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Jaws Hardcover – May 31, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Benchley's novel, while better known as the source material for Steven Spielberg's classic movie, has earned its own stripes as a small gem of suspense fiction. With another summer fast approaching, audio listeners may be interested in revisiting the town of Amity, Long Island, and getting back in the water. Erik Steele, a theater and film actor, chomps into Benchley's raw prose with appetite, enjoying every bite of gore and social observation. Making ample use of well-placed pauses and silences, Steele amplifies not only the suspense, but Benchley's surprisingly well-honed characterizations. The experience, of course, is markedly different from Spielberg's film, offering shocks less visceral and more contemplative. A Random House hardcover. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This novel about a rogue shark that terrorizes a beach community hasn’t aged a day since its publication more than 35 years ago. Benchley’s writing is lean and efficient—this is his first novel, and also by far his best—and the story is a solid mixture of small-town politics, mystery, and outright terror. The author positions his protagonist, police chief Martin Brody, as virtually the lone voice of reason in a town filled with people who want to downplay the shark’s presence (so as not to scare away tourists with their bulging wallets); and when the body count starts to rise, it’s Brody who has to find a way to kill the beast, even if it means putting his own life on the line. The familiar characters—Brody, oceanographer Matt Hooper, shark-hunter Quint—are not as likable as they are in Steven Spielberg’s classic film adaptation, but in the context of the novel, they are well drawn and compelling. Those who are familiar with the movie, but not the book, are in for some surprises, and those who read the book way back when should definitely give it another look. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064562
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064564
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (430 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book over the winter break (actually I read it in a day while it rained outside) and I have to say that it was very entralling. Having seen the movie a dozen times over and never getting tired of it, I thought I'd check out the book because a friend told me that the book was different. How different? Well, let's just say that except for Quint (and even he's kind of different in the book) the main characters all seem very different from the characters in the movie. The Chief is not a NYC sophisticate, but is more of a former beat cop whose "dream" was to one day become chief of police in Amity. His wife is not as devoted as she is in the movie. Hooper the shark expert is also somewhat different and this book is interesting because the people are interesting, while the shark is sort of a looming natural threat like a hurricane or earthquake. The basic plot is similar as the washed up corpse of a girl is found on the beach, but then it totally veers off into a different story. And that's a good thing because it felt like I was reading an unpredictable book and not a retread of the movie. I probably would have stopped reading the book if it had been exactly the same as the movie because why bother if you know what's going to happen? I can see why this book was such a major blockbuster as it is quite fascinating to read. The knowledge about sharks does seem very dated (but then a quarter of a century will do that), but isn't that bad. I recommend this book because it is not like the movie in many ways and will surprise the reader and it's almost like a parallel world to the movie version which I appreciated.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Andre (Belmont, MA) on June 26, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's easy to look down our nose at this book today and say it's not great but to do so is to totally ignore the perspective of WHEN it was written. In the early 70s, Jaws was totally original, totally fresh. The point of view from the shark had never been done before and to see it was exhilirating.

I agree with others who pooh-pooh this book for the cheap, soap opera-ish romance between Cooper and Brody's wife; even back then, this wasn't particularly well done, nor did it serve to advance the plot. That's why it was completely removed from the film version, so the movie could focus completely on how do we deal with the menacing shark.

Still, Jaws was and always be one of the great thrillers of all time - both as a book and a movie. Peter Benchely was a master who, ironically, ended up dedicating his life to shark preservation after villifying them with this book. How sad to learn of his passing earlier this year. But everyone should read Jaws! Book lovers and movie lovers alike; it gives us all a great sense of where the truly great stories come from.
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55 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on July 2, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Imagine it's 1975 and you're Peter Benchley. You've just published your first novel, a tale about a nasty shark that is an immediate success. Then along comes some guy named Speilberg, and suddenly its his "Jaws" everyone is talking about.

Talk about sharkbite. Ouch!

Making matters worse is that the book is very different from the movie, in many minor and a few major respects. People reading "Jaws" after seeing the movie may scratch their heads seeing the character Richard Dreyfuss played in the movie having a fling with Roy Scheider's wife, or how differently the final confrontation on the "Orca" turns out.

Steven Speilberg definitely improved upon it, but "Jaws" is still a good book, at times very much so. If you can set aside your memory of the movie and try to read this with fresh eyes, you will find yourself enjoying the book, and perhaps even feel, as I do, a little grateful it isn't just a novelization of what was on screen.

Speilberg had the best take on "Jaws" the novel when he said the characters in it are so unlikable he pulled for the shark. I think Benchley wanted exactly that effect. If so, he succeeds. The central character in the novel as in the film, Chief Brody, is lunkheaded if sympathetic. His wife, Ellen, feels shackled not because of the feminist urges then roiling the social scene but because she's a rich girl who married down and now has regrets about the Hampton cocktail soirees she passed up. The citizens of the town, named Amity perhaps ironically, are so cold-blooded they want the beaches kept open, shark or no, because otherwise they lose their summer trade. The mayor is in with the Mob.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By tvtv3 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When Peter Benchley first met with the editor of Doubleday, he was more interested in getting a book deal for some of his non-fictional pieces. However, the only thing the editor was interested in at that time was Benchley's idea for a novel about a man-eating shark. Benchley had been mulling over the idea for quite awhile. A few years later, the result of that meeting became the novel JAWS, a book that was so popular the rights to the film were sold even before the book was published. The book remained on best-seller lists for 44 weeks and the film-adaptation, directed by a young Steven Spielberg, became the first blockbuster movie, grossing over $100 million at the box office. Currently, the novel remains largely forgotten, overshadowed by the movie. In fact, most people have no idea that the movie is based upon a novel.

Like the film adaptation, JAWS largely revolves around police chief Martin Brody. Brody is a good cop, doing his best to keep law and order, while at the same time making his hometown look as best as possible for the summer people whose tourism keeps the small seaside resort city of Amity, New York alive the rest of the year. A few weeks before the summer season begins, a young woman's body is found half-eaten on a beach. It's no mistake that the girl was eaten by a shark and though the incident was probably a one-time occurrence, Brody wants to close the beaches for a few days as a safety precaution. The elected officials of the city are completely against the idea, especially mayor Larry Vaughan. Believing the attack to be a fluke, the editor of the local newspaper and good friend of Chief Brody, Harry Meadows keeps the story quiet.
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