Stars: 3 out of 5
For most of the book, I thought this would a solid 5 star read. The story was fun to read and fast paced – a perfect book to spend a cold day with, curled up by the fire… Then I hit the last quarter of the book and finished it with my eyes rolling so much it hurt.
But let’s talk about what worked first, shall we? The story is lighthearted and rather optimistic, which is a plus during this pandemic times that seem never-ending. The protagonist is fun to follow. He never looses his optimism no matter what obstacles life throws in his way. We all could use a bit of that after two years of the global mess we’re in. I also liked that he is an average joe, unlike a lot of other typical protagonists who are either hidden martial artists, or retired military, or chosen ones. He isn’t even the smartest one around. He was hired to “lift things”, not do science. Yet he does indeed lift things and accomplish other dangerous and sometimes gross things with good grace, optimism, and fun.
I also loved the Kaiju Earth. To imagine a parallel world where life has adapted to a denser atmosphere that is richer in oxygen. A world where some animals are living walking nuclear reactors that sometimes go critical and explode. Only it’s not a catastrophe, like it would be in our world, because everything else around them evolved to absorb that radiation, to use it as fuel and food. So an exploding kaiju is basically like a dinner bell – everything that survives the initial blast and firestorm rushed that way to absorb as much radiation as possible.
It was fun to imagine a world where giant monsters like Godzilla were an inherent part of the ecosystem. It was also gratifying to have an explanation that worked. I also liked the explanation on how those monsters sometimes ended up crossing to our Earth, and why they couldn’t survive here for long.
So this was a fun romp until the last twist and the ending, which unfortunately killed the book for me. I almost rage-quit reading at one point, but decided to carry on since I was 80% at that time.
The problem is that the whole plot twist is highly unbelievable. But I could let that slip of the motivation behind it was sound. But as it stands, this book sports the worst antagonist I have seen in a book in looooong time. It’s like Scalzi forgot the true and tried principal that every villain is the hero of his or her own story. Yes, their actions might be atrocious or ridiculous, their plans might be far-fetched, but the motivation behind them must be believable. The antagonist must have a reason for what they are doing.
Here, they are just being bad for the sake of being bad. I mean, seriously, the author showed this antagonist in such a bad light from the beginning of the book that there isn’t a single redeeming quality in them. They are so evil, they come across as a cardboard cutout. A real person can’t be this horrible all the time. Even the worlds greatest villains and mass murderers have peoples and pets they care about. This antagonist doesn’t.
I mean, this might work for some readers, since the premise of the book is far-fetched anyway, but this absolutely didn’t work for me. I can’t stay involved in the story if I can’t take the bad guy seriously – I simply stop believing in the stakes.
Speaking of stakes, that twist with stealing Bella was simply ridiculous. Once again, a plan without any rhyme or reason with consequences that have been tacked on just for maximum damage and to show how villainous our antagonist is. I mean why pull the kaiju to our Earth and let it go nuclear? Those mercenaries had to come close to the kaiju in order to install the devices that would open the barrier, so why not just instruct them to take the samples required and quietly leave? It accomplishes exactly the same thing – the antagonist has all the samples he needs to breed his own living nuclear reactors, and nobody is the wiser. But now, he had to do this dramatic disappearing act, and kill a bunch of people in the process, just because he is evil.
Oh and the fact that four nerds with absolutely no military training managed to break into a mercenary compound and bring Bella back without getting killed? Yeah, that was absolutely not believable. That’s when my eyerolls reached such a speed that they gave me a headache.
So kudos for a fun and wonderfully created Kaiju Earth and engaging characters, but the antagonist and the ridiculous ending ruined that book.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.