A fun trip.
A kaiju is an enormous mountain-sized animal of dubious taxonomy that is covered in parasites the size of dogs, and powered by an organic nuclear reactor. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about this book, I’m afraid there’s not much more I can do for you.
Part Jurassic Park, part Conan Doyle, The Kaiju Preservation Society is a hugely enjoyable romp through an alternate dimension where evolution went rather differently. Somewhere in our world, during the 1960s, it was discovered that nuclear fission weakens the walls between worlds. Thanks to the natural radiation of the kaiju at their end and the proliferation of nuclear reactors here, humans are able to cross over from one Earth to the other.
The story opens when Jamie, a recent uni graduate and even more recent executive-cum-food ‘deliverator’ (cue more Neal Stephenson jokes than you can poke a stick at) is offered the chance to leave this COVID-ridden existence for a job of manual labour in another dimension. What follows is mostly a travelogue through the new world, with a bit of an adventure at the end to keep things interesting. This almost isn’t needed as the world that Scalzi has built stands on its own. He is clearly in love with his creation, and his enthusiasm abounds off the page as he shows the reader around through Jamie’s eyes. In keeping with what is more or less a travelogue through a new world, Scalzi keeps it short and sweet at a mere 250 pages or so. Jamie grows through the book, starting as a downtrodden, disaffected millennial and finding meaning and purpose in the new world.
The Kaiju Preservation Society is a thoroughly modern novel and it knows it, with pop-culture references aplenty and a very good sense of the real. What abounds more than anything else is a sense of fun and wonder. The reader finds themselves caught up in the enthusiasm that Jamie and his workmates have for their new existence. It is a welcome relief from the post-apocalyptic dystopias that have invaded recent futurism. The reason for this becomes obvious when, in the ‘Author’s Note and Acknowledgements’ Scalzi tells us that it was a cathartic novel, born from the ashes of a novel affected by a world which managed to contain both COVID and Trump until normal writing duties could not be continued. Rather than let the publisher down, Scalzi decided to invent a new world, a better world in which there was no pollution, where we all get around in dirigibles, and where humans had been replaced at the top of the food chain by nuclear-powered mountains. It is a breath of fresh air, a book about finding positivity and hope in a world full of giant bugs.
The book is vintage Scalzi, a story he told with his hair let down and nothing to lose, and he’s gained everything.
Please read this book.
Reviewed by DC White
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.
Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: March 2022