Kwan Wilson was a high school basketball star living in San Diego when a tragic accident changed his life in ways no one could predict. He only looked at his phone for a few seconds, but that was all the time it took to crash his car into a telephone pole, killing his mother and paralyzing him from the waist down. After the accident his father, Admiral Douglas Wilson, sent him off to live with his maternal grandmother in South Florida.
Kwan’s new principal, anticipating his depression and isolation, tells him about an internship at a genetics lab in Miami that’s testing shark stem cells on rats in an effort to cure cancer and repair spinal injuries. Kwan declines until he learns that beautiful Anya Patel is an intern at the lab. The good news is that the stem cells are curing their rat subjects; the bad news is it alters their DNA so much it kills them. When a promising breakthrough is made, Kwan risks his life and injects himself with the experimental stem cells altering his destiny and the lives of millions in the process. – Goodreads Synopsis
I loved Steve Alten’s Meg books (at least the 2 I’ve read at this point), so it was easy for me to pick up Sharkman. I assumed it would be a easy thriller read that would keep me entertained and probably give me minor nightmares. Well, it was an easy read and it kept me entertained through the two sessions it took to finish it, but an engaging thriller it was not.
Alten chooses to write this book from the viewpoint of Kwan, a high-school boy who is beating himself up over the decision to text and drive which killed his mother. So, this was a minor sticking point for me right there: His mom was in the car with him, presumably in the passenger side seat, and she let her son text and drive? He hadn’t even had his license that long. What sort of mother would realistically let their just-got-a-license kid text and drive? That makes no sense. Even if he’d had his license for a year, it still wouldn’t make sense! So, as a plot device, it wasn’t a believable one.
Now, as far as I know, Alten accurately portrays the problems with being paralyzed from the waist down, but he seemed really fond of using the kid urinating in his pants (via catheter coming loose or not being inserted) as a reason to embarrass him to push the story along. Kwan’s bladder embarrasses him no less than 3 times in the first chunk of the novel. Could we find something different, please?
Now, once the action really gets started, its a decent enough read, but sadly it never really goes above decent. It stays firmly at the level of “Okay…I’ve read variations of this way too many times.” and never really hits its stride. Everything just seemed too pat. Of course the counselor understands perfectly what he’s going through. Of course he has daddy issues. Of course he’s going… etc., etc., etc. An original piece of dna-altering fiction it was not.
Overall, if you need something to pass a few hours, it’d fit the bill, but it won’t fully engage your brain or leave you wanting more after you’re done reading it. He’s done better work.