Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales
Edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen
Agog Press, 2005
A book of stories about giant monsters—this sounds a bit like an old 1950s sci-fi B-movie. But then again, those are exactly what make up the Japanese film genre daikaiju. Literally meaning "giant monsters" in Japanese, the daikaiju genre grew from the film Gojira (1954), which spawned its best-known character by far, the giant irradiated lizard we know as Godzilla. Now we have a short story anthology devoted entirely to giant monsters in the daikaiju tradition—Daikaiju: Giant Monster Tales. As far as the editors, Robert Hood and Robin Pen, are aware, this is the first daikaiju-inspired anthology.
When planning this anthology, Hood and Pen were unsure whether they would be able to find enough authors interested in the subject. To their surprise, the number and variety of responses overwhelmed them. The resulting collection of 27 short stories, several haiku, one script, and an essay about the daikaiju genre, provides a wealth of varied and fascinating reading.
The book's startling green cover, featuring a viciously lurking monster, is immediately eye-catching and sets the tone nicely. The talented and multi-award-winning Bob Eggleton—another unashamed daikaiju fan—did the cover artwork, plus another fronting the title page. A further color plate by Todd Tennant introduces the collection's cinema supplement with a vividly colored rendition of Guidolon, the Giant Space Chicken.
The whole concept of giant monsters, most likely inspired by the radioactive, fire-breathing Godzilla, immediately lends itself to a humorous approach, and that's reflected in many of these stories. It's not all humor, though. There are also more literary compositions in the collection, making the collection a nicely rounded anthology.
My favorite piece without doubt was "The Tragical History of Guidolon, the Giant Space Chicken". Frank Wu, in his first piece of published fiction, has written a deliciously funny and satirical script featuring the craziest collection of daikaiju creatures imaginable. Daikaiju characters that are attempting to make their own daikaiju film—could this be the ultimate irony? I look forward to seeing more fiction work from Frank Wu in the future. But does Guidolon get the film made? That would be letting the large, horribly mutated cat out of the bag.
A close second is Chuck McKenzie's "Like A Bug Underfoot", in which he provides an account of a world where giant monsters destroying cities and ruining the narrator's chances of collecting the unemployment benefit is the norm. Here, it's the narrator's reactions that make the story. A small sample: "The call to Melbourne takes bloody ages to get through. A recorded voice waffles on about how they're experiencing delays due to circumstances beyond their control; code-speak for some frigging huge mutant reptile just burned our exchange to the ground."
One of the non-humorous pieces is from the talented Richard Harland, who presents us with "The Greater Death of Saito Saku"—a more traditional tale, of a medieval Japanese dragon battling a village protector. Harland is an accomplished writer, and he paints such a wonderful picture that I could almost smell the mandarin blossom in his hero's garden. Vividly told, the story is only possibly exceeded by Harland's colorful reading at the book's launch, complete with screams!
Michelle Marquardt takes an alternative approach by writing from the monster's point of view in "Crunch Time", a short but very clever story.
The award for originality, however, goes to Adam Ford for "Seven Dates That Were Ruined By Giant Monsters". The moral of the tale is clear—ladies, do not go out with this man unless you like your evenings complete with invading giant monsters on the rampage! One thing is for sure—the next time that I go to the cinema, if I see Adam, I'm running like hell outta there.
Chris Barnes contributes "Big Day", an entertaining story about the empathy between an ailing old man and a monster, Big Fella, that is a regular visitor to the city. You are left actually feeling for the monster, which is a more unusual twist. I found myself practically cheering on both Harry and the Big Fella.
Poetry is not what I would automatically link to daikaiju stories, and poetry from a best-selling fantasy author such as Sean Williams for some reason seemed even less likely. Yet Williams has provided some delightful haiku poems that even caught the attention of a non-appreciator of poetry such as myself. The combination of this Japanese art form with the Japanese-inspired monsters complemented the collection nicely.
From poems to stories, I enjoyed every single composition in the collection, and found Daikaiju: Giant Monster Tales wonderfully entertaining. Once you have finished this compelling read, you will almost certainly be ready for more. And yes, there is more to come. The editors are compiling a supplementary electronic anthology for the many stories that could not be accommodated in the final collection. While the pages are not yet populated, they will be available on the web at http://www.roberthood.net/daikaiju-antho/index2.html.