Monday, March 7, 2022

Microreview [book]: The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi

Jurassic Park by way of John Scalzi.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would have looked like if John Scalzi wrote Jurassic Park instead of Michael Chrichton, you don’t have to wonder any longer because that’s the best comparison I’m going to come up with for The Kaiju Preservation Society. The only thing we don’t have (yet) is Richard Attenborough kindly reciting his iconic lines over sweeping camera shots showing the scope of what this new world looks like while the music swells and soars.

Very briefly, Jamie is a delivery driver after losing a much higher paying job, and after one particular delivery to a former acquaintance ends up receiving an offer to work for an “Animal Rights Organization” that needs extra grunt labor at the last minute and Jamie takes the job which turns out to be in a very remote location with no contact with the outside world for months. Everything about the context of the offer is incredibly sketchy but the money is transformatively good and jobs are becoming scarce.

That Animal Rights Organization happens to operate on an alternate Earth where giant monsters roam the land and everything on the planet is designed to kill a human - or it would be so designed if this was a world humanity was native to. The Kaiju Preservation Society is exactly that, an organization built around the preservation and conservation of these giant creatures that are not native to our world but can sometimes cross over. That’s where KPS comes in - both to respond, but also to prevent.

We’re pulled along the story of The Kaiju Preservation Society by new recruit Jamie and the other new recruits on their team - because everything is new to them there is opportunity to have natural info dumps for the reader and it works. Everything is discovery and the sense of wonder is enormous. I can’t wait for the movie version of The Kaiju Preservation Society (it’s been optioned for television, which means maybe sometime in the next ten years and maybe not). I can almost see the sweeping introduction of a lush, verdant world as Jamie and company get that moment of whoa.

I went a bit overboard last year watching kaiju movies. I didn’t expect the obsession, but there it was just waiting for me. I watched 30 Godzilla movies, another 3 Kong movies, and this year is fixing to have more of those giant monsters. What I’m saying, though, is that The Kaiju Preservation Society is hitting me right in the sweet spot just when I am most set up to appreciate it. It is a FUN book and, frankly, after two years into a pandemic that is not relenting - I absolutely needed this book. The Kaiju Preservation Society has all of the big monster goodness that readers could ask for and it is chock full of the goodness we’ve come to expect from John Scalzi.

It’s hard to really figure out how to consider a book in the context of others when you’re not quite the same person you were some fifteen years ago when you first discovered a particular author - John Scalzi in this instance. Thinking back to Old Man’s War, that novel became an absolutely iconic science fiction novel that set up this idea of SCALZI as a writer and really defined more than a decade of expectations.

If I have the story correct, Scalzi once sold a novel with the elevator pitch of “Man solves diplomatic crisis through action scenes and snappy dialogue” and minus the diplomatic crisis, that’s generally been a hallmark of his fiction. The Kaiju Preservation Society is not Old Man’s War, nor is it The Android’s Dream or The Collapsing Empire - it’s a different sort of novel, but it also has those hallmarks of classic and top notch Scalzi. There is plenty of snappy dialogue and legitimate laugh out loud moments mixed into discovery and adventure.

The Kaiju Preservation Society moves fast and is just the damned delight that I needed this year.

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, Hugo Award Winner. Minnesotan. He / Him