Web Site: Whatever
Bio: (short) John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.
(long) John Scalzi has been writing professionally since 1991, first as a film critic and general columnist for the Fresno Bee newspaper (where his reviews and columns were nationally syndicated), then as America Online’s in-house writer and editor, and since 1998 as a full-time freelance writer. Scalzi is best known as a writer of science fiction, with several novels in the genre published since 2005, including Redshirts, the 2013 winner of the Hugo Award for best novel. He also frequently writes non-fiction. A full book-format bibliography is here.
Scalzi is also a consultant on writing, editing and marketing. Clients (directly or in association with marketing companies) have included The Walt Disney Company, AOL, Oppenheimer Funds, US Trust, Zagat and Network Solutions. Scalzi also served as the Creative Consultant on the television show Stargate: Universe and wrote a column on science fiction film for the FilmCritic.com site. He also wrote the video game Midnight Star, and the accompanying graphic novel, Midnight Rises. His work has been featured on the Netflix television series Love, Death and Robots.
A California native, Scalzi attended the Webb Schools of California and the University of Chicago, and lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter and an assortment of pets.
Related Post: The Kaiju Preservation Society: Out Now!
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.
I’m going to start with this: The Kaiju Preservation Society was not what I was expecting. It’s kaijus—big, massive monsters—so I wasn’t expecting hard science fiction, deep characters, or a story that went beyond the stereotypical, climatic finish with kaijus locked in battle with one another or with humans flying jet aircraft or controlling giant robots armed with the latest in kaiju killing armaments. The Kaiju Preservation Society (TKPS from now on) is none of those things. TKPS is more fantasy than science fiction, its characters are developed only superficially, and there is no big, climatic finish of any kind. Not really, anyway.
Our lead character, Jamie Gray, is likeable enough, though he has no skills or training to warrant his inclusion in the society other than that he’s an expert in science fiction. Meaning, he really has no business being involved in the society at all except he is in the right place, at the right time, and knows the right person who recruits him. Jamie is then introduced to a world parallel to our own where nuclear reactions thin the barrier between them. In the past, kaiju have entered our world through these barriers. It is the job of the society to prevent these crossovers from happening or, when they do, to shepherd these errant monsters back to their own world and to make sure the general public remains none the wiser.
That’s all fine and sounds like an interesting enough premise for a story. But, as is often the case, it’s all in the delivery. Now, I will say first that Scalzi admits this book was one he needed to write to get him past a difficult time. Specifically, he says:
“This is a special book to me, and among other things helped get me through a rough moment in the world.”
He says more in the book’s closing, so I won’t get into that other than to agree that, yes, the world shutting down and everything else that’s gone on during the past two years has taken a toll on each of us to varying degrees. I’m glad he was able to use the experience of writing this book to relieve some of those feelings. I also wish I came away from the reading experience with better feelings towards TKPS. Unfortunately, while it was mildly entertaining, it didn’t really work for me.
So what went wrong? For me, it was the tone. It’s very lighthearted. Hey, if that’s what you’re after, then this is the book for you. But I wanted something with suspense, drama, riveting characters, spectacular monsters, and a good dose of science fiction. Even something shallow like Pacific Rim would have been just fine. It’s shallow, but it’s got big, freakin’ robots fighting kaijus! Members of the society, in contrast, are very hands off. They’re not there to fight the kaiju. They’re visitors to the kaiju world, there to observe and make sure the kaiju stay on their side of the fence. These are not the ingredients for a riveting storyline.
Then there’s the characters. Honestly, I don’t remember any of them other than Jamie. They’re all very whimsical and friendly, and that’s the problem. There’s nothing unique about most of them other than their scientific discipline, which isn’t enough to really distinguish themselves from one another since the science is really treated lightly. None of them really have a backstory other than Jamie, and his isn’t that interesting. More could have been done here.
The only thing I’ll say about the writing is that it’s very readable and dialog heavy. The worldbuilding is minimal even by Scalzi standards.
TKPS is a great premise, but the storytelling just didn’t work for me. I have enjoyed Scalzi’s other work, so I consider this a case of a book not fitting the reader as opposed to the author not working for me. I’m giving TKPS two rockets because, while an enjoyable enough read, it’s mostly forgettable and not something I would revisit. Regardless, I do want to thank the publisher for providing a free review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.