I didn’t even know you could write books about this: Marc Cerasini’s Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters
Between Ann Leckie and Terry Pratchett, I think I’ve been on a quality literature kick lately. Or at least I was on a quality literature kick. Until now. Check it.
C’mon. It was a quarter at a church yard sale. How could I pass this up?
Honestly, I’m pretty glad I dropped those 25 cents on this book, as there’s all kinds of weirdness going on here. The best part is, I went into the book completely blind. Having picked the book up based on the price and the cover alone, I didn’t even read the back ‘blurb ’til I was a couple of chapters in. Not that the blurb really goes on about the plot in depth, but rear cover blurbs rarely do.
The fun part is, Marc Cerasini wrote a bunch of Godzilla books- Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters was the last in the series (even though he wrote one after that, which was never published). As a result, he’s kind of developed his own canon, separate from any of the movie series. Yet at the same time, Cerasini goes way into the deep cuts of the Godzilla mythos, with monsters like Angurius, Baragon, and Moguera all getting more screentime (well page time) than Godzilla does in the book. Hell, he even puts in a monster glossary at the back.
Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters really reads like several different novels that have been awkwardly mashed together, with only tangential connections between them. The easiest way to explain would be to break down the plotlines by monster, because nobody’s reading this book for the human characters anyway. The book kind of does this already; each chapter has a cute little icon to let you know which monster is gonna show up in said chapter.
So, we have …
ANGURIUS: He pretty much shows up in the Caspian sea to get beat up by MOGUERA a couple of times. I understand Angurius is kind of a jobber like that.
FIRE RODAN: Rodan flies to Pittsburgh for some reason, where she demolishes a packed baseball stadium and then flies off to the mountains of West Virginia to lay a giant Rodan Egg. Contributes nothing else to the book whatsoever.
MOGUERA: Moguera is a giant robot built by the Russians to combat the Kaiju threat, piloted by a teenage Russian gymnast. Given this book was published in 1998, and given the fact that Cerasini puts in, obscure shit like Moguera, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess he’s kind of an otaku. Good money says he was watching bootleg Evangelion VHS when he wrote this.
MECHAGODZILLA: The American giant robot project. Pretty much the same as above, only instead of an olympic gymnast girl, Mechagodzilla is VR piloted by a teenage boy in a wheelchair. Because anime.
Here we go.
So, in Cerasini’s Godzilla canon, Baragon bones were first found Indian holy ground and then stolen by a charlatan in the 1800’s to be put on display. He named it “Baragon” to sound like “Iguanadon.” So, y’know, tangential points for being vaguely related to the Bone Wars, I guess?
Hundreds of years later, while various people are either trying to start or trying to sabotage a uranium mine on the aforementioned Indian Reservation, somebody screws up and awakens Baragon, who starts stomping around and eating people. And so, a young Blackfoot man must take up his father’s legacy as the tribe’s Medicine Man in order to use the ancient spells and rites to calm the savage beast.
Except this doesn’t work and then Mechagodzilla goes and clobbers Baragon before heading off to the main event fight. The Baragon chapters are a significant portion of the book, but you could probably cut them out entirely without much trouble. I kind of wonder if Cerasini just included this sideplot to pad things out. Or maybe he had a different ‘Indian burial ground monster’ manuscript laying around that he re purposed for Godzilla-ness. Who knows?
MECHA KING GHIDORAH:
Basically, King Ghidorah randomly crashes in Mongolia, on the verge of death from some earlier ass-kicking he received in an earlier Cerasini book.
There, he is discovered by Kulgan Khan, a textbook Yellow Peril villain. Seriously, Kulgan dresses in silk robes, has an honor guard of golden-armored soldiers, and literally drinks from the skulls of his enemies. I wonder if anyone thought to tell Cerasini it wasn’t 1940 anymore. Regardless, Kulgan Khan has his army rebuild King Ghidorah into Mecha King Ghidorah (I just love typing that out) to use as a weapon against the world. Oh, and Mecha King Ghidorah is piloted by a little Mongolian girl who was present when he crashed back to earth which means they’re psychically linked or something. Again, because anime.
GODZILLA: Despite (or perhaps because?) his top billing, Godzilla doesn’t really do much over the course of the novel. He regenerates from some battle he had fought in an earlier Cerasini book, pops out of a volcano in the Pacific, and doesn’t really do much ’til the last chapter or so, where he shows up in Tokyo to kick the snot out of Moguera, Mechagodzilla, and Mecha King Ghidorah. The end. (Spoiler alert, I guess?)
There’s some other business here and there with various other human characters who, again, aren’t worth caring about because this is a damn Godzilla book. Though special mention should go out to the Goth-psychic character who has her own TV show on MTV where she talks about the dreams she had about Godzilla. Cause, uh, kids these days like oracles of doom, right? Though now that I think about it, she’d probably be a better fit for the History channel.
Cerasini tries to make the kaiju-world seem kind of legitmate. For one, the book has a huge body count- whenever giant monsters show up, people die. It paints the various kaiju as nigh unstoppable forces of nature, capable of untold, uncaring destruction. So, y’know, building giant robots to fight them is a pretty reasonable thing to do, even though the design seems to leave a little something to be desired in the case of Moguera. And on top of that, the idea of a cold war between global superpowers trying to implement their own mecha or kaiju training programs could actually be pretty interesting … in a different book. It’s just that the inherent goofiness of the source material kind of detracts from any seriousness Cerasini might be going for. As awesome as the phrase “Fire Rodan” is (I’m putting it up there with “cellar door,” personally), it’s impossible to take anyone who actually uses that phrase seriously.
So yeah. Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters is a hot mess of a book … but at the same time, it pretty much perfectly replicates the experience of watching an old Godzilla movie on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The plot is incoherent, and it takes entirely too much time to get going, but by the end you’ve got a bunch of different monsters stomping around and breaking shit. If nothing else, I can tell that Cerasini is a huge Godzilla fan, and so his enthusiasm for the franchise shines through on the page. That nerdy enthusiasm is really what makes the book. Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters is by no means a good novel, but it’s at least an interesting one. In my basic research, I’ve learned that Cerasini has written a bunch of other stuff as well, ranging from academic works on Robert E. Howard to a children’s TMNT book to a biography of O.J. Simpson.
I … think I might give that last one a pass.