath" series), Forge (New York, NY), 2002.
Resurrection (second novel in "Domain" trilogy), Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
The Loch, Tsunami Books (Mayfield Heights, OH), 2005.
Author of screenplays, including Stranglehold (thriller), Shades of Grey (drama), Mintz Meats (comedy), Papa John (television drama), and Harlem Shuffle (comedy).
ADAPTATIONS: Meg has been recorded on audiocassette by Bantam Books Audio, 1997, and film rights to the novel were sold first to Disney, then to New Line Cinema.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Steve Alten attained popular success with his first book, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror. Meg presents a thriller plot about a massive prehistoric shark, Carcharodon megalodon, that has survived into present times. The megalodon, described as significantly more powerful than a Tyrannosaurus rex, is first sighted by the novel's hero, Jonas Taylor, while he performs a covert diving operation in the Pacific Ocean. As the sole survivor of that operation, Jonas is haunted by thoughts of the giant shark, of which he only caught a glimpse. Years later Jonas becomes an authority in paleontology and remains obsessed with the megalodon. Through both the encouragement of an old friend and the rivalry of a submarine pilot, Jonas eventually determines to return to the creature's habitat.
The enormous megalodon, weighing twenty tons and possessing a jaw span of nine feet, comes to the water's surface. A nuclear submarine, an old destroyer, and a helicopter are called upon to battle the monster as it consumes or destroys everything it encounters. Jonas, despite being inside a mini-submarine, ultimately finds himself a victim of the shark and its seemingly insatiable appetite. But the hero proves resourceful in amazing and unlikely circumstances.
Although a few critics dismissed Meg for its unbelievable plot, others accepted the novel as light entertainment. Richard Ellis, a reviewer in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, described Meg as a "stepping-stone to a Hollywood extravaganza with expensive special effects, throbbing music, and plenty of blood." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Meg "hellishly riveting."
Alten followed Meg with a sequel, The Trench. Although he had a two-book deal with Doubleday, the publishing house chose not to publish this second installment, and Alten won a lawsuit that ended with a cash settlement and full ownership of the novel, which he had originally titled Fathom. This story features Jo-nas in pursuit of Angel, Meg's deadly offspring. He chases the shark to its home in the Mariana Trench—the site of the earth's maximum ocean depth. Meanwhile, Jonas's wife, Terry, goes to the trench to try to uncover a plot to arm terrorists with nuclear fusion materials. "Alten can still write a mean giant prehistoric shark scene," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The reviewer concluded that "when Angel rolls back her eyes and opens her jaws for the kill, readers will remember with a thrill why they picked up this novel in the first place."
At the opening of Meg: Primal Waters, the third book in the series, eighteen years have passed, but Angel still rules the seas. Jonas, now sixty-three and fading professionally and financially, takes a job as commentator for a television reality show called Daredevils. He and his teenage daughter, Dani, fly to the South Pacific to shoot an episode of the show. The shark attacks in this book occur against a backdrop of Jonas's personal life and difficulties and the motives of a character who wants him dead. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the shark attack scenes are the story's "powerful muscle … numerous and exciting and, toward the end, inter-cut as frantically as an MTV video."
Alten's Domain, the first book of a trilogy, is set in the year 2012 and concerns an ancient Mayan forecast of world apocalypse. Archaeologist Julius Gabriel and his son Michael, a paranoid schizophrenic incarcerated in a Miami prison, have deciphered the Mayan glyph writing that details the coming global catastrophe. Michael must convince his psychologist to release him so that he can go to Mexico to do battle with the alien plumed serpent, who awaits him in the jungle. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the book as a "ripping space-age yarn" that serves as "the perfect springboard for what is set up to be a continuing series grappling with sweeping, 'Star Wars'-like themes."
In Resurrection, book two of the "Domain" trilogy, Michael's wife fulfills the Creation Myth of the Mayan Popl Vuh when she gives birth to twin sons. Six years later, however, one boy dies inexplicably, and the surviving brother, who harbors a dark secret, withdraws into grief. Not until twenty years have passed will the brother, Manny, finally confront his fate.
Alten described his 2002 book Goliath on his Web site as "20,000 Leagues under the Sea meets 2001: A Space Odyssey as a madman holds humanity hostage aboard the most lethal killing machine ever constructed." Goliath is the first installment in another series by Alten. As the story opens, the stealth-like American submarine Goliath, under the command of Russian computer scientist Simon Covah, attacks the American aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Simon's goal is to destroy nuclear stockpiles around the globe in order to save mankind. Heroes male and female attempt to thwart Simon's plans and to control the HAL-like supercomputer, Sorceress, that takes on a life of its own after being hit by lightning. A Publishers Weekly reviewer made comparisons to Tom Clancy thrillers and classic science fiction adventures, concluding that Alten gives readers "much to think about, morally and politically, in a world haunted by weapons capable of universal destruction."
Alten once told CA: "I have always enjoyed reading action novels and wanted to become a writer. I wanted to write about subjects that would hold a reader's attention. The story has to be fast-paced and fun, but believable. My writing process begins with a basic concept and expands as I research the subject. The storyline is developed from research. My primary motivation when I wrote Meg was to earn money, as my family and I were struggling financially at the time. Meg was written at my dining room table from ten o'clock at night to four o'clock in the morning over one year."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1997, Ray Olson, review of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, p. 1364; June 1, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of The Trench, p. 1788; June 1, 2002, Michael Gannon, review of Goliath, p. 1677; June 1, 2004, George Cohen, review of Meg: Primal Waters, p. 1670; April 1, 2005, Michael Gannon, review of The Loch, p. 1324.
Entertainment Weekly, June 20, 1997, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, p. 64.
Hellnotes Newsletter, October 22, 1999, Garrett Peck, "Steve Alten: Swimming in Shark-Infested Waters."
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1997, review of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, p. 568; May 15, 1999, review of The Trench, p. 736; December 15, 2000, review of Domain, p. 1719; June 1, 2002, review of Goliath, p. 752; December 15, 2003, review of Resurrection, p. 1429; April 1, 2005, review of The Loch, p. 365.
Library Journal, May 1, 1997, Marylaine Block, review of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, p. 136; June 1, 1999, Rebecca House Stankowski, review of The Trench, p. 170; February 1, 2001, Rebecca House Stankowski, review of Domain, p. 124; June 15, 2004, Rebecca House Stankowski, review of Meg: Primal Waters, p. 56.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 20, 1997, Richard Ellis, review of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, p. 2.
Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1997, review of Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, p. 56; June 7, 1999, review of The Trench, p. 72; January 15, 2001, review of Domain, p. 53; May 27, 2002, review of Goliath, p. 42; January 12, 2004, review of Resurrection, p. 42; May 31, 2004, review of Meg: Primal Waters, p. 50.
Science Fiction Chronicle, August, 1999, review of The Trench, p. 44.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1999, review of The Trench, p. 182.
Absolute Write, http://www.absolutewrite.com/ (September 22, 2006), Owen Hollifield, "Interview with Steve Alten."
Steve Alten Home Page, http://www.stevealten.com (September 22, 2006).
Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (September 22, 2006), Claire E. White, "A Conversation with Steve Alten."