I don’t know how long I can make this review. I mean, this is a book about an amusement park ride.
And there’s not really that much you can write about a ride, even one that features Jaws.
Dustin McNeill’s book suffers from being an examination of something so specific that it’s limited from the outset. The author gives the original Hollywood Jaws attraction a whopping one paragraph in his text, instead choosing to focus on the version that emerged in the studio’s Florida park, ostensibly as an attraction to compete with Disney’s then-new parks nearby.
The issue for me is that this reads a little bit too much like a fanclub publication: it’s designed for people with a particular level of knowledge and affection. Sure, there’s interviews with people key in the construction and redesign of the ride, but at no point are we provided with plans or diagrams. There’s a couple of cool behind-the-scenes photographs, but nothing befitting a documentary kind of work. Plenty of information is given about times when the ride didn’t really work, but the mechanics and the politics of why it didn’t are vaguely glossed over.
To be fair, I guess this isn’t presented as a documentary work. It’s a collection of “adventures”, largely from the people who played the role of skipper on the boat-tour fantasy that made up the ride. This is a book that’d be great to read if you had been one of those skippers, or knew one, but I was left a bit cold.
(The exception to this is the description in some interviews of the tussling between Disney and Universal to pull off bigger and better attractions – I’d happily read a book about that, and was saddened that it didn’t show up in here more.)
I’m lucky enough to have been to Universal in Osaka, and I’ve ridden the Japanese variant of the ride, which is the only surviving iteration. It’s a bit cheesy, and I can imagine that it’s memorable and great if you’re younger. If the ride was super important to you, you’ll love it – otherwise you’ll be the sort of reader that finds this of only passing interest, at best.