Fantasy / Sci-fi Book Review
Scalzi has crafted some pretty amazing, award winning science fiction. The thing I love most about all of his writing is that he never takes himself too seriously. The Kaiju Preservation Society is more tongue-in-cheek than most of his stuff and that includes Red Shirts. Yet, he can take an idea that is a little ridiculous then add a Michael Crichton pacing to it that completely drags you in. You happily chase him down each absurd rabbit hole and find yourself wanting more at the end.
In the Kaiju Preservation Society, our protagonist is a motivated young professional marketing / customer service director that is taking the corporate world by storm. He works for one of the hot new delivery service companies, by the name of füdmüd, which puts the mood in food. I can’t imagine having to type all of those umlauts while writing the book. I had to look up how to put one in the text ( Ctrl : – then type the vowel if you’re wondering).
Anyway, he is a young corporate hotshot for all of the first half of chapter one before getting fired by his douchebag CEO, a Travis Kalanick clone, by the CEO offering him a job as a deliverator. That’s the other great thing about this book. Scalzi assumes that you are well read in all the nerd greats like Snow Crash and he lavishly spreads the references around like a sci-fi Easter Bunny. He doesn’t make you work too hard for it as the main character or some side character will inevitably call out all references somewhere in the text because the author wants you in on the joke.
After he gets fired, thanks partly to the pandemic rolling in, our main character swallows his pride and starts deliverating food. This is where he meets an old buddy of his from college who offers him a very black ops role that he refuses to tell Jamie (protagonist) anything about. This is when the fun begins. Jamie and the others who sign up with him get a baptism by fire of sorts where they are introduced to the kaiju firsthand. The Kaiju Preservation Society (KPS) has found over time that this is only the real way to convince people that the kaiju are real.
For those unfamiliar, the most famous of the kaiju is Godzilla. This was followed up with movies like Pacific Rim (surprisingly good) and several other poorly thought out and horribly Americanized Godzilla sequels. The primary question is: if these things are real, where could they possibly be hiding? The easiest answer – another dimension. Sometimes, due to interesting circumstances detailed in the book, the barrier between dimensions can be breached and that’s how Godzilla pops in on Tokyo like some terrible monster in law.
Scalzi doesn’t spend a ton of time on the science that would make all this possible but he spends enough. Namely, he talks us through how the square-cube law is not broken by their unique biology which actually makes these creatures their own walking ecosystems. It’s a stretch, but it’s a fun one.
Things go great for Jamie in the other dimension. He loves the job and he loves who he is working with. The whole concept of the kaiju is fascinating enough that he completely forgets about the pandemic. I think this is a nod towards staying busy by finding something you can be passionate about. This approach always pays far greater dividends than sitting on your couch watching Tiger King.
Everything is going great until the bad guy with the money shows up. The sleaze that oozes from this character is Carter J Burke (Paul Reiser’s annoying character in Aliens) worthy. There’s always an ulterior motive and that motive is meant to make cash even if it means some or a lot of people are going to die. The bad guy becomes the turd in the KPS’s stew and the main characters are all forced to make difficult decisions. Lest you worry, there is great schadenfreude to be had in the end.
Just read it. It’s no David Foster Wallace because it’s too damn fun. There’s not a ton but there is deeper meaning to be found here. You get the sense that this was the book that helped Scalzi get through the pandemic, the insurrection and every other turd sandwich that 2020 and 2021 shot at us even before he confirms this in his author’s note at the end. I’d look forward to a second one even though I don’t think it’s coming.