The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi
I love John Scalzi. I love his wit, how he as a public personality embraces both cynicism and great compassion. And I love his books – his novels that are deep and complex such as The Interdependency series, and the more glancing yet satisfying standalones such as Hugo and Locus award-winning Redshirts. His Human Division novel is one of my favorites of all time, not only because of the writing but also for how it came about – a series of stories released free-of-charge on the Tor.com website, bound together in one wonderful volume.
But what I admire most about John Scalzi’s works are how accessible they are, how witty and so fun to read. By the time you’ve reached the end, you realize how thoroughly vested you’ve become in the characters, but also, without fanfare, he’s made a very salient point about a political or social, or cultural issue that gives his works that extra heft that makes what might have at first appeared as fluff develops into something earnestly relevant.
Enter The Kaiju Preservation Society.
A standalone novel released just a few weeks ago, The Kaiju Preservation Society has it all. An incredibly entertaining main character. A modern-day setting that we all can relate to (pandemic, anyone?). An entertainingly fantastical story arc that yet feels anchored in what could be real. And for crying out loud – do I have to say it? It has kaiju! Huge, lumbering monsters, straight out of Godzillian legend, but with a plausible environment and in a bizarre way, vulnerable.
To explain the “what” of the book, I’m merely going to give you what can be found on his publisher’s website:
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 least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm, 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 who have found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
And if that doesn’t entice you, maybe this will: this book will take you away from this world and yet keep you totally grounded in the here and now (is there such a thing as grounded escapism?), with a main character that you wish you knew in real life, and action that is enough to make your heart race but doesn’t escalate to the point of outlandishness. You know you shouldn’t accept what’s happening, but you totally will embrace it and enjoy doing so.
In other words, John Scalzi at his finest. Well worth diving into.