John Scalzi had lofty goals for his next book, but like many of us, he found that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted even the best-laid plans. He found himself looking for a release, something to keep his mind off the unmitigated disaster that was 2020. Writing the funny and endearing Kaiju Preservation Society turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
Food app delivery driver Jamie Gray has just about had it—with work, New York City and the pandemic. But a chance encounter leads Jamie to Tom, an old friend who offers Jamie a job working for a mysterious animal rights organization called the KPS. Eager to do anything to get out of town, Jamie jumps at the chance. But this job is unlike anything anyone could have imagined. On another Earth, one warmer and devoid of humankind, gargantuan creatures called Kaiju roam. It’s up to the Kaiju Preservation Society to make sure the incredible, powerful monsters don’t hurt anyone—and that no one tries to hurt the Kaiju.
It’s impossible to read this book without sensing how much fun Scalzi was having while writing it. The Kaiju Preservation Society revels in its own nerdiness, joyfully calling out the absurdities that Jamie and the other new KPS employees experience in their journey to the other Earth. The dialogue practically skips along, with jokes and minor insults pinging off each character at a near-constant pace. And the richness of the alternate Earth, with all its odd flora and fauna, is clearly the result of a creative mind let loose.
The camaraderie formed among the hodgepodge group of scientists and explorers entertains throughout. Jamie’s optimism and enthusiasm for the mission provide the focal and entry points, from which readers can track how tightknit the group becomes. No one character is too unlikable or outright obtuse all of the time, and everyone gets a good line, a heroic moment or a chance to shine.
What better way to escape the feeling of being trapped inside, from pandemic-related reasons or anything else, than to go somewhere vibrant and unique, where you can feel loved by your friends, valued by your job and morally unassailable as you fight to preserve vulnerable wildlife? It certainly works for Jamie, and it will work for anyone lucky enough to pick up a copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society.