Lightning Review

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society

by John Scalzi

Oh wow, you guys, The Kaiju Preservation Society is an absolute blast – so much so that it provided me with oodles of entertainment and happiness on a recent drive with my husband, my mother, and 2 teens, the latter of which were crammed into the backseat of the car with me. Believe me when I say that there can be no higher tribute to this book than the fact that I did not murder anyone on this trip. Yet. There’s no romance in this book, but I suspect those of us who enjoy science fiction and snark will find plenty to enjoy here.

The Kaiju Preservation Society takes place during the 2020 lockdown phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. Jamie is stuck delivering food when he makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom. Tom offers Jamie a job that involves extremely high pay and perks, travel, and “working with large animals.” Jamie’s job will be, essentially, “lifting things,” a description which becomes a running joke throughout the book. Jamie soon discovers that the “large animals” are kaiju, and that his job involves protecting our world from them and, even more so, protecting kaiju from humans.

Most of this book consists of worldbuilding, with the actual plot only kicking in at about the last third of the book. Fear not, for this book is a shining example of the maxim that any trope or method in writing can be wonderful if handled supremely well. I did not mind this pace at all. Tom moves briskly from area to area and event to event during his training with so many fun characters and sights along the way that I barely noticed that it’s basically a book of exposition. Tom has a blast learning about kaiju and what the Society does, and I had a blast right along with him. At every moment there’s an interesting conversation happening, or kaiju to encounter, or other, equally bizarre and terrifying creatures, all rendered vividly and with a mix of wonder, terror, and humor, including several laugh-out-loud moments.

Once we get into the actual plot of the “stop the bad guy from doing the bad thing” variety, the story continues to be exciting although I found the characterization and motives of the bad guy to be so stereotypical as to be a bit of a let down. However, I was too busy enjoying brilliant people saying brilliant and funny things in the presence of enormous creatures to mind very much.

I read this book in a single day, mostly while wedged into the back seat of my mom’s car, as mentioned above, and I loved every single minute of it. Normally I don’t let authors speak for their own books in a review, but since this book proved the exception to several of my rules I’ll make one more. Scalzi describes his intent for this book as making something like “a pop song…light and catchy, with three minutes of hooks and choruses for you to sing along with, and then you go on with your day.” Can confirm, goal reached, despite the single flaw of having a cartoonish villain whose plan, frankly, didn’t make a lot of sense. I had so much fun reading this book and it will be a comfort read for me from this day on.

Carrie S

The Kaiju Preservation Society is John Scalzi’s first standalone adventure since the conclusion of his New York Times bestselling Interdependency trilogy.

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too–and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.

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  1. Msb says:

    Delighted to see this good review. Scalzi said (on his blog Whatever) that he wrote this book after the idea for another crashed and burned partway through drafting, and the writing process for the new idea was all joy. Glad his joy became yours.

  2. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I haven’t read this book, but do recommend Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, where he discusses book, politics (he’s a lefty and he moderates the comments with an eagle eye), pop culture, and anything else that catches his interest:

  3. Lostshadows says:

    His Twitter feed is pretty good too, plus more pet pictures.

  4. hng23 says:

    Scalzi as a person is an absolute delight (I too am a Whatever fan). I’ve been looking forward to diving into this one. REDSHIRTS was also a squee read for me; highly recommended if you haven’t read it already.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Um…I thought Jamie was supposed to be the narrator, not Tom?

  6. JoanneBB says:

    Wil Wheaton narrates the audiobook too, I had it preordered but haven’t started it yet. He has read a bunch of Scalzi’s books and his reading style usually matches the writing style very well.

  7. chacha1 says:

    I’m sure I’ll enjoy this when I get to it. Scalzi’s AGENT TO THE STARS was also a blast.

  8. Sue says:

    Scalzi doesn’t usually do it for me, but I have to say, this book sounds like one I may have to try. Off to the library website!

  9. Laurel says:

    I really love the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi, and have read most of his books. His sense of humor appeals to me, so I look forward to reading this.

    One thing I like about him, outside of his novels, is that he seems to have a good sense of humor about himself. I remember he was at RT one year (for Redshirts?) and when he won an award, he had the male cover models who helped the authors up the stairs help him up as well. He wanted the full RT experience.

  10. Ellen says:

    Just to note: Jamie’s gender is never actually specified in the novel, a practice Scalzi adapted from his Lock In series. So it’s interesting to examine what one assumes about Jamie as one is reading (Jamie certainly “lifts things”, but is that indicative? For example).

  11. Laurel says:

    Sounds like a book I’d really like – I balked at the $14 Kindle price, so I am #14 on my library hold list.

  12. Laurel says:

    Wow, is there another Laurel here? 🙂 I so rarely see my name anywhere. I am the comment from 2:23 p.m. Hello 2:56 p.m. Laurel 🙂

  13. LisaM says:

    I stopped at B&N to pick up the new Seanan McGuire,and though I told myself that I wasn’t going to go look for a copy of the book, and if I found a copy of the book I wasn’t going to buy it, I did both. I need a squee read with space pandas.

  14. Laurel (the other one) says:

    Hello, 3:16 Laurel! I once worked in a library with another Laurel. It got confusing. Always had to include the surname initial. We also had 2 Bonnies who had to do the same, and 3 Johns (two were John M. so even the initial didn’t work for them).

  15. Lisa F says:

    On my TBR pile; looking forward to reading it.

  16. Katherine says:

    This review confirms my hopeful expectations. Based even just on title + cover I hoped this would be a poppy, fun, light Scalzi, a la Fuzzy Nation or Redshirts. My attention for reading is still struggling in the pandemic – it sounds like this book will be a good fit for me right now.

  17. Holly says:

    Listened to KPS while painting a room – it was a great distraction. Totally enjoyable. Love John Scalzi’s sense of humor and writing.

  18. Lynda the Guppy says:

    While I love following Scalzi on social media, I’m not usually a fan of his genre of books. But this one looks like a ton of fun, and I loved Wil Wheaton on the audiobook for The Martian, so I’m looking forward to listening to the audio!

  19. catscatscats says:

    The Amazon link (I’m in the UK – it can be a bit random) took me to Bandai Movie Monster Series Godzilla 2016 Second Form, which amused me.

  20. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I adore his Locked In series and going to be trapped in a 10 hour road trip with a cranky chihuhuha that is prone to care sickness, contempt for travel and for some reason, is enraged by semi-trucks that pass us. Just ordered this since it might save us both!

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