Until now, I’d never read a Scalzi novel. He was an author I have been aware of for a long time and knew he was much admired. This is why I jumped at the chance to read The Kaiju Preservation Society.
What Is The Kaiju Preservation Society?
It’s a standalone SF/what-if novel set on an Earth with alternate dimensions. As the novel opens, lead character Jaime is about to be fired from his position at a start-up food delivery service. One thing we glean from this opening scene is that Jaime’s tech billionaire boss is something of an asshat. This will be relevant later.
Unemployed with the world about to go into lockdown (the novel opens in March 2020), Jaime finds himself taking up the ridiculous offer of working as a driver for the company that fired him. He was offered a bonus rate, and everybody in Manhattan needs their food delivered.
This results in a fortuitous meeting with an old college friend who happens to have a job opening working with animals. One that pays very well and may solve Jaime’s mounting cash flow problems.
Things do not fall out the way Jaime expected. Firstly he has to go through some very thorough health protocols, then he is transported to Greenland. Finally, he goes through a dimensional portal to an alternate earth, where Greenland is lush, humid, and tropical. It also has dinosaurs.
Well, not exactly dinosaurs—kaiju. The giant monsters of Japanese B-movie fame. Turns out Godzilla was based on fact.
Why Read The Kaiju Preservation Society?
This is a fun novel. It’s not going to change your world, or bring earth-shattering revelations about the state of humanity, but you will enjoy it.
It’s an artfully constructed homage to the B-movie, a Godzilla origin story filled with some great pop-cultural references. Whilst it might stand on the shoulders of giant(lizard)s, it definitely brings something new to the super-monster canon. Here we are treated to an ecosystem in which kaiju can exist, plus a plausible(ish) explanation of why they might turn up in downtown Tokyo or wherever.
Jaime is recruited to protect the kaiju, who have a fascinating life cycle and ecosystem going. The first part of the novel describes Jaime’s recruitment and his introduction into the Kaiju Earth—a terrifyingly hostile planet for bog-standard homo sapiens.
After that, human politics and money rear their heads, as we know they inevitably will. It’s a cliche (one even acknowledged in the book) that the real monsters aren’t, of course, the giant monsters with pointy teeth and killer parasites; they’re something much close to home.
To say much more would give away plot spoilers, but you probably know the drill. This novel isn’t Jurassic Park, but the two certainly have elements in common. Elements that go well beyond terrifying lizards.
The Kaiju Preservation Society has apparently been optioned for a TV series, and it’s easy to see why. It has a gripping and intriguing narrative that will translate well to the screen and a modern diverse cast that will transfer easily too.
I didn’t know much about John Scalzi’s writing before reading this book, but I have been very impressed with his ear for dialogue. The breezy conversations between Jaime and the rest of the staff at the KPS are what make this novel tick over so easily. Character, story, and intent are artfully conveyed via the small talk, riffs, and quips made by a team of highly intelligent researchers. Researchers can’t quite get over the excitement of looking after Godzilla for a living.
All in all, The Kaiju Preservation Society gives the reader exactly what they’d expect from it. There’s a reason why B-movies keep being made and it’s the reason why this book is so entertaining.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society, you can do so here in the US, and here in the UK.
If you enjoyed this review, check out my other reviews.
And don’t just take my word for it. This review is part of The Kaiju Preservation Society blog tour. Check out these other great posts too!
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.