I Want to Marry Godzilla and Have His Children
 Melle Shipwash Starsen
Language: English Release: 2000
Publisher: AmErica House
Pages: 406
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 1588518396

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Nicholas Driscoll

In the world of obscure, very-loosely Godzilla-related titles, I Want to Marry Godzilla and Have His Children (IWTMGAHHC for shorter) must have the most audacious title. The length of the thing, and the ludicrousness of it, cries out “chick-lit catastrophe.” When I first stumbled on the title on Amazon, I figured it must be an example of those quick summer girly reads that run about 200 pages, stuffed with snarking and snogging in approximately equal measure. But, like the book's title itself, IWTMGAHHC is about twice as long as it needs to be and bizarrely fixated on pop culture. Just perhaps not the pop culture you'd expect.

Then again, unlike most of the pseudo-Godzilla titles I have been reviewing so far (Godzilla Rabbit, Godzilla Ate My Homework, and so on), IWTMGAHHC might have a smidgen of interest to extreme Godzilla otaku. The story centers around the romantic misadventures of one of our own—a Godzilla-movie lover in love, but without much luck in the matter..

Pop-culture addict Zoey, growing up in the fifties and sixties, has no luck with men. Though her mind be filled with romantic fictions, her romantic reality is far more dire. First she dates Karl, a neo-Nazi. Then she dates Curtis, an intelligent nymphomaniac with mother issues. Next it's Freddie, a man with serious sexual identity issues. On and on the parade of maladjusted morons come, and Zoey welcomes each one into her arms, embracing her own emotional ruin. As her psychological damage deepens, Zoey desperately clings to the succor of war movies and Godzilla, and becomes a sucker herself. Oh, cruel world! Will she ever find true love? Or, in the end, as she declares at the beginning, will she only find conjugal bliss in the scaly, mutated arms of an irradiated fictional prehistoric beast?

Zoey's unending tale of woe (and it doesn't seem to ever end) is centered on character, rather than plot, and constantly explores our heroine's emotional tides. Zoey is likable enough, smart and apparently sexy, judging by the way men seem to constantly fall for her. She's also profoundly stupid when it comes to relationships, digging deep into romances with complete dolts over and over again, and prattling on and on about how unfortunate she is. Herein lies a significant problem of the narrative.

Usually, Zoey's romantic counterparts are unbelievable. They tend to be complete trolls. Her first romance, in high school, is with an emotionally stunted Nazi apologist who regularly cons his friends into driving their car around, pretending it's a tank. Basically, every weekend, we're supposed to believe a group of teenagers get together with plastic guns and play war games like a pack of five-year-olds—all at the whim of a socially-stunted weirdo. Who apparently is Jewish. You know. A Jewish person who loves Nazis.

That's just the beginning. Almost all of Zoey's paramours are equally zany, but not in a good way. Zoey's men are often painted in broad strokes of brutish stripe, and we readers are left feeling she's getting her revenge by depicting her exes in darkest shades so we think she's an innocent victim. An innocent stupid victim, since just about every romance is with an obviously awful person from the start. One would assume she would get wiser as the book goes on, but actually the opposite is the case. (SPOILER ALERT) Rather than becoming more cautious as her emotional wounds accumulate, after a series of romantic misfires, she goes on vacation to escape from her idiocy and… rushes into a sexual relationship with a married womanizer over a period of two weeks thousands of miles from home. One of the final relationships described in the book is with, of all things, a teenage boy who she is too rock-dumb to realize is underage, but jumps his bones anyway. And the last relationship is the worst of all. What do you do when a man you're dating brags that he has been with 200 women, but that they all were evil, so he had to “kick their asses”? Why, you let him move in with you and, when he breaks your shoulder, you go to the doctor, have him patch you up, and then return to the scumbag so he can punch you out again, of course! Zoey's character arc dives down into ever deeper dumb-i-tude. She never seems to learn anything, and at the end, we are left wondering if she has really learned her lesson. Another bad relationship could be right around the corner. (END SPOILERS)

IWTMGAHHC is by first-time novelist Melle Shipwash Starsen, and published by an unorthodox publishing house called AmErica House, which usually doesn't bother with such backwards things as literary agents. Nevertheless, Starsen's writing is, while amateurish and peppered with mistakes, easy to read. Still, as tends to be the case with inexperienced writers, she tends to write on and on, and the story seems unbalanced, with no real goal in mind, laboring under a lopsided structure. The stream of the story tends to be unfocused, and is shot through with some of the most jarring flashbacks I've ever encountered. Moreover, more than once I got a creepy feeling that I was reading a thinly disguised memoir written largely for therapeutic purposes. The lack of focus and precision creates a slice-of-life verisimilitude, but if Zoey is Starsen in disguise, I really don't want to know about it.

One writing trope she uses repeatedly, and which failed utterly for me, was a series of largely unconnected war fantasies, or possibly dreams. Actually, Starsen never explains precisely what they are. These fantasies, which generally bookend important relationships and such in the book, are a chore to read, as they have no bearing on the story. Zoey loves war films, so during these “visions” she fantasizes about being in wars and meeting men. Or, at one point, traveling through time to save Vic Morrow's life. These excursions act only as distractions from the main plot, and I had no patience with them.

Which brings us to Godzilla. Since the book is named after Zoey's affection for the nuclear monster, one might think she would know a lot about the King of the Monsters, or that her fantasies about Godzilla would be somehow central to the story. However, though our heroine repeatedly watches Godzilla films throughout the narrative, her comments about the monster are incoherent, even contradictory.

From the very beginning, Starsen fails to write anything sensical about Godzilla. As early as page 9, Zoey describes her blossoming love for the original film, “before the 1970s when Godzilla sold out to the commercial golden calf of sequels and was cast against type and became a kind of unwilling, awkward anti-hero. This was before Godzilla joined the ranks of sadly weary would-be blockbusters in 1998.” Here, Zoey is explaining how Godzilla has changed a lot over the years… But then she goes back on her previous statement. Zoey loves Godzilla because he NEVER changes, as she states multiple times throughout the book, even just a couple pages later, on pages 11 and 12:

“I never wrote a fan letter to Godzilla. I should have, because I knew he was the only one for me. Godzilla was always the same old monster and never changed. I knew exactly what to expect from him. He never disappointed me, never turned into some other kind of monster, never shocked me by being like all the other, less inspired monsters.”

At one point in the novel, Zoey watches a Godzilla movie in which Godzilla takes a train in his mouth, and she takes comfort in that scene because Godzilla is so predictable—he always does the same stuff. Really? Godzilla only bites a train car in one movie—the first one. I suppose any movie monster is predictable if you only watch the same movie over and over again.

Not that Zoey claims to only watch the original movie. Through the course of the story, she watches Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and The Return of Godzilla (1984), among others. What's more, when she isn't fawning over Godzilla's constancy and unchanging character, she's complaining about him for changing! See:

“It was 1985. The remake of Godzilla was released and it was disappointing. It didn't have the uninhibited silliness as the older movies. Raymond Burr didn't look embarrassed like he had in the first movie, he looked bored. I was sad.” (pg. 363)

Never mind that The Return of Godzilla (1984) wasn't technically a remake, as the international title attests. The question is, which Godzilla does she like? The uninhibited silliness doesn't apply until the sequels come. Does she really think the original was thoroughly silly? Whatever you think of that movie, surely everyone would agree it is nowhere near as silly as Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) or All Monsters Attack (1969). And Burr was embarrassed in the original? From reports I've seen, Burr actually enjoyed being a part of the American version of the original Godzilla movie! Since Zoey is supposed to be a huge fan of Godzilla, even going so far as to listing him as one of her beaus by the end, this is actually important to the narrative. But she never bothers to unify her thoughts about our favorite radioactive theropod, leading me to wonder why she decided to name the book after him at all. With all her yearning for WWII rom-combat fantasies, she would have been better off titling her book I Want to Marry Sgt. Saunders and Have His Children.

For Godzilla fans to chick-lit addicts, IWTMGAHHC is a disappointment. Too ill-informed and blender-brained for hardcore G-fans, not romantic enough for the love-love crowd, too poorly written for the literature snob crew, Starsen's darling struggles to find any legitimate audience. Maybe it's for the best that Zoey's relationship with Godzilla tanked. We didn't need any bouncing baby sequels.