The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The novel “The Kaiju Preservation Society” by John Scalzi was published for the first time in 2022.

Jamie Gray works for a startup that delivers food through an app but when the pandemic begins, he finds himself substantially demoted, as he’s given the choice between being fired and continuing to work for the company but only as a rider.

A delivery to Tom Stevens, an old acquaintance of Jamie’s, turns into a job offer, as Tom works for an animal rights organization that is looking for someone to hire for a job. The terms of the job are vague but Jamie accepts the offer and discovers that the animals to protect are gigantic creatures that live on a parallel Earth.

Kaiju are the giant monsters of Japanese science fiction movies that led to the creation of an entire subgenre to the point that the term kaiju is used to indicate both monsters and that subgenre. John Scalzi reworks that kind of story by creating a parallel Earth where life evolved in a very different way that resulted in the existence of colossal creatures. The author goes far beyond the classic characteristics of Japanese kaiju by imagining creatures that are not biologically animals and are equipped with biological nuclear reactors.

In writing “The Kaiju Preservation Society”, John Scalzi made no pretensions to creating lofty literature, rather he has a light tone throughout most of the novel with only a few truly dramatic moments. Jamie Gray and his colleagues tend to often resort to salacious jokes and comments, also to defuse the tension they feel working with creatures that could easily kill them. It is entertainment but that does not mean that it is devoid of significant content.

The original “Godzilla” movie was connected to the fears that concerned, particularly in Japan, the use of atomic weapons. John Scalzi somehow connects to that theme by imagining creatures equipped with biological nuclear reactors which in certain cases can explode. Their existence is also used to develop some themes that are important in our present. The mission Jamie Gray joins is scientific with important environmental connotations and the plot developments show what problems can emerge when economic interests lead to the exploitation of environmental resources regardless of the consequences.

The initial part of the novel has a slow pace because it’s about Jamie Gray’s work problems and his discovery of the world of kaiju. It’s literally worldbuilding but if you appreciate the theme and the jokes, it’s all very funny. When the action begins, the pace accelerates and the events hold some surprises. Honestly, certain developments are predictable but in my opinion, the fact that it’s above all about entertainment is what matters in this case as well.

Concerning the characters, John Scalzi uses various clich├ęs, especially for the one who turns out to be the novel’s villain. The story is told in the first person from Jamie Gray’s point of view and the other characters are described as he sees them. It’s a choice that doesn’t leave much room for development and introspection but it’s soon clear that the author was not particularly interested in the characters’ psychological side. Even the protagonist’s psychological state is generally functional to the plot.

In the end, “The Kaiju Preservation Society” is a homage to kaiju that contains some important themes. John Scalzi has a personal style in using the characters also for humor that in this case comes out particularly strong. Also for this reason, the novel can appeal especially to readers who appreciate this author.

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