Reviews are very important to authors, so after posting on Amazon/Goodreads/wherever, I like to repost here, along with a link to the product. Here’s my 4 star review of Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters (Volume 1), an anthology edited by Matthew Dennion and Neil Riebe. If you buy it, be sure to leave a review, too!
Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters delivers exactly what the title promises. Within the pages lie 15 stories of giant, smashy, beat-em-up doomsday creatures, each ready to deliver varying degrees of mayhem. As with any anthology, some don’t quite measure up to the others, but there’s enough originality and variety here to attract fans of most genres, so long as there’s a large enough place in their interests for a rampaging megabeast.
Overall, the collection is pretty solid. There are occasionally distracting typos (most notably, a few instances of pluralized words being written with apostrophe-s), but Dennion and Riebe clearly put a lot of care and concern into their work. Several writers, including Dennion, have more than one story in this anthology. This can make some tales feel familiar to the others in terms of writing style, but in a niche genre like this, it makes sense to gather several stories from those that are guaranteed to deliver, rather than scour the earth for newcomers.
Here are individual contents, briefly overviewed:
The Odyssey of Draugr, by Matthew Dennion
A Frankenstein-style kaiju created by Nazi scientists goes on a more or less accidental rampage while looking for companionship. “Nazi experiment gone awry” may not be too original, but it’s one of the few stories, in this collection or otherwise, that I’ve seen feature character development for the beast itself. It’s a refreshing change of pace for a genre that typically depicts its namesakes as a bunch of mindless destroyers.
Hunting Grounds, by Breyden Halverson
Revenge is a dish best served wandering around in a swamp, looking for God-only-knows-what. A research mishap leads to a rapidly mutating kaiju set loose just outside of civilization, and one man’s thirst for blood over his wife’s disappearance may be the only thing preventing the creature from harming innocent people. A little jumpy with the POV, but satisfying in the end.
A Day at the Beach, by Cody Bratsch
Kaiju destruction meets social criticism when three friends take a fresh-out-of-rehab heroin addict on a day trip. While the dialog isn’t always believable, the story deals with the subject matter in an engaging, sensitive way, balancing the existential horror of two massive creatures rendering humans insignificant against the much quieter, personal dread of never full escaping one’s personal demons.
Goregod, by Robert Galvin
Blurring the lines between occultism and mad science, “Goregod” lives up to its name, unleashing all sorts of hell on any biological material nearby. From turning mortals into undead warriors, to resurrecting the skeleton of a long-dead dinosaur in a local museum, the kaiju in this story obeys no rules, and leaves no soul unscathed. Not for the faint of heart, or those who dislike weird/Lovecraftian fiction.
The Price of Violence, by Matthew Dennion
Returning for his second of three stories in this collection, this five-page story goes into the fantasy realm, focusing on a league of fairies trying to prevent a newborn dragon from destroying the land. Rife with ecocriticism and a vaguely solarpunk influence, “The Price of Violence” is very conscious of its place in this collection. However, a lot of ‘telling’ without much ‘showing’ leads to an overbearing moralism in the final moments, unfortunately diminishing the impact of an otherwise very original story.
Poseidon’s Wrath, by Breyden Halverson
A story featuring kaiju inspired by real mythological creatures, this tale focuses on a teenage anti-kaiju combat unit, since the kaiju let off radiation that destroys human immune systems, but this effect is diminished in the young. Ultimately, the protagonist, James, plays second fiddle to the brawl between Poseidon’s brood and a single beast of a far different nature–one that might not want to rule the seas, but protect them, instead.
Sky Horror, by Jesse Wilson
Another fantasy-style piece featuring a fledgling mage sent off to stop a mighty creature from ravaging the locals. The mage, Saziz, soon meets a guy named Bill, and in a story like this, an ordinary name can only mean trouble. There are some loose ends, and other matters that perhaps should’ve been addressed, but the writing itself is solid.
A Hard Day at the Office, by Timothy Price
One of the more unique stories here, if only because it’s set entirely in one man’s corner skyscraper corner office, overlooking the city as it comes to destruction. There’s a far more personal story here, as we’re limited to his thoughts, rather than given an overarching view of incredible destruction, but those who’ve come for carnage will still find the ending they’re looking for.
Massive, by Alex Dumitru
Fans of Ant-Man will love this story of a regular human being who, through science and a special suit the narrator doesn’t even pretend to understand, can grow to a “Massive” size, fighting the kaiju in a one-on-one grudge match. There’s a vague threat of something terrible happening if his suit’s battery runs out, but this is never full explained or capitalized, undercutting the tension. Still, reading about a human punching a hundreds-of-feet-tall monster in the face is an easy thing to love.
Four Horsemen, by Zach Cole
Though it draws from obvious source material, “Four Horsemen” is still a clever piece of kaiju fiction, with four beasts descending from asteroids to lay waste to Earth. When society appears destroyed, they turn on each other–and the survivor faces off against a human warrior, neurologically linked to a battle mech constructed from scrap metal. Anyone who wants a religiously-inspired Pacific Rim style story will get a kick out of this one.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Roof Top Ripper, by Matthew Dennion
For his third and final story here, Dennion gives us a story featuring The Great Detective against a creature that, by all accounts, shouldn’t still exist. Another tale of ecologically-inspired events, this one more subtle, it tracks an older, Waston-less Holmes as Scotland Yard calls on him one final time–to stop a series of murders that, according to all evidence and human limitations, shouldn’t be possible. It’s a slower story than the others, but necessarily so, considering the source material.
Christmas Wish, by Jesse Wilson
When a young boy makes a Christmas without thinking through the consequences, a giant red gorilla with a flaming skull appears to deliver havoc onto his little town. The only way to stop it is by summoning his hero, an Ice Dragon of mythic proportions, but all wishes come with consequences. It’s kaiju-meets-the-monkey’s-paw for this story, though the dialog isn’t always that natural.
Bringing of Chaos, by Breyden Halverson
A deranged older scientist resurrects a prehistoric kaiju, Tiamat, also known as Chaos, to essentially commit a monster-themed purge of society’s evils. Naturally, this doesn’t go according to plan, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s more than one massive creature lurking in the shadowy corners of the globe. The character development feels too fast, but there are some interesting twists and turns here.
The Criminal and the Kaiju, by Christofer Nigro
Drawing on his long-standing love of the genre, Nigro delivers a story full of varied, dynamic characters, swapping perspectives as needed to show his kaiju from every angle. Though this can get a little disorienting, it’s another human-becomes-god-sized piece, leading to a rather epic session of mano-a-mano action. The narration/word choice can get in the way of the pacing/tension, but it’s one of the harder-hitting stories here.
Noregon, the Blue Steel Kaiju, by Neil Riebe
In what’s apparently his first work of original fiction, Riebe delivers a novel premise: in a world full of giant monsters, a cabal of shadowy figures have learned to psychically control these beasts, using them to wage war instead of using their respective armed forces. While it never feels like Noregon’s actually in danger, this creature’s internal struggles fuel the plot quite well. Told from the beast’s perspective, this has the most kaiju character development of any story I’ve read in the genre, leading to the perfect ending for this unique collection.
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