Godzilla Invades America
 Scott Ciencin
Language: English Release: 1997
Publisher: Random House Pages: 108
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0679887520

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Thanks goes to Sam Messerly for sending this in for review!

After reading Godzilla King of the Monsters, Ciencin's first junior novel in a series of four, I was unimpressed but curious. While his take on Godzilla wasn't amazingly inventive or even particularly interesting, it was fairly pleasant, largely brainless reading. I am ever and always a sucker for new Godzilla fare anyway, and I had always wanted to read his junior novels for that very reason. I was willing to give him a second chance. I just didn't realize I was about to get Barneyzilla.

In Godzilla Invades America, Ciencin's apparent counterpart to Cerasini's Godzilla 2000 novel, the author continues the long-held tradition of movie monster sequels—adding more monsters. The story follows young Tomoyuki (presumably named after legendary Toho producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka, who died that year and to whom the novel is dedicated), a teenage Japanese orphan (again) sent to live with his cousins in America. Of course, he's an outcast. He's awkward and stands out and is picked on by his peers. And, conveniently, Tomoyuki has special powers—he can communicate with animals with his mind, reading their emotions and projecting his own, something he does to command and cajole his pet cat, C.B. But then he starts picking up another set of animalistic emotions—strong ones, overwhelming emotions overflowing with wrath. Yes, Tomoyuki isn't the only displaced being from Japan—Godzilla is visiting as well, and he's angry!

Godzilla shares more with Tomoyuki than just his homeland - the big lizard also shares the protagonist's psychic abilities. The reason that he came to America, and more specifically to Los Angeles and Las Vegas and the surrounding areas, was due to a psychic link that was somehow established between himself and the newborn gigantic monsters created via scientific mishap in a desert-based facility there. Soon Godzilla is fighting and, more to the point, romping with Kamacuras, Kumonga, and Ciencin's own kaiju creation, Sasori, a gargantuan scorpion. But while Godzilla is out making friends, the military wants Godzilla dead, and Tomoyuki finds himself wrapped up in Godzilla's destiny, trying to solve the mysteries behind the monsters, and attempting to help the army understand the terminally misunderstood big G before it's too late.

With this novel, Ciencin takes Godzilla's anthropomorphic qualities to new heights - or depending on your point of view, new lows. In Godzilla Invades America, Godzilla isn't so much a dangerous monster with a grudge against humankind as he is a lonely beast in search of a friend. More than anything, Godzilla wants someone to play with and spend time with. Godzilla's a big softy, and pretty soon he makes friends with Sasori (which, in case anyone was wondering, actually does mean "scorpion" in Japanese), who is quite intelligent for an arachnid. They roughhouse and enjoy the scenery and even play pranks on each other. At times, I started thinking Godzilla was more like an edgier and much bigger version of a certain friendly purple dinosaur. Of course, Godzilla still smashes buildings and various military vehicles, but in the world Ciencin has crafted, nobody really dies - or if they do, nobody mentions it. This is entertainment for the very young, but having a big monster smashing a city while denying the casualties and refusing to villainize him in any way seems misguided and just plain dumb to me, and I had a similar reaction to much of what Marvel did with the character. The prevailing sentiment seems to be "he didn't mean it, so it's not his fault"—but when thousands of lives are at stake, it just seems insulting.

Continuing the trend from the last book, the human characters aren't particularly deep either. Tomoyuki gets the most attention, and we sympathize with him because he's the outcast and the orphan—but that's about it. He's not a very interesting character, even with his psychic abilities. He's heroic and noble and cares about others, but he never seems human. The other characters, with the exception of an over-the-top teenage Elvis impersonator, are almost instantly forgettable. Of course, we didn't come for the humans, and Ciencin does give us a lot of monster-time—but most of it is not very engaging. The most exciting bits involve some action involving man-sized ants capturing folks in the aforementioned scientific facility, but it's kind of a throw-away scene. The scariest stuff is the artwork by Bob Eggleton, who this time provides a fantastic front cover as well as creepily sketchy black-and-white illustrations on the inside. This being the popular Heisei design, Godzilla looks downright mean and nasty, which doesn't match the action very well.

By the end of the novel, Ciencin has set us up for the sequel with a number of new monsters on the way while Godzilla is showing signs of returning to his heroic days of the '60s and '70s, and Tomoyuki finishes up the his story by easily treading through the usual clichés and suddenly being cool to all the kids. It's hard to care very much about what's going on, and ultimately this Godzilla invasion on American soil is as dubiously entertaining as a lot of the other American Godzilla material. It's just mediocre, and the king of the monsters should never be that