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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