Steve Alten has put together a sweeping story from the depths of the Sargasso Sea, Atlantic Ocean to the Highlands of Scotland, from A.D. 565 to 1330 to present day. Zachary Wallace, a marine biologist, the protagonist of Alten’s story is the typical flawed hero with family issues.
Unfortunately, the lack of imagination from the author begins with the names of his main characters: Angus, the father, as a trite name for a Scot, and Wallace, obviously taken from the famous William Wallace, hero of Scottish Independance. It continues with invoking the Knights Templar in the Prologue of the book and an attempt to explain Nessie.
The most interesting parts of the story deal with Zachary Wallace’s interactions with his fellow marine biologists in their quest for cryptozoological creatures and Angus Wallace’s womanizing. Neither of which are expanded upon enough to be a motivation or goal for either character.
Although the title of the book is “The Loch,” that is not the antagonist of the story. If so, one would assume this is a classic Man vs. Nature narrative. Instead, the story is very much a Man vs Self narrative with a flavoring of historical conspiracy theory and monster hunting thrown in as a back drop. A shift in focus several times in the story attempts to make a smooth transition from Man vs. Self to Man vs. Destiny and finally to Man vs. Nature, but the result is a loss of goal for the hero.
Alten’s dialogue is one of the saving graces of “The Loch.” His typical Scottish brogue is entertaining to read, but must almost be read out loud to understand in some cases. The banter between father and son is easy to read and quickly moves the story along. But, the use of the first person narrative detracts from the overall feel of the story and would possibly be better served by another point of view.
Finally, at the beginning of the chapters, Alten adds first hand accounts and eye-witness quotes regarding the “Loch Ness Monster/Nessie.” These accounts are most likely included to add to illusion of the monster haunting Zachary Wallace, but their inclusion belong in a cryptozoological anthology as they do not add or enhance the overall story of “The Loch.”
I give this story two flags, one for dialogue, and one for the effort.