When the fate of the planet hangs in the balance, who’s the savior you have on speed dial? A tech savvy billionaire in a metal suit? A man from another planet with frost breath and laser beams from his eyes? No. You call on Godzilla, a ninety-thousand pound lizard who eats radiation, born at the dawn of time.
Titan Books has released the official movie novelization of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (GKOTM). Authored by Greg Keyes, who has found immense success in both original science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as tie-in novels from The Planet of The Apes and the Oblivion video game. He has a strong nose for dynamic character development, and uses this skill to his advantage in the GKOTM novelization.
The difficulty presented in providing the reader with a picture of humanity’s side of a war between enormous monsters vying for supremacy is no small feat. Keyes takes the time to connect us with the people involved, even if their connection to the destructive events is based on the illusion of control. It’s like a story about ants with an umbrella in a hurricane, and Keyes makes us care about the ants through his succinct, well-timed dialogue and interwoven character trajectories.
The hurricane in the above analogy, of course, are the monsters. In GKOTM, we get an up close and personal view of just what happens when humanity futzes with the sleeping giants. The slumbering monsters begin to awake, one by one, each with a destructive agenda driven by a three-headed monstrosity named King Ghidora, who is bent on domination and extinction of the human race.
All things being equal, we simply can’t have a creature feature storyline without some sort of misinformed and ill-guided human cult who believes in the sanctity of the monsters, and GKOTM delivers that cliche with gusto, led by the evil Jonah and supported by a main character in the novel, Emma. When the monsters are released by the cult, including King Ghidora, and destruction and death on a global scale begins to escalate, Emma has to decide if her deeply held beliefs are really what’s best for humanity.
Fans of the franchise will appreciate some familiar names — scientists from Monarch Dr. Ishirō Serizawa and Dr. Vivienne Graham. We also get some pretty sweet military might descriptions courtesy of Admiral Stenz, the commanding officer in the special branch of the Navy that tracks and engages the monsters in combat. Fans will also revel in the vast amount of creature descriptions and back story. As a person who appreciates the franchise simply for the scale (heck, it’s Godzilla! Guinness World Record holder for longest continuously running film franchise!) I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different monsters I wasn’t familiar with, and the old classics like Mothra and the featured headliner Godzilla were given special attention by Keyes, much to my delight.
Keyes has put together an excellent tie-in novel. His writing style is episodic and quick moving, which moves the plot from point A to point B in a metronomic and comfortable pace. There’s nothing tedious or clunky in this novel — the development of the characters and precise dialogue keeps the story interesting, even during the low points between monsters rising up to destroy a city or smash into each other in mortal combat along New England’s coastline. I struggled a bit keeping track of the multitude of characters in the beginning, but by the halfway point of the novel I had everyone figured out, just in time for them to be eaten or crushed or shot. Keyes uses his considerable talent to hook you from the get-go and keep you turning pages until the war between the monsters reaches its inevitable conclusion.
4 of 5 Monster Kings
Image courtesy of Legendary & TOHO and Titan Books; Scale by Movie Nooz