Among sci-fi's most tired conventions is the one in which some latter-day cataclysm releases from an aeons-long sleep a monstrous prehistoric creature who rampages around for eight or nine reels until the combined brains of the military-scientific-industrial complex figure out a novel ploy to dispatch the thing.

Such strained fictions have always seemed a lot of fuss to ichthyologists. Why bother to wake the creatures of unimaginably distant geologic ages when you can find, in a condition essentially unchanged for 63 million years, a creature cruising handily off every beach in the world who once shared the planet with dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs and...

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