January 8, 2008

Godzilla and the End of the World

G-Zilla returns to rack up more collateral damage in an effort to save mankind in Godzilla at World's End, the third novel in Marc Cerasini's Godzilla series of books. After the underwhelming Godzilla 2000, which had about five different plots going on at once, this book forgivingly revolves around a single calamity. Once again dealing with a threat to all life on Earth, our worries originate from below us as opposed to above.

While 2000 only had a kaiju count of six, World's End employs a whopping ten monsters to battle over Earth's future. And the scary thing is, even though the same amount of pages are used in this book and the previous, Cerasini does a much more satisfying job utilizing the kaiju this time around, even though there were four more of them to worry about. The havoc is also spread more across the globe, rather than brief stopovers in France and Britain before focusing on the States.

Kaiju Cast
Godzilla- rises up from the ocean depths to defend Nature from those who seek to harm her.
Mothra- once more appears in a single character's dream sequence to clue her in on the true cause of the kaiju uprising.
Anguirus- a monster thought only to exist in legend, the spiked saurian defends his apparent homeland Russia from monster invaders.
Rodan- the hatchling from the previous book has done some growing up and takes up the mantle of "Defender of the Skies".
Gigan- a viscious cyborg with sharp limbs that seeks to eliminate the world's satellite communications.
Manda- a traditional-looking Chinese dragon who goes medieval in Shanghai.
Megalon- the towering cockroach with drill hands rains his lightning on South America.
Hedorah- an extremely lethal monster comprised of toxic sludge and gas, he has the ability to go airborne to spread poisonous death across the populace, or transverse the ground for a more direct approach to those who may threaten him.
Battra- a sinister looking insect monster who is a dark parallel to Mothra, both in appearance and intentions.
Biollante- the ultimate weapon employed by the mysterious warmongers to wipe out humanity once and for all. A massive plant kaiju with a monstrous maw and ever-growing vine tendrils.

Story
The story begins eight years in the past at the literal "end of the world", Antarctica. A young explorer discovers her frozen-to-death father at the bottom of a pit. After being menaced by giant plant vines, an earthquake opens up the ground beneath her and consumes both her and her father's corpse.
In the present time, America is still trying to rebuild itself after the devastation caused by Godzilla's rumble with King Ghidorah. Also, a technologically advanced flying airship called Destiny Explorer is being prepped for its maiden flight to Antarctica.
At the same time, the South Pole is hit with disaster as a giant abyss opens up from within the earth and the gigantic cyborg Gigan is set loose upon the world. It's first mission is to fly into the atmosphere and destroy all the Earth's satellites in an effort to cripple communications. Russia launches a nuclear missile in response, but all it succeeds in doing is drawing the monster to them in retaliation.
Bursting from the crust of Peru, insectoid kaiju Megalon tears up a small settlement in Lima. Burrowing up from an unfinished tunnel in China, the serpentine dragon Manda puts the squeeze on Shanghai. Each country's respective militaries fail to repel their monster threats, and it seems those countries are about to crumble when the Earth's own defenders arrive to counter the threats. Godzilla rises from the East China Sea to grapple with Manda. The spiky Anguirus surfaces from the Caspian Sea to tackle Gigan. After trying battles, both of the saurian sea monsters successfully dragged their unconscious foes into the churning waves, no longer a threat for the foreseeable future. The combined U.S. and Peru militaries manage to drive Megalon into the Amazon rain forest.
But the mysterious forces from within the earth that unleashed the previous terrors aren't finished. Launching from the Pacific Ocean and flying over Osaka, the smog monster Hedorah begins to choke out the populace with his toxic gas and sludge. The repulsive moth Battra chases the Destiny Explorer in Chile. Instinctively, Godzilla hones in on Hedorah, and Rodan's offspring arrives to fight off Battra. Both dispatch their opponents with ease.
The climax sees the Destiny Explorer fly into the earth itself through the abyss created in the South Pole, with Godzilla hot on its heels. Who or what are the unknown aggressors to mankind's livelihood? And will they be successful in their war when they play their trump card in the form of Biollante?

Analysis
In the spirit of the Showa series of films, it's great to see Godzilla and his running buddies Rodan and Anguirus fighting against the forces of evil. However they all fight solo instead of the tag team battles usually seen in the films.

It's revealed that the evil kaiju that attack humanity were created by those that dwell at the center of the world in an effort to retake the surface for themselves. Author Cerasini had to look through the back catalog of Toho kaiju and select six monsters he best felt could have been manufactured by a subterranean race of creatures. I feel he chose well, as the creatures he chose are too unnatural to have been born by normal means, although I'd like to think that Manda and Battra already existed and were being mind-controlled by "the ancient ones". Let's have a quick review of the original origins of the sinister monsters: Gigan was a weapon created by aliens from Space Hunter Nebula M. Hedorah was an alien tadpole that fell from space from a meteor and grew into a pollution-based monster after feeding on Earth's refuse. Megalon and Manda were originally gods of the undersea kingdoms of Seatopia and Mu respectively. Battra was the dark parallel of Mothra, both of whom had a serious quarrel at the beginning of time. His goal was to defend the earth, but from human threats as opposed to kaiju. Biollante was created by a scientist combining the DNA of Godzilla, a rose, and his deceased daughter.

Other problems in the previous book have been addressed, such as a smaller human cast to care about, no elaborate back stories on people who exist only to expire in a few pages, and no overpowered military beating the supposed-to-be indestructible kaiju within an inch of their lives. However, if there were a couple of parts I could still change, it would be to have the cast spend more time in the underground city, as opposed to the final two chapters. Cerasini repeatedly compares Godzilla's head to that of a cat's. The only thing remotely cat-like about Godzilla's head is his nose. He also seems to want us to believe that Megalon and Battra resemble each other, but anyone who's ever actually seen them before will wonder what he is on about. Nick Gordon returns once more in a bigger role, but it appears his character has matured since the first book as he no longer spouts off line after line of annoying remarks. There's also two small and interesting side plots about a Russian patrol ship following Godzilla in an effort to secure samples of his blood, as well as the Big G attacking a freighter to consume its plutonium cargo.

The unnamed President of the United States in the story is eerily similar to the current real-life one, George W. Bush. It wasn't intentional, as this book was published before Dubya entered office. After major crisis strikes, he fails to adequately respond to and rebuild the areas damaged. The administration is referred to as arrogant and introduces programs which will not solve the problems facing the country. They wasted billions of taxpayer dollars several times over, fuel prices rocketed, and Americans were forced to adopt new rules and regulations that adversely affected their lives. This fictional President goes on to declare a state of emergency, puts the country under martial law, and suspends the upcoming elections. Hopefully that action won't be echoed by the real President.
I can't believe I just used a review on a Godzilla book to take potshots at Bush Jr. But I'll be damned if Godzilla didn't cause as much devastation on the fictional America than Dubya did on the real one.

The exquisite front cover of the book was once again crafted by Bob Eggleton. It features Godzilla, Biollante, and the Destiny Explorer airship within the earth's icy interior. On the back cover, it appears the synopsis was made before the final story was sent to the printers. It says that Megalon attacks Russia and Gigan invades South America, but the reverse is true. Of course, this could also just be an honest mistake. I just had to point this out because I'm a prick.

There seems to be a "moral" embedded within the human portion of the story. Not one, not two, but three young female characters have been spending their lives trying to imitate their father's aspirations. It also leads to be the key faults in their personalities. So remember kids: You don't have to follow exactly in your parent's footsteps; do what you want to do with your life.

Godzilla at World's End is the best book so far, and one I would love to see in movie form.

And that's just the way it is.
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