Godzilla 2000
 Marc Cerasini
Language: English Release: 1997
Publisher: Random House Pages: 324
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0679887512

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Before anyone asks, no, Godzilla 2000 the book has nothing to do with Godzilla 2000: Millenium (1999) the movie from two years later. Orga never makes an appearance. Instead, the book is pop-lit author Marc Cerasini's direct sequel to his 1996 novel Godzilla Returns. While his first book was practically a novelization of The Return of Godzilla (1984), on his second Cerasini strikes out on his own, crafting a more original story with a glut of monsters striking the Americas and culminating in a slam-bang climax as Godzilla faces off with King Ghidorah on the streets of Manhattan with Mothra playing backup. In a sense, this is Cerasini's equivalent to Ciencin's Godzilla vs. the Space Monster, which would come out the next year. Much like that book, Godzilla 2000 is a treat for giant monster fans, with plenty of kaiju catastrophe to satisfy monster-smash appetites. Just don't expect the homo sapiens cast to make as big of an impression.

Before diving in, I'll issue a fair warning to those afraid of spoilers. In order to effectively critique this book, I will be discussing the plot developments in some depth, regardless of their importance. If you the reader wish to partake of this book with those details unspoiled, I suggest skipping to the end of this review. Otherwise, all plot elements are fair game.

While some of the characters from the previous novel do make cameo appearances (most notably Nick Gordon and Emiko Takado), Godzilla 2000 mostly tells a story far removed from Japan and INN newsgroup. Instead, the second novel moves the setting into America and takes apparent inspiration from an 80's sci-fi movie called The Last Starfighter (1984) . After Godzilla chases after the Dr. Nobeyama's bird call into the Marianas Trench, the United States government decides to start training prospective members for an elite anti-kaiju team called G-Force, especially candidates to operate their Super-X-ish vehicle, the Raptor. They go about this by designing an arcade game (named BATTLEGROUND 2000--yes, it's all in caps) based on the Raptor's controls. The arcade game, which to civilians appears to be nothing but a game, of course is actually testing the nation's youth, and the teens with the best scores (and no criminal records) will be gathered together to begin training as G-Force. Naturally it is a socially awkward, insecure teen named Kip Daniels who excels at the game the most. As G-Force is begin training, enormous monsters begin appearing all across the Americas--Rodan in Alaska, Kamacuras in Midwest America, Varan in Mexico. Meanwhile, a group of asteroids big enough to destroy the earth is discovered heading our way, and a female member of G-Force named Lorelei (or Lori for short) is contacted through her dreams by a mysterious, magical being known as Mothra, warning her of the coming of a space dragon that will devastate all life on earth. Oh, and there is another team of reporters zooming around, mostly following Varan, and they are sort of important, too. Then, of course, there is Godzilla. He has stuff to do, too.

Godzilla 2000 has a very busy plot--arguably too busy. Eschewing the comparatively focused plot design of Godzilla Returns, Cerasini seems to be trying to toss in as many monsters and as much action as he can, not all of which really need to be there. Rodan's role is particularly unimportant, and inconsistent. In this book, the soaring saurian also happens to be an Eskimo Thunderbird who chit-chats with an ancient shaman in his dreams before appearing, thus creating an anticipation for the monster's purposeful presence. Rodan seems to be intelligent at first, and the fact that she (yes, it's a female Rodan) appears conveniently at the time of King Ghidorah's approach seems to suggest that she is going to help fight the terror dragon. Unfortunately, once she shows her horny head, Rodan acts more or less like a stupid animal, flapping around, eating planes, and eventually laying an egg on Mt. Rushmore. (The sequence in which she is discovered to have laid the egg is particularly confusing; four hours earlier she had been hiding in a lake and no one could find her, then suddenly she bursts out of the water and miraculously has a nest on our president's noggins, which Cerasini informs us she has been working on for twelve hours. How she was secretly building a nest while resting on the bottom of a lake that the military has been closely observing is anyone's guess.) In short, despite my affection for the pterodactyl monster, and despite some very exciting action sequences, she shouldn't be in this book.

The other monsters have more defined roles, although just about all of them somehow manage to disappear and reappear when needed for the plot. Though Cerasini tries valiantly, I never bought that these enormous monstrosities could hide from the military so effectively, winking in and out of the story whenever Cerasini found it convenient. Still, Cerasini's versions of the famed daikaiju are quite awesome. The Kamacuras in particular are turned into a horrifying swarm, thousands of them spawning from a mutagenic substance delivered by meteorites. Their attack on small-town farmers, swallowing people whole and chomping cows in half before getting blasted apart by bombers, makes for some of the most gripping reading in the entire book. Cerasini even works in what appears to be a nod to the classic nuclear bug movie Them! (1954), with a mute, orphaned little girl traumatized by the Kamacuras' assault. (Details such as why the meteorites mutate mantises and not more common insects, like ants, flies, or even centipedes, and why the monsters aren't spotted before growing as big as a barn, are never explained.)

Varan, meanwhile, has become a man-eater ala any number of Gamera's monster opponents, and his purpose here, story-wise, is to become practice material for G-Force before they have to take on the Godzilla. The giant flying squirrel lizard manifests some entertaining new powers as his flight is explained as an ability to bloat up like a balloon, filling air sacs with hydrogen to allow him to fly.

Cerasini handles Mothra pretty well, even if she has little to do except pull the strings in the background, guiding Godzilla and providing a convenient excuse for why Dr. Nobeyama's bird call doesn't work anymore. (The bird call isn't dealt with until page 268, over halfway into the book, and then only with a quick dismissive paragraph; despite being the salvific device from the first book, predictably it is barely mentioned here.)

The human characters, meanwhile, get much less attention than they did even in the first book. Much like with the monsters, there are just too many of them. In addition to Kip and Lori on G-Force, there are also Toby, Martin, Pierce, and Tia on the team, not to mention their leaders Krupp and Taggart, as well as psychologist Markham. A lot of attention is also given to the largely suicidal reporter team of obnoxious Robin Halliday, down-to-earth Linda Carlisle, and Mike Timko. None of the human characters are particularly deep, but neither are any of them as annoying as Nick Gordon was in the first book. Despite G-Force being a bunch of teens, they are a likable enough bunch, if inconsistent and unbelievable. Kip, for example, has misgivings about fighting Godzilla. He doesn't want to hurt Godzilla, despite all the lives Godzilla has destroyed, and yet Taggart never throws him off the team. (For some reason, Kip has no such misgivings about taking out Varan or King Ghidorah.) Lori, meanwhile, exhibits increasing mental instability, possibly even spiritual possession by Mothra, and yet she too is not removed from the team, even after she steals a plane from G-Force and flies away to watch Godzilla attack San Francisco. Those in charge of G-Force seem to be absolute idiots.

(As a side note, some might argue that Kip's reluctance to kill Godzilla comes from the mental manipulations of Mothra, who was warning Lori not to attack Godzilla. However, Cerasini makes it clear that Mothra can only communicate telepathically with females.)

Nevertheless, there is a whole lot to like in Cerasini's sophomore Godzilla effort. After priming his kaiju claws on Godzilla Returns, the author seems significantly more confident here, and he includes plentiful fun nods to Toho films that fans of the movies can pick up on, including a pilot named Myron Healey (the actor from the American version of Varan (1958)), a Captain Kubo (perhaps inspired by actor Akira Kubo), a sequence in which a man mistakes chunks of Godzilla's flesh for rubber (!), and even a scene in which Mothra and Godzilla appear to talk with each other, much like a similar sequence in Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964). The method used to dispatch King Ghidorah, meanwhile, apes Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) pretty closely, albeit with a twist. Although some of this is certainly derivative, the similarities usually come across more as homage than creative bankruptcy, much more so anyway than Godzilla Returns, and the book proves quite entertaining, especially with Cerasini's phenomenal attention to mechanical and military detail, which is even better this time around. Cerasini always seems to know all the names of the vehicles, the kinds of engines or propellers they use, the materials used in weapons, how they are operated, the number of people who operate them, what the officers would say, and more. His descriptions of the monsters and their attacks are also as effective as ever, with many memorable passages. Unfortunately, by the time King Ghidorah shows up there has been so much destruction already that the space beast's attacks have much less oomph, not the least because Cerasini himself seems tired of describing all the mayhem.

As usual, Bob Eggleton provides another great cover painting, although I think it is slightly less effective than many of his other works; Rodan doesn't look too detailed, and KG looks a bit awkward anatomically speaking. Inside, the art at the beginning of chapters are the official Toho symbols for the monsters, changing depending on the monster that appears in that particular chapter, thus helping to build more anticipation in the kaiju lover.

Godzilla 2000 is by no means earth-shattering (even if the asteroids in the story are threatening such), but it is highly entertaining reading for lovers of the genre and the monster characters. As I've come to expect, the human characters receive less attention than the action, and meaningful character arcs are nonexistent. Still, Godzilla 2000 delivers a lot of what Godzilla fans love, and Cerasini writes monster mayhem better than any other Godzilla prose author I've encountered. As long as you're not expecting anything more than that, then this book is a roaring good time, and a nice improvement over the first.