Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters, by James Lovegrove, Peter Clines, Larry Correia

tbr_the_unconquered's review

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Monsters in film and literature, now there is an exciting plot device to look at ! No matter how ugly the movie is or poorly written the story, I do try to find a bit of excitement among them all. The concept of Kaiju as a monster threat was something I came to know only post Pacific Rim and the new Godzilla. So you can imagine my joy when coming across a 500 page book with short stories that only feature the giant monsters ! I wasn’t disappointed & this is one real badass collection of Kaiju stories.

For the uninitiated, the word Kaiju is said to mean ‘Strange Creature’ in Japanese. There are monsters that rise from the sea and the ones that drop from the sky, there are the ones that are malevolent and some that are neutral but they are all on a scale of size which will make a full grown T-Rex run shrieking back home to his/her mommy. They run rampage through our cities, conventional weapons are useless against them and we only have two options : perish quietly or die trying. There are stories here that shadow Pacific Rim (a huge Robot battling the monster) and stories told from the monster’s POV but what stands out are the stories of inconsequential humans desperately trying to stay alive in their own homes. A detailed review of each of the stories in the book will make this an incredibly long review so here are some of my favorites :

Big Ben & The End Of The Piershow by James Lovegrove : Borrows heavily from Pacific Rim but the story of a small town businessman and how he manages to make his little business thrive following a robot v/s Kaiju battle is oddly funny and had me shaking my head with a smile by the time I finished the tale.

The Conversion by David Annandale : The last stages of the apocalypse are here. This is one of the grimmest tales in the whole collection. There is also a religious touch to the story but the climax is utterly despairing.

The Lighthouse Keeper of Kurohaka Island by Kane Gilmour : A father and a son who travel to a deserted island as keepers of a Kaiju sized secret. The best part of this tale is the backdrop and the ambience that it creates. It is eerie and rather effective.

One Last Round by Nathan Black : You all know this guy, the veteran of a hundred fights and skirmishes who lives somewhere in your neighborhood. An utter and absolute thug but still a lovable one, if someone does trouble him you elbow your way up front and say ’He might be a thug but he is ours, so get outta here !’ Reimagine the thug as a Kaiju-battling Robot and watch him go head on with a big, mean bugger on the streets. This story is like watching Rocky, you know he is gonna win but he is beat to pulp by the time he does win.

The Behemoth by Jonathan Wood : What if the bigger monster was not the Kaiju but the men who drove the robots into battle ? In this story, the Kaiju takes a backseat and just appears as another character in the backdrop. It is the story of a robot pilot : ambitious, brash, arrogant and a substance abuser. A fine and dark character study. Four and half stars worth of material.

Of the Earth, of the Sky, of the Sea by Patrick M. Tracy and Paul Genesse : This can be called a novella for the sheer length. The presence of Kaiju as spirits of nature in feudal Japan is a totally different shade of color. This story is written in a very impassioned way such that it is difficult to not feel for the land and the Kaiju.

Big Dog by Timothy W. Long : Another fine story length robot v/s Kaiju battle. This is extremely visual storytelling. So much so that you can feel each punch landing and each gun getting fired. While the earlier stories were about watching the battle, this one is like taking part in one.

Not all of the stories are good but all considered this is one kickass collection ! Recommended if you are a monster lover !

cwebb's review

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A good enough collection, but some short stories are awkward to read. Some are better, but overall it dragged on a little bit.

blakethebookeater's review against another edition

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After all the Godzilla hype, I felt the need to read about some giant ass monsters. The only books out there that really give you that Godzilla feel are the amazing Nemesis books by Jeremy Robinson, and so I wanted to see if these short stories could capture that feeling.

Verdict: As with a lot of anthologies, this was a mixed bag, but with enough good stories to average out to a 4 star rating. I detailed my thoughts for every short below (written right after finishing that story). In retrospect, the standouts were “Heartland” “The Banner of the Bent Cross” “Operation Starfish” “The Behemoth” and “The Turn of the Card”

The 23 stories in Kaiju: Age of Monsters

“Big Ben and the End of the Pier Show”
A decent story, but not enough focus on the Kaiju. Also feels way too much like a Pacific Rim ripoff.

“The Conversion”
Damn this was a great Kaiju story. It really emphasized how small we are compared to something so awe-inspiring and it felt utterly apocalyptic. Pitch perfect Kaiju take. 5/5

“The Lighthouse Keeper of Kurohaka Island”
This was an interesting take on Kaiju. Loved the protector Kaiju Kashikoi, and the fact that their battle was mistaken as the nuclear attacks on Japan. Would love to see more in this world!

An interesting Kaiju story that uses angels. The Nephilim were different from the usual giant monster and I appreciated that, but it seemed too short.

“The Serpent’s Heart”
An exotic tale of sailors and serpents, but not enough focus on the serpent itself. The sorceress stuff was kinda cool but unnecessary.

A pretty good Kaiju story. I liked how it took a common trope of the genre (person turns into/controls Kaiju) and made it feel scary, and also pretty intense.

“The Behemoth”
A shameless rip-off of Pacific Rim. But, that gives the short freedom to really explore the implications of a world where people have to use their minds to power a mech. Also a great look at addiction and a sweet love story.

“The Greatest Hunger”
A muddled mess of a story. It felt like it was holding the reader at arm’s length so you couldn’t get close and really see what was going on.

Probably my favorite story in the collection so far. It was intense, and personal, and wow do I love cults.

“Devil’s Cap Brawl”
A disappointingly racist story. The Kaiju stuff was cool, but goddamn why did this story have to be told from the POV of a racist. It didn’t add anything, just pissed me off. And the racist didn’t even get killed, just a subtle redemption? Fuck that. Skip this one.

A very weird Kaiju story, but very welcome as well. It was a fun action romp that wasn’t afraid to go really bizarre! Definitely enjoyable.

“Of the Earth, of the Sky, of the Sea”
This story was very Avatar-sequel with the spirit world Kaiju, and I really enjoyed it. Had some cool steampunk moments and overall was a fun, atmospheric romp!

“The Flight of the Red Monsters”
An environmental Kaiju story with a strong message. Loved the Kaiju POV and it was very well written!

“Operation Starfish”
A Lovecraftian story of the unknown with the great POV of a grandmother finally telling her secrets through a letter. Loved it!

“With Bright Shining Faces”
Children + giant monsters = a fantastic story and probably the most gleefully FUN one so far! Loved it.

“The Banner of the Bent Cross”
Indiana Jones meets Greek mythology in one of the best stories in the anthology. Or I just have a super fondness for Greek monsters. Either way, a fantastic story!

“Fall of Babylon”
A Biblical Apocalypse that was entertaining even if the tone was a little all over the place.

“Dead Men’s Bones”
A very meh story.

A decent story that’s all set-up, but we never get to see the promised pay-off.

“Big Dog”
A boring story filled with unintelligible military jargon.

“The Great Sea Beast”
An entertaining Japanese yarn about obsession and hunting a Kaiju!

“Animikii vs. Misipeshu”
A solid Kaiju brawl with awesome creatures. This is what I want in a Kaiju story!

“The Turn of the Card”
Um, WOW. Kaiju Apocalypse went FULL GIANT MONSTER FIGHTS! This was such a great story, as the human perspective made the kaiju feel enormous and the fights were awesome. I think this is the only one where I wanted a whole ass novel to go deeper.