Daikaiju...a Book Review
Edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen.
March 2005 – Agog Press, PO Box U302, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522. ISBN 0-9580567-4-9; Trade Paperback; 352 pages; Price AUS $27.99 (Collins Booksellers – GST included). Available on Amazon.com in the USA.
For more about this book see:
‘Kaiju’ is the Japanese word for monster and has come to be the catchphrase for the giant monsters that stride their way through myriad fantasy and science fiction tales today, whether they be purely literary or larger than life images on the big screen. The editors give an apt and detailed description in their introduction and it is well worth the read, to gauge the depth of enthusiastic response that writers and readers have had to this collection of short tales.
The entries in this remarkable anthology are, by and large, of excellent quality from authors all over the world. Style and content vary widely, from introspective ‘survivors’ tales to interaction with the giant beasts, from existing universes of giant ‘monsterisms’ to startlingly new and varied fresh responses to the theme.
Some of the stories that stand out include…
Stephen Mark Rainey’s ‘Transformer of Worlds’ combines the power of art and the power of dreams and a person’s ability to manipulate both. Only this time, the wrong person creates art for truly the wrong reason. Masterfully told story of a chase across time and dream realms to prevent the destruction of multitude worlds by art that releases…wait for it…giant monsters. Although that appears to be a trite summation, the monster aspects seem incidental to the story as the struggle between the protagonist and the insane scientist/artist create the framework and drive of the plot. This tale would make an interesting novel. Nice nod to the master of supernatural enquiry, Edgar Cayce, by naming the female lead for him.
‘Aspect Hunter’ by Anthony Fordham is a tale of danger, adventure, conflict and outrageous behavior, with a dose of time travel and unrequited romance. That’s about as close as it comes to a regular giant monster fantasy scenario. The kaiju in this story is a malevolent glacier that is gaining a swift advance on the city of Sydney, Australia following its growth and destruction of the towns west of the city. It sounds kind of like a fast ice-age until you find out that the glacier – like all of the other glaciers in existence – has a mind of its own, and thousands of ‘white demons’ to kill and destroy everything in their path. It is the job of the Aspect Hunter to ‘take it down’. Back from a time trip to 11,000 BC, the Aspect Hunter lands in a situation that has rapidly gone from bad to worse. He’s immortal, experienced in dealing with ‘ice’, and hangs with ‘the Yak’. Sorry, but you’re going to have to read the story for yourself if you want more information. I really enjoyed this one, and wouldn’t mind seeing the premise and characters developed in to a full-blown novel or series.
Paul Finch’s ‘Calibos’ is an adventure of note, as is Cody Goodfellow’s ‘Kungmin Horangi: The People’s Tiger’. Both encompass mankind’s struggle with itself to solve a dangerous problem, and not lose its humanity in the process. Well written, with only a slightly farcical, or should I say incredulous ending to ‘Kungmin’’.
‘Park Rot’ by Skip Peel is another oddity, but assuredly an amusing read if mildly cynical of big business greed.
On a more humorous note, Andrew Sullivan’s story, ‘Notes Concerning Events at the Ray Harryhausen Memorial Home For Retired Actors’ is a must read. It is a ‘take’ on how things would be if the monstrous giants of screen legend really were that size and actors to boot. What happens when they get past the height of their popularity, and grow old – some not so gracefully? This is the funniest ‘day-in-the-life-of’ I’ve ever read, as told by a giant ape who shall remain nameless.
Of Garth Nix ‘Read It In the Headlines’, it is a story told only in newspaper headlines and is also a great deal of fun.
I had a hard time comprehending the connections between the seemingly unconnected paragraphs of ‘Five Bells’ by Trent Jamieson.
The rest of the stories in this anthology are as well worth a read as the few mentioned above. Each of them has their own style and pace that makes them wholly individual and diverse. The editors have chosen well in their selection.
Concluding the anthology is a ‘must-read’ essay by Brian Thomas called “Wonders 8 Through 88: A Brief History of the Larger-Than-Life”. This is a witty and knowledgeable chronicle that doesn’t once get bogged down in too much reference or fan ‘gushiness’. The author shows a depth of knowledge of the human psych and what drives us to admire the huge heroes that touch our sense of awe and wonder, not to mention the inner child: reaching back into ancient archetypes and myth to find a basis for ‘why do we like them?’ A truly fun trip from the mythic past all the way to the mythic ‘future’ of big screen monsters, beginning with the original icon of 1933’s ‘King Kong’ to the most up to date entry from Japan, 2004’s ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’.
Also, reading the contributor’s biographies is almost as much fun as reading their contributions. Cute quips and cats…er, companion kaiju.
In summation, if you like big monsters, you’ll like this book. Even if you don’t, there is enough material to make a picky reader curious, perhaps enough to appreciate the diversity of imagination and what ‘larger-than-life’ means to each of us.
Meanwhile, the editors have announced the imminent production of a sequel anthology… In fact, two sequels will be launched on 1st June 2007 in Australia!
Editor Rob Hood, writer Cat Sparks, and Bob at the launch.