Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor Macmillan
Released: March 15, 2022
John Scalzi’s newest novel is a page-turning adventure filled with humor and action. The Kaiju Preservation Society is a popcorn movie summer blockbuster waiting to happen. Scalzi creates an exciting and innovative premise filled with engaging characters. The novel is easy to recommend for any science fiction or giant monster fan. Furthermore, Kaiju Preservation Society is approachable and identifiable for anyone who struggled financially or emotionally through the COVID filled year of 2020.
Joining the Society
Jamie Gray finds himself losing his job and working in the gig economy delivering food in New York City as the COVID shutdowns occurred in the spring of 2020. A happenstance encounter with one customer launches him on Preservation Society‘s otherworldly adventure. Scalzi fills Jamie’s introduction with humor, but also a sense of identity. Yes, Jamie fits the wise-cracking protagonist role well. But underneath, Jamie harbors self-doubt about his own worth. Consequently, making him easy to identify with and root for.
Kaiju Preservation Society introduces its’ premise well. Scalzi uses Jamie’s perspective. This provides readers with the same shock and disbelief as Jamie when he discovers what his new job really is. Jaime encounters a number of laugh-out-loud moments during the interview and preparation for the Society. Additionally, the real-world concept of kaiju existing on a parallel earth creates a number of science fiction and geopolitical plot threads. Nuclear reactions thin the walls between the two worlds. The nuclear tests and use in the mid 1900’s created a number of kaiju events leading to the creation of the Preservation Society. Scalzi even includes some slight political commentary around the deescalation of nuclear weapons. It was not world peace or mutual destruction that stopped nuclear weapons testing, but the cost of kaiju clean-up.
TO SERVE AND PROTECT
This sense of grounding the story in real-world dynamics anchors Preservation Society. Furthermore, the international supporting cast of scientists creates plausibility to the fiction. Fellow new recruits, Aparna, Kahurangi, and Niamh, are Jamie’s supporting cast and friends. They share in the sense of wonder at the scope of this alternate world. However, while Jamie’s role is to “lift things” Aparna, Kahurangi, and Niamh are scientists with a greater understanding of this new world. Each of them provides narrative windows into the plot and realities of this kaiju earth.
The role of the Kaiju Preservation Society is not only to study the creatures but to protect both them and the people back on earth. The story moves quickly but spends enough time diving into the big events on kaiju earth that shape Jamie’s time there. Scalzi describes the kaiju well, but never lingers on the details. Fortunately, this allows the reader to imagine and interpret each kaiju and the related creatures within their own context and experience. While Scalzi grounds the science, readers will require a slight suspension of disbelief for the wild ride he creates.
Who is the Real Monster
Like all good science fiction, The Kaiju Preservation Society holds a mirror up to humanity. It raises questions about morality, greed, power, and compassion. Without getting into spoilers, the central plot requires Jamie and his new friends to understand the dangerous ecosystem of kaiju earth while protecting both humans and creatures. Other novels, would have spent significant time developing the smallest details of the world and dragging down the narrative pace. Scalzi provides enough detail to make the world real without losing the pacing of the adventure.
One of the antagonists has personal ties to Jamie. And his reintroduction creates some needed personal conflict for the story. Unfortunately, the central conflict feels a little too convenient and keeps the central cast of characters small. For an international agency, this limited scope is the only criticism for an otherwise excellent story. While it is easy to understand the plot decisions that create the final conflict, there remain so many more stories and dynamics to explore in this world. Hopefully, Scalzi will return to the Preservation Society in future novels.
Ultimately, this criticism is minor as the pacing, action, and characters propel the story through the page-turning conclusion. Scalzi weaves a satisfying narrative full of humor and humanity. The Kaiju Preservation Society‘s relevance is strong in a world recovering from COVID. However, the themes transcend the current news cycle. Scalzi creates an excellent, enjoyable adventure filled with characters and a world that will remain with readers until he visits kaiju earth again.