The Kaiju Preservation Society is John Scalzi’s first standalone adventure since the conclusion of his New York Times bestselling Interdependency trilogy.
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 at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and 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 that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too–and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
To be completely honest, I picked up this novel from the title alone. I had heard of John Scalzi and the buzz his work gets whenever a new novel is releases. There have been a few times when I think his next book will be the one I read. Then he released The Kaiju Preservation Society, a novel about an alternate world where people work to study and work with animals the size of apartment buildings. I have loved kaiju movies my whole life; there have been too many hours sitting in front of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Kong to even count, so when this novel came out, my excitement was finally enough to break that barrier of just saying, “I should probably read Scalzi some day,” to having to read it or else.
The story begins with Jamie Gray losing his job and delivering food to an old acquaintance from college. When he offers Jamie a job, in the midst of a pandemic where everyone was out of work, there is nothing better for him to do but accept. What he did not know was that he would be traveling to an alternate earth where kaiju rule and humans are there to try to scientifically study them. From there, not only is Jamie trying to fit into his new job, he is trying to help the researchers in any way he can and eventually becomes an important part of the crew. The novel has all of the beats of an action movie, where something is going to happen in every scene, so there are no dull moments between Jamie arriving on the base and Jamie getting initiated into a new world. At many points he is doing his best to make sure everyone makes it out alive.
I love this novel. The subject matter endears me to the story from the beginning, but it still could have been horribly executed. Fortunately this is exactly the kind of novel I was hoping for, even though I did not know it. Scalzi writes a fun and light sci-fi action novel that is filled with humor, characters with defined roles (there is a huge line between the good guys and the bad guys, like in professional wrestling), and of course there is danger and excitement. In the afterward, John Scalzi says that this is a novel that came out of the crushing mental health strain of the pandemic, and what he has written is something we all need. I agree completely. His novel is a pop song that gets stuck in your head and really takes you away from all of the strains of the modern world.