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Jaws Hardcover – May 31, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 477 customer reviews

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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 (477 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
If ever there was proof that some subplots are completely unnecessary, Benchley's novel, Jaws, is it. I must've seen the movie fifty times since it came out, and it is indelibly imprinted on my memory as being one of the most perfect movies ever made. I read the book once shortly after the movie opened and I only vaguely remembered the end scene where Quint is sinking into the depths with the shark. I read the book a second time just these past weeks and found it to be boring, tedious and dreadfully anticlimactic. Like the movie, Benchley's book opens with the fish attacking Chrissie Watkins, and the scene is intense and gory and promises great things to come. But unlike the movie, the book then becomes rife with ludicrous subplots that neither advance the story nor go anywhere in the end: Hooper has an affair with Brody's wife Ellen; Brody suspects it but never confronts Hooper or Ellen or resolves the issue in any way; Mayor Larry Vaughn is mixed up with the mob in some pointless real estate shenanigans (and in the end he just moves away to another town - really? That's it?); a mob enforcer we never see kills Brody's cat as a warning to "be subtle" about closing Amity's beaches, Brody confronts Larry but we never hear of this mob enforcer again (which is great because who cares, but why put it in the book in the first place?). There are even a couple of paragraphs tacked onto the end of some chapters that introduce characters whom we think will end up as victims of the shark but whom we never see or hear of again (the black man whose son wants him to read a bedtime story about sharks is one I can think of that comes out of the blue and goes back into it in the space of a single paragraph - I mean, what happened there? Did Benchley just forget he'd written that paragraph?Read more ›
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