Godzilla Meets Master Charge
 Bob Gliner
Language: English Release: 1982
Publisher: Advocate House Pages: 228
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0910029008

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Some time ago, out of curiosity, I searched Amazon.com for any and all books related to Godzilla. Browsing through the results, I was pretty familiar with most of what I discovered, having read a significant number of Godzilla books myself, from Cerasini to Ciencin, Ryfle to Dark Horse, Marvel to Gilmour. Nevertheless, I wasn't familiar with all of them. Oh, no.

It turns out the Godzilla name has been slapped onto quite a few books not normally associated with giant monsters, from a novel about a horse to something called Godzilla Rabbit. What ignited my curiosity the most, however, were the titles that had no information attached to them to tell me what sort of book they might be, and googling the titles similarly produced nothing significant, not even cover pictures. One of those books was Godzilla Meets Master Charge published in the 1980's (sometimes erroneously titled Godzilla Meets Mastercharge). In my mind I pictured a book aimed at children in which Godzilla, or perhaps a monster similar to Godzilla, faced off against some form of fiend that had harnessed the power of electricity—perhaps a mad scientist obsessed with world domination via electrons. I ordered the book recently, eager to ascertain how close my conjectures came to reality. As it turns out, about as close as Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) came to claiming an Academy Award.

Godzilla Meets Master Charge tells the fictional tale of one David Stringfield, a former social activist and a consummate ladies' man who has now become a disillusioned college professor with more than a hint of "hippy" about him. After hooking up with New Age, free-love girl Mara, David abruptly quits his job at the college in order to produce a film called Godzilla Meets Master Charge, an anti-consumerism tale in which an American couple, Rhonda and Bob, feeling trapped by consumerism and credit card debt, go to Japan to recruit Godzilla (who, it is decided, is a "woman") to save them from the societal and economical ills created by the monopolistic credit company Master Charge (presented as an actual company in the book). David has no idea how to go about putting together a movie, however, but in stumbling through the process, he manages to drum up a publicity machine for the proposed film which in turn ignites nationwide protests against materialism, false advertising, and the overuse of credit which Master Charge encourages. After some civilians start publicly burning their Master Charge cards, the head of Master Charge, Mr. Alworthy, uses all of his resources against David in order to break or assimilate him, going so far as to kidnap him and force him into becoming a part of a bizarre alternate community characterized by meaningless labor and empty lives. After that, David is introduced to Alworthy's idea of a utopia, a city called Americardia in which credit has replaced all physical money, and purchasing goods has become the center of all life. David, surrounded by temptations, realizing the extent of the power that Alworthy possesses, must decide what to do next, if his mission of anti-consumerism is even viable, or if the world is doomed to financial inequality and selfishness.

Godzilla Meets Master Charge is at its heart a clumsy message story about the ills of consumerism. David Stringfield seems to be, essentially, the author Bob Gliner himself, who also was a social reformist and college professor, as well as a salesman, which David eventually becomes, so it seems clear that this message is very close to the author's heart. This is no balanced message, either; those supporting American capitalism are universally depicted as greedy, ignorant, or downright megalomaniacal, as Mr. Alworthy is as nutty as your average comic book supervillain, kidnapping, destroying families, and crafting entire communities to match his twisted view on life. The text itself is extremely light on things like background detail or physical description; most of the book consists of conversations and the internal thoughts and struggles of David. All the better to present Gliner's ideas about life; the dialogue often completely jettisons realism for ridiculous soliloquies about the problems of society, or why free sex is a good thing. Capitalists, like David's friends Brendon and Emily, are depicted as gleeful parasites feeding on the misery of the nation with their companies Coping, Inc, and the Guilt Brothers. To Gliner's credit, the prose reads quickly and easily, and he crafts his messages so that they are easily digestible, but the dialogue is often hokey, and the writing is awkward enough that there are many times in which it is initially unclear who is talking. Gliner tries to pump up the text (ahem) with frequent sexual entanglements, especially towards the beginning, and copious coarse language, but the story is just too dumb, with minimal research (neither Toho nor Master Charge sue David for copyright infringement) and maximum absurdity, best illustrated perhaps by a sequence in which David, trapped in Alworthy's stone quarry, realizes Mara's missing husband Tom must have been kidnapped by Alworthy for going into too much credit card debt and quickly asks the nearest fellow if a Tom lives there. No last name is ever mentioned. Never mind that nobody goes by their names in this community, nor that it was eight years ago that Tom disappeared and that there are many people trapped together in this depressing community; the very first Tom David talks to is Mara's long lost husband. Lazy, lazy storytelling.

It just isn't likely that anyone is going to buy Gliner's message, either, unless they have already been indoctrinated by anti-establishment ideals. Gliner bludgeons the reader with his ideas and presents such an asininely evil caricature of his opposition that it's difficult to take him seriously. What's strange is that Gliner doesn't seem fully convinced of his solutions, either; David Stringfield and the other pseudo-hippy characters are no happier than those supposedly deluded by consumerism. David is deeply conflicted, and only seems to find fleeting snatches of happiness in seeing his kids or, especially, while performing sex acts with Mara, while Mara lives in denial about her former husband (who was kidnapped eight years previous by the devious Alworthy because he had overspent on his Master Charge), while Jake, another hippy-type looking to sleep with Mara, spends much of the book moping in the mountains, presumably smoking weed. Eventually Mara and Jake come around to form a somewhat stable relationship while starting up a community center called Jake's Place, with which they hope to transform society, but David remains unconvinced and, disgusted with Mara's infidelity to himself, runs off to seduce another woman in the closing chapter. (Throughout the book, David rarely passes up the chance to have sex with a woman, or at least ogle their curves, whether it's Mara or someone else.)

As for Godzilla, she is of peripheral importance. There are some amusing scenes in which David talks about how Godzilla gives advice to an adulterous couple, and later, when David pretends to defect to the side of Master Charge, Godzilla appears in a series of commercials for the credit card, extolling the virtues of purchasing power. The reason Gliner chose Godzilla seems to be as a symbol of power and foreignness; the monster takes on something of a messianic figure, an almost religious symbol for the will to undermine capitalistic thought. Eventually David himself is identified with Godzilla, signifying that he can be a large part of the solution to consumerism's ills.

Godzilla Meets Master Charge is not a good book. It tries hard to be important and current, even attempting to emulate the social commentary modes established so well by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World with the Americardia anti-utopia, but Gliner completely fails to present a coherent, believable world, and his message is severely compromised by his vicious characterizations of those he disagrees with. Outside of the sledge hammer message, the story itself is too bland and unbelievable, filled with eye-gapingly stupid events and an unpleasant protagonist. To the curious Godzilla fan, consider this your fair warning; this book has very little to do with the Big G, and it's very unlikely that you will enjoy it on any other level, except perhaps to mock it. As for me, I don't and have never owned a credit card. After reading this tripe, maybe I'll go out and get one.