Godzilla King of the Monsters
 Scott Ciencin
Language: English Release: 1996
Publisher: Random House Pages: 97
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0679882200

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

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

This creatively titled young adult novel is the first in a series of four from prolific fantasy/sci-fi author Scott Ciencin. They were published during that wondrous period in the mid-90s, when Godzilla literature was popping up like political controversies during a presidential election. Ciencin is an experienced writer, and, along with a few original works, has done numerous junior spin-off novelizations of a number of intellectual properties: from Jurassic Park to Dinotopia to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although I am not familiar with his other work, I was looking forward to seeing what he would do with Godzilla.

After reading through the first in the quadrology, I came away thinking "not much." This is essentially an uninspired retread of the original Godzilla (1954), with the addition of three little kids as protagonists—that's right, Kennys have invaded Godzilla's origin story!

It all starts with a godzillasaurus swimming the ocean after a long hibernation when an inevitable atomic bomb test irradiates his body and transforms him into the titular Godzilla, an event that angers him enough to send him on a rampage. Ciencin has humanized Godzilla a bit more than the usual take, giving him self-awareness and angst at being the only one of his kind, and even making him clap his, err, claws with delight at one point. In fact, Godzilla has more character than a lot of the humans.

Speaking of which, our heroes are three orphaned children on a small island where Godzilla first makes landfall. Yes, more orphans—Ciencin is hitting all of the clichés. Yukio is the teenage older brother, Lily is the middle sister (although her real name is Yuri, a word that means "lily" in Japanese, for some reason she prefers the English equivalent), and Shiro is the bratty youngest brother who has a fascination with Godzilla. As some of the first people to see Godzilla and come out alive, they are taken to Japan and end up jaunting about with the improbably green-eyed Japanese reporter, Akina. Eventually the "barbaric" adults decide to use Dr. Serizawa—I mean, Dr. Enomato's experimental "Alpha Weapon" to destroy Godzilla. Of course, things get exciting and absurd as folks rush about in submarines, natives dance and sing, and Godzilla roars his way to a climax considerably less poignant than the Japanese original.

Characterization is predictably sparse here, with most characters defined by one trait or less. This wouldn't necessarily hurt the story too much, except that the problems don't stop there—along with their shallowness, characters are inconsistent and unbelievable as well. In a particularly ludicrous sequence, super reporter Akina, upon seeing Godzilla coming less than a block away, simply stands and films the beast, showing not a trace of fear or reason and arguing with those who would save her sorry hide that people need to know "the truth" about Godzilla's existence—as if anyone would doubt it after the events that day anyway. Then, when the kids knock the camera from her hands, she suddenly stops caring, doesn't protest at all, and goes along with the children quite calmly. As usual in stories like these, the adults are mostly morons who need the clever kids to instruct them in order to accomplish anything.

There are other flaws to the story as well, such as the unfortunate "innovation" of having the brat Shiro give Godzilla his true name of "Gojira" in a random, motive-less fashion. (The name "Godzilla" is later given to the monster by the officials and is apparently completely unrelated to Shiro's christening.) After Shiro names the beast, his siblings think that he is calling Godzilla a frog, which makes no sense considering everyone is presumably speaking Japanese and "frog" in that language is "kaeru." Ciencin did do some research on Japan, however, and has a few nice touches, such as when a suicidal general attacking Godzilla is said to be guided by the "divine winds"—a more or less literal translation of the word kamikaze.

Despite all of its faults, though, Godzilla King of the Monsters is a fun enough read. The prose is appropriately easy-breezy and the book can be finished within the length of the average Godzilla movie viewing time, so even if the dumb plot and characters don't intrigue, it's all over quickly. Throw in an awesome cover depicting 1954 Godzilla toasting Tokyo by the great Bob Eggleton, and the book isn't a huge loss. It's just a poor imitation of the daikaiju classic and an underwhelming beginning to the series—Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but Godzilla King of the Monsters is not king of the monster books.