Friday, July 25, 2014

Surfing the Human Wave -- with Kaiju!

Kaiju! For those of you who may not know, "kaiju" is the Japanese word for "strange beast" and is a blanket term fans use to refer to the creatures in their favorite B-grade monster movies. Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, Anguirus, Rodan, and the monsters in Pacific Rim (which I happened to enjoy) -- these are all kaiju, and all of them are entertaining if you happen to be in just the right mood.

I've been reading a lot of kaiju stories this week thanks to the efforts of Eric S. Brown and Jason Cordova, who have published four kaiju books set in two distinct universes. Kaiju Apocalypse, Kaiju Apocalypse II, and Kaiju Apocalypse III cover one universe; Murder World: Kaiju Dawn covers the other. From what I understand, the Apocalypse universe is more Eric's baby while the Murder World universe is more Jason's -- and I did in fact notice a distinct difference in styles.

The Apocalypse books, which are set on Earth, are quick hitters - novellas rather than novels - and to be honest, they sometimes left me unsatisfied. This was especially the case with Kaiju Apocalypse, which unfortunately lacked the well-defined characters the story needed to really have meaning. Why should I care that a dog kaiju is spilling so-and-so's guts if so-and-so is basically a stranger to me? Why should I care about the sacrifices made to defend Lemura Base if, once again, the people involved are unknowns? Fortunately, Kaiju Apocalypse II and Kaiju Apocalypse III were much better because they gave us at least some time to get to know the protagonists and featured dialogue that was funnier and more natural in flow. Reading Kaiju Apocalypse felt like reading a dry AAR; the latter novellas, on the other hand, achieved more of a human connection -- even if the story still felt somewhat rough and superficial.

Murder World: Kaiju Dawn, meanwhile, is a full length novel that combines the kaiju and space opera genres, and of the four books I'm covering in this review, it is by far the best. I think other people have said this, but I'll say this too: If Joss Whedon's Firefly and Pacific Rim mated and had a baby, the result would be Murder World. Vincente, the lead character, is the captain of a merchant ship-for-hire who's recruited to rescue a military ship that was lost on Gorgon IV -- the reputed "Murder World." He is accompanied on this adventure by his pilot, Jasmine, his alien engineer, and a contingent of mercenaries -- including the enormous and mentally unbalanced Yolo, who develops a crush on Jasmine after she thoroughly kicks his ass. Once this motley band reaches Gorgon IV, their ship is severely damaged by a "mysterious atmospheric phenomenon" and they crash-land on the inhospitable surface where - surprise, surprise - they learn that Gorgon IV is home to a group of very nasty alien kaiju. Cue bloodshed and mayhem.

The greater length of Murder World allows the plot to develop more cleanly. Further, the characters are both reasonably well-developed and quite funny. I particularly love the established relationship we see between Vincente and Jasmine -- and I love the relationship that develops between Jasmine and Yolo too, though I'm sure the glittery gals would squeal like stuck pigs if they ever deigned to read it themselves. On the whole? I would happily recommend Murder World to anyone looking for a quick, pulpy read that is both action-packed and witty. I certainly had a lot of fun with it!

Final Verdict: It's Complicated. I would put a "Your Mileage May Vary" stamp on the Kaiju Apocalypse series, but Murder World: Kaiju Dawn gets a solid "Recommended."

1 comment:

  1. I agree, when I read the first of the Kaiju Apocalypse books, I noted some things I didn't like (humans destroyed the ecosytem groaner, not that old thing…), and I almost gave up on the kaiju books, but I knew Jason was better than that, so I tried Murder Dawn and it was a lot of fun.