Godzilla vs. the Space Monster
 Scott Ciencin
Language: English Release: 1998
Publisher: Random House Pages: 112
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0679889027

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

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

Finally. After three books of tedious and friendly monsters, Ciencin has crafted a Godzilla book that is exciting and fun along the lines of the classics. Godzilla vs. the Space Monster is the first book in the series that actually goes so far as to have a villainous monster to escalate conflict throughout the progression of the story, and, even though the monster in question is the vastly overused King Ghidorah, this book, to me at least, is worlds better than the first three. Too bad it is also the last in the series.

Our protagonist in this story is twelve-year-old Troy Richmond who, in another series first, is not an orphan. Troy is a more-or-less normal kid from Fort Sheridan, Michigan who just wants to get out and see the world. He gets more than he anticipated when a bizarre luminescent green meteor with a mind of its own nearly smashes into him as he is kicking back with a friend on the outskirts of town. When he goes in for a closer look, an evil entity within the rock enters into his mind, and only by the narrowest margins is he able to subdue it. In the conflict, he gains the ability to communicate with monsters through the alien presence in his mind—and learns of the coming of the most powerful monster the earth has ever seen—King Ghidorah.

Troy is soon mixed up with the series regular Hiro the kaijuologist, who is one of the main kaijuologists involved in the study of Godzilla. Troy is able to warn Godzilla of King Ghidorah's coming and attempts to rally the earth monsters to team together against him, but King Ghidorah is a step ahead. Ghidorah attacks and handily defeats the monsters on Monster Island before flying off to begin his campaign of destruction, smug in the knowledge that the monsters of earth are no match for his considerable abilities. Mothra and Battra also make an appearance, putting aside their mutual animus for each other and fighting the tri-headed juggernaut, but they, too, are unable to defeat the beast.

The only chance seems to be to bring all the monsters together in a final, desperate attempt to defeat King Ghidorah once and for all—but Troy wants nothing to do with it. After getting out into the world, he is overwhelmed at the responsibilities laid at his feet and considers himself unequal to the challenge. But with Troy out, the earth defense forces have no one whom Godzilla trusts that can communicate with him and the other monsters. And with King Ghidorah's destructive swath accelerating and the horrifying self-healing abilities that the dragon mysteriously manifests, the space-demon appears unstoppable and the earth's future seems to be lit primarily by the flames of apocalypse.

I have complained before about Ciencin's take on Godzilla as being too much Barney and not enough Sharp Tooth, but perhaps what was the greatest weakness of the previous novels was how unexciting they were. Though there were monsters galore, and more than a few kaiju battles, their fights never seemed important—the monsters just wanted to be friends, really, and their fights stemmed more from confusion or outside intervention rather than competing goals. This is an effective way of making Godzilla softer and more kid-friendly (if that was really necessary, considering much of the source material), but it also drained much of the excitement out of the series. There was never a real antagonist except for the briefest period at the end of the third volume, and then only at the last minute and right out of nowhere. That isn't to say that these stories couldn't be exciting without a villain, but in general they were not. Characters were too shallow, and the action simply didn't have the edge and motivation to make it very interesting much of the time, at least to this reader.

With Godzilla vs. the Space Monster, finally that edge and motivation are there. It's the oldest motivation in monster movies—the very survival of the human race, and of the monsters themselves—but that's also why it works. While the storyline still dances around anyone actually dying, the monsters do get hurt, and badly—not just for a few moments. Wings get torn up and punctured, a monster's head gets badly scorched, and one oversized beast actually has a piece of its anatomy torn off. This book is considerably darker than the others, and, at least in this case, much more compelling for it.

The human characters are more interesting somehow as well. Even before I got to the meat of the conflict, for some reason I cared more about the characters here. The dialogue between Troy and his friend Allison seemed more real to me than the manufactured orphans of the previous books, and I immediately connected with them. That connection kind of fizzles out over time as he is separated from Allison for the majority of the story, and Hiro is as dull as he has ever been in the previous books, but there is a progression to Troy's character that is passably interesting to follow.

Other elements of the story are frustratingly dumb or forced in order to make the plot move forward, a familiar aspect of endemic to all of Ciencin's Godzilla novels. Most infuriating is Troy's relationship with the alien force that has taken residence in his brain. From the very beginning we are told that the alien has a malevolent purpose that is tied to King Ghidorah's coming, and yet throughout the novel all the humans trust and believe the alien—and, what's more, despite how the alien's motivations are quite against the humans, everything he tells Troy is completely trustworthy. We are supposed to understand that Troy somehow is controlling or has some sort of authority over the alien force because he defeated it earlier—and yet the alien can and does withhold information from Troy when it sees fit, at least when it is ostensibly for Troy's "benefit." Why does the alien lose all of its former purpose for coming to earth? This is never explained well, and the resolution of their relationship is quick and neat and unsatisfying.

Furthermore, it is never explained how or why Godzilla trusts Troy more than the psychic employees of the earth defenses. Supposedly Godzilla can sense an openness in Troy that is absent from the other psychics, but Godzilla got along with the psychic youngsters in the previous two novels just fine. Why would he suddenly distrust the ones that the military hires, especially since Troy's communication abilities are dependent on the service of a supposedly "overwhelmingly evil" alien? Well, because it keeps Troy in the story, that's why!

But even for all these faults, Godzilla vs. the Space Monster is easily the most exciting and arguably the strongest entry in the Ciencin Godzilla series. Complimenting the story quite well is a number of splendid illustrations by Bob Eggleton, who utilizes the Godzilla design from King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) for this book. It is strange to see this particular Godzilla at loggerheads with King Ghidorah, but delightful as well, and Eggleton is at the top of his game, capturing the monsters so well that you can practically see their zippers.

I never want to say that I am not open to new interpretations of Godzilla. I love new interpretations, and thrive on the variety. I simply ask for those interpretations to be enjoyable and compelling. Godzilla vs. the Space Monster takes Ciencin's softy Godzilla and marries it to a harder version of the more whiz-bang entries in the movie series, producing in the end a hackneyed but enjoyable novel for long-time Godzilla fans. I enjoyed it.