Help! Help! A Giant Squid!

One of the things that a pale, befreckled person looks forward to during a beach vacation is reading. Reading on the shady deck in the morning, reading on the couch at midday and reading under an umbrella while out on the sand. And the book that I was most looking forward to reading was one that I’d read nearly 20 years before in nearly the same place.

When I was in graduate school at UNC, I took my only non-Christmas vacation for a long weekend on the Outer Banks to visit with my friend Dave and his folks who were renting a house there.  It was a great time and the book I’d picked up to read was a paperback of Peter Benchley’s 1991 book, Beast.

Let’s be honest – Beast is a barely veiled reconstruction of Jaws, wherein the shark is replaced by a giant squid, the crazy captain is replaced by a sane captain, the American academic shark nut is replaced by a Canadian academic squid nut, and Amity Island is replaced by Bermuda. As thrillers go, it’s actually pretty good if you can keep yourself from comparing and contrasting to Jaws, and I will say that Benchley was ahead of his time in incorporating environmental themes and the costs of knocking ecosystems out-of-whack well before it was trendy.

Beast by Peter Benchley, Mandarin Dream Cooler by me

But the fairly-good quality of the book (note: don’t ever watch the TV movie — it’s horrible and doesn’t track the book at all) wasn’t necessarily the reason that I was happy for the re-read. In looking back, I realized that book and that vacation had some long-lasting impacts. First off, the book kindled in me a fascination, nay, a love of giant squids, because it helped me to realize that giant squids are awesome.  Some things I’ve found out since: they’re awesome at making rum, they’re awesome in urban fantasy, and they’re even awesome in orbit.

But more importantly, that vacation planted the seed of an idea that when I moved back to Delaware to be a post-doc, that maybe Dave and I would rent a house together. That decision catalyzed a friendship that has gone on to be one of those very rare whole-adult-life ones and transformed us into Roomies.

Now, you might recall that one of the things that Roomie and I started last year was a head-to-head competition on picking NFL games against the spread: The Roomie Cup. During the course of the season, we decided that rather than just for bragging rights, there needed to be an actual vessel, a physical Roomie Cup that the victor was allowed to keep until the following season was decided.  A little poking around on Etsy and we found someone that would make us a cup (a mug actually) with exactly what we wanted on it:



A giant squid.

The inaugural Roomie Cup went to Dave after he won the year seven weeks to six. I’m still bitter because I wanted the Roomie Cup ensconced in a place of honor at The Aerie. I have high hopes to regain it after this season, though time will tell, I suppose.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can never tell where reading a book on the beach might lead, do ya?

Just don’t go in the water.


13 thoughts on “Help! Help! A Giant Squid!

  1. I don’t eat calamari, just in case the planet’s Giant Squids start avenging their cephalopod cousins. I am most impressed by the cold refreshing beverage. That looks like it could slake even the Beastliest thirst.

    • tom — I have to say I like it when my boss goes “squidding” and we get to eat calimari steaks for a few days. Yum — and makes me feel like we’re still on top of the food chain.

      The drink went down WAY to easy! But fortunately, the only place I had to travel to was back to the kitchen to make another

  2. There’s actually two versions of the video: it was a mini-series, which was then cut down by half to a movie. Both are terrible, but the movie version is worse since it removes anything resembling character development or acting. But since the book is a self-ripoff of Jaws, it deserves a worse movie. The movie JAWS is the best out of all this, still.

  3. I saw one of those Discovery Channel shows on giant squid not that long ago, and the one thing that struck me is that they are very intelligent. Given how they don’t resemble us or any warm-blooded furry critter we train and keep as pets, it’s almost like meeting an alien life form. Maybe they think we’re as ugly as they are to us, and just as scary.

    But they make terrible sushi as far as I’m concerned. Calamari is okay, especially with horseradish sauce, but squid, giant or otherwise, can stay in their world and leave me to mine.

    • Squid are very intelligent and vicious (they have no problem with cannibalism), though of course their squid brains probably don’t see it that way — and with the fishing-out of tuna along the west coast, squid (typically the Humboldt squid) have become the top predators.

  4. That is a neat story. I am always afraid to read books again after several years. I just know that they are going to be different and I won’t like them, all though I have been proven wrong on this about 100% of the time.

    • Budd — I used to re-read books a lot when I was younger, but now I have so many new books on my to-read list that it’s going to have to be a rare and conscious choice to make me go back to a book I’d read before.

  5. I think I saw the same special on discovery and was also impressed at how intelligent the squids are, probably more so than some of our human population.
    But…I gotta say I’m going to skip on the book….
    Sure do love the roomie cup though! Best wishes claiming it!

  6. I love it when books bring back memories of a specific time or place. I read Jacob Have I Loved during a rainstorm in my living room in one afternoon after a family trip to the library. I remember sitting in my dad’s recliner upside down and wiling the afternoon away with my whole family reading together.

    That cup is so awesome. Who is the Etsy seller?

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