Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Kaiju Preservation Society

John Scalzi
Completed 4/1/2023, Reviewed 4/1/2023
4 stars

This was the right book at the right time for me: a light romp which the author compares to a pop song.  Sometimes, we just need a pop song to lighten our day.  After reading so many heavy books, some of which were slogs to get through, I needed this book.  It didn’t win any awards, but it has a good rating on the different review sites.  Scalzi knows how to deliver an enjoyable novel, whether it’s heavy or fluff like this one.

Jamie Grey is an executive at a competitor of the big food delivery apps.  Right at the start of the COVID pandemic, he gets laid off and becomes one of the “deliverators” at the company.  By chance, one of his regular clients offers him a job with mysteriously little information.  Jamie takes it and ends up a member of a team whose mission is to preserve large animals.  What he doesn’t know until he’s there is that the large animals are Godzilla-like creatures who live in another dimension of Earth.  His primary job is as a grunt, mostly moving and lifting things.  Quickly however, he is tasked with being an emissary to government, military, and investor visitors, based on his previous background as an executive.  On his first day as a liaison, who would appear but the CEO of the company he used to work for.  And of course, his motives for investing are anything but pure.  Soon, Jamie and three other newbies are on an adventure to save one of the kaiju who has just laid a brood of eggs from the clutches of this evil investor.

One of the things I liked best about this book was that Scalzi knows it is for fun.  Whenever there’s a plot twist that the reader can see coming from a mile away, Scalzi includes the phrase, “because of course it is”.  That was great.  It helped keep me from taking the book too seriously.  I’m reading this for book club and I can already hear some of the members decrying plot holes and silliness.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am not ashamed to say that.  

Jamie Grey is the narrator.  He’s a nice guy in a lousy situation who happens upon the opportunity of a lifetime, even though he doesn’t know that at the beginning.  There aren’t really a lot of deep emotions here, with Jamie or with other main characters.  In fact, the characterization is rather thin.  But I still liked Jamie and the rest of the characters in the KPS.  One thing I found interesting is that Scalzi has the main character meet three other characters who comprise a little posse, which if I remember correctly, was a gimmick he used in Redshirts.  And their names were all rather difficult to remember, being of different ethnic backgrounds.  But I forgave Scalzi all this as I realized how light the novel was going to be.  And there was enough interaction with the other characters that I got their personality differences down pretty well, although I didn’t really remember their genders.  

As for the other items I usually mention, it was all rather light.  The prose was not heady.  In fact most of the book is dialogue driven.  Scalzi didn’t go out of his way to really define what the Kaiju looked like.  He left that up to our imagination.  I let myself imagine Godzilla- and Mothra-like creatures be the source of the pictures in my head.  And the organic nuclear reactor concept was pretty weird, but suspension of disbelief comes a lot easier when you’re having fun with a book.

I give this book four stars out of five.  As far as fluff goes, it’s near perfect, totally enjoyable.  I think only a curmudgeon would not have a good time with this novel.  Now I must return to the heavy world of World Fantasy Award winners, the remaining eight of which all seem long and really intense.  I’ll probably have to throw a gay magical romp in there to lighten things up as I complete my challenge.

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