Meet Godzilla
 Robert Greenberger
Language: English Release: 2005
Publisher: Rosen Publishing Group
Pages: 48
Genre: Non-fiction ISBN: 1404202692

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Following in the footsteps of Ian Thorne's Godzilla and the Crestwood House “Monster Series” of popular orange hardback books, the Rosen Publishing Group released the Famous Movie Monsters book series with practically the same format—but released some thirty years later. The books are approximately the same size as the old Crestwood favorites as well, and they found Robert Greenberger, former editor at DC, and author of numerous pop-culture-related books and novels, to write. Even the page count is pretty much the same. But Greenberger’s more recent book, despite covering many more movies than Thorne's classic, is also much more substantial in content and aimed at a somewhat older readership. Which isn’t to say that this later effort does not struggle with a sprinkling of errors.

The book starts out with a thorough plot synopsis of Godzilla King of the Monsters as the first chapter, with the second chapter being a strangely incomplete overview of most of the Godzilla films. The third chapter is called “Reflection on Society,” and is a brief rundown of important themes that have surfaced in select Godzilla films—notably the original, and Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971). The final chapter includes breezy information about Godzilla as he has appeared in other media forms, such as comics and cartoons. Finally, the book includes a bizarrely incomplete filmography, as well as a glossary of movie-related terms for young readers, and a number of recommended sources for further reading, and a bibliography.

There is much to be appreciated in the above content. Greenberger delves into the material with more depth than Thorne had thirty years previous, with nice little nuggets on the origins of the story behind King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), for example, and a number of quotes from newspapers and the like, as well as a number of quotes from interviews with luminaries such as Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. One particularly fun fact that Greenberger includes is that, when the Godzilla movies were released in Germany, the plots were changed so as to suggest that Dr. Frankenstein was sending monsters to attack Godzilla!

On the other hand, considering the number of mistakes prevalent in the text, it might behoove readers to question the accuracy of the above as well. Along with small errors such as misspelling  Akihiko Hirata’s given name as “Akhiko” three times and suggesting that Toho renamed Godzilla as Gigantis, Greenberger also writes that Akira Ifukube scored 22 Godzilla films (pg. 17), that The Return of Godzilla (1984) was the last Godzilla film to be released theatrically in America (that would be Godzilla 2000: Millennium), and explains that the terms “Showa” and “Heisei” mean “first generation” and “second generation,” rather than being a part of the Japanese calendar system related to when certain Japanese emperors reigned. Considering these and other oddities, such as leaving out Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster (1964) and Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) from the chapter discussing the film series, and ending the filmography in the back with The Return of Godzilla (and giving that film and Godzilla King of the Monsters the same synopsis, word for word), the book comes across as sloppy and rushed. The writing is surprisingly mediocre as well. Perhaps I’ve been grading too many freshman papers lately, but Greenberger’s prose came across to me as frequently imprecise and poorly organized.

Visually, the book scores a little better, with a mix of color and black and white shots, and a pleasing overall design. Still, with some pages just solid text, and one caption completely wrong (identifying a picture of the newer Godzilla: The Series based on the 1998 film as a shot from the Hanna-Barbera series), some kids might think the book a smidgeon boring or confusing. The pictures also aren’t nearly as frequent or exciting as Thorne’s book, with very few highlighting the Big G’s foes. I certainly would not have developed my lifelong fandom with Godzilla to the same degree growing up reading this book as I had reading Thorne’s.

But the comparisons may not be altogether fair. If I had had this book as a youngster, I would have been thrilled with the additional information, even if some of it might prove inaccurate upon later inspection. Frankly, the audience for Meet Godzilla is just a bit different from Thorne’s, and a bit more sophisticated. Greenberger’s book may not be as iconic as Thorne’s book was to many Godzilla fans, but it is still worth a read for the younger set who might not yet be ready to try perusing, say, Ryfle or Kalat’s more imposing tomes, but still want to learn something of substance about the Godzilla phenomenon.