John Scalzi writes some of the most purely entertaining science fiction being published these days, and The Kaiju Preservation Society is Exhibit No. 1. If you’re looking for a quick, light read with a certain amount of action, angst-free characters, some humor and a bit of off-screen violence, you’ll find it here.
Jamie Gray is a “deliverator” for a food delivery start-up (and send-up) called füd-müd (“food-mood”) that’s trying to compete with Uber Eats, DoorDash, et. al. Jamie was working on the company’s creative team but was demoted just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning. Jamie is also a huge science fiction nerd who wrote a failed master’s thesis on the genre, which in a round-about way leads to a job offer from a regular food delivery client.
The job is with a mysterious firm called only KPS, and the work apparently will consist mostly of lifting things. Tom, the guy who hires Jamie, says KPS takes care of very large animals, and the gig requires an enormous number of vaccinations and other shots, but Jamie figures what the heck and takes it pretty much sight unseen.
Thus Jamie and a handful of other new hires find themselves working for the Kaiju Preservation Society, which does indeed take care of very large animals. Turns out that the mega-monsters that inspired those hit Japanese movies starting with Godzilla were actually real, just living on a parallel earth from which they sometimes apparently cross over to ours, briefly. Their job is to keep that from happening, along with any other events that might threaten these beasts, and therein lies our story.
It’s a rollicking comic book of a tale, combining elements of Christopher Moore’s satiric fantasies with Indiana Jones-like adventure, told in Scalzi’s signature breezy style. In his light way Scalzi sends up the old monster movies as well as modern franchises like Scooby Doo and Jurassic Park, glossing over wildly unlikely “science” with a joke and a wave of the hand – and he even tells you what he’s doing when he does it, which got the biggest laugh of the book from me.
The bad guys when they show up are right out of central casting, missing only the monocle but complete with meta-monologuing as the climax approaches. The cast of the good guys is adorably multi-cultural and diverse, gender and otherwise. And in fact we’re never told Jamie’s sex, which I think is a great touch, and wonder how many readers actually notice.
In an afterword, Scalzi says the book came to him whole in early 2021 after he’d recovered from a suspected Covid case complete with drawn out brain fog, and had given up on a different book he’d been trying to write before getting sick in 2020. It sounds like writing it was as therapeutic for him as reading it can be for his fans, existing and new. This one begs for graphic or movie – live action or animated – treatment, by the way. Recommended for anyone who needs some fun escapism, which who doesn’t right now? (A tip of the hat to Peter Lutjen for the clever cover design, which contains more than one clue to the book’s plot.)